How can you tell whether an ecommerce marketing strategy works or not? You could name traffic, conversions, and a host of other variables, but none of them would make the cut. The effectiveness of an ecommerce marketing strategy boils down to the number of sales it generates profitably.
In other words, any successful ecommerce marketing strategy must generate profits through the use of cost-effective and scalable marketing tactics. And guess what? Content marketing meets those two criteria perfectly.
Demand Metric has found that content marketing generates over 300% more leads than outbound marketing while costing 62% less.
Dozens of ecommerce companies have found similar results, all thanks to the power of content marketing.
If you have heard about this already and want to learn more about creating an ecommerce content marketing strategy for your business, we’ve got good news. In this article, we’ll look at why content marketing is such a powerful strategic concept for an ecommerce business and how you can get started.
Why content marketing is such an effective approach for ecommerce businesses.
Let’s get started by clarifying what content marketing is all about.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach where companies create, publish, and promote valuable content to build a loyal, profitable audience.
It’s a common practice in the ecommerce industry to send visitors to a product page with the hopes of generating a sale. In this sense, marketing is nothing more than a numbers game; the more people you drive and the more targeted they are, the more sales you can generate.
Content marketers understand that generating sales requires trust between a buyer and a brand.
Just as B2B companies use salespeople to create trust and motivate a sale, a B2C ecommerce company uses content to build an audience around the brand — which can include getting visitors to sign up for an email list, follow the brand in social media, and so on — and prove the product’s value. A company can expect to generate a sale only after it has established trust with someone.
By now, you may be thinking that “content” is a synonym for articles, but this would be wrong; content refers to every type of content available, which includes:
- Social media posts — Instagram stories, Facebook posts, tweets, pins, etc.
- Emails — promotional, newsletters, etc.
- Customer reviews — written or video-based
These content types make the entire content marketing arsenal, which you then promote through paid or organic mediums.
The content you create won’t be exclusively about your products — in which case your content would be considered an “advertorial” — but about your customers — the problems they have, the solutions they need, and other helpful information they can use in their lives.
Your content marketing strategy will embed your products in its production, but it won’t be the priority which it’s based on.
Beginner’s guide to building a content marketing strategy for ecommerce business
Starting a content marketing strategy doesn’t require a big budget or a team of specialized marketers. In the simplest terms, an ecommerce marketing strategy requires following the six steps, which we will discuss in detail below.
Step #1: Define your target audience
There’s one truth for every business that says: you don’t sell to everybody. No, you don’t sell to whoever can read your message; you sell to those who are likely to purchase. That’s your target audience.
A target audience is a specific segment of consumers that a company serves through its products and services.
Your target audience is a group of people who, after looking at your products, would say, “I need this product in my life.”
In this sense, your job is to follow the advice management guru Peter F. Drucker once shared, which said: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
To start defining your target audience, you need to research people who have bought from you, those who buy from your competitors, and those who you think are likely to buy from your company. To do that, you need to gather three types of data:
- Demographic data: Age, gender, location, income level, etc.
- Psychographic data: Attitudes, preferences, ideas, etc.
- Behavioral data: Past website visitors, past customers, etc.
There are several ways you can find that data, including:
- Your web analytics — Google Analytics is the most popular choice for this purpose
- Your competitor’s web data — use competitive intelligence tools like SimilarWeb, Alexa, and Ahrefs.
- Your customer support tickets — check common questions, common problems, and implicit desires in your tickets.
- Carrying out on-site and email surveys — add website survey forms and ask your visitors questions to uncover more data about them.
With this data, you can then define one target audience whose members share similar characteristics. Here’s one example of such type of target audience:
The data found in your target audiences will guide your future content creation and promotion efforts.
Step #2: Run a content audit
In this step, we assume you have published content, which includes blog posts, category pages, product pages, and social media posts. (If you haven’t done any of this yet, you can skip this step.)
In a content audit, you analyze all your content to see what results it drives and what aspects it could be missing. That information will help you come with content ideas and prioritize them in the next step.
- Sources—organic, paid, direct, etc.
- Time on site
With this analysis, you will be able to see:
- Your most popular content — think about the angle, topic, and style that may have driven its popularity. You will use that information in the following step.
- Your least popular content — think the opposite of the previous point; what could be the cause of its underperformance? It could be a lack of SEO optimization, inexistent promotional efforts, and so on.
- Your most outdated content — you can update or improve this content and increase your results easily.
Look critically at the type of content you have published and compare it with your competitors. Think about what you are missing that you could cover and start creating.
Step #3: Develop a content plan
Here’s where we get into the core of the content marketing strategy, the reason why you want to create one for your ecommerce business. The foundation of your content efforts is your content plan, which outlines:
- The type of content you will create
- The topics that your content will cover
- The resources required to create your content
- The people involved in its creation
- The technology to use, if necessary
We’ll ignore the last three points from the list above for simplicity’s sake, as that applies primarily to large companies with content teams with more than five people. (If that’s your case, then read this article by Miranda Miller, who explains these last steps in greater detail.)
The most important part of your content plan lies in the topics you will cover with any of the content types you decide to use. There are three main ways you can brainstorm, research, and define content types.
- Your target audience: The data you have uncovered in the first step will show you a lot of information about your audience. What problems do they have? What do they complain about? What are their goals? What’s stopping them? The answers to these questions will show you several topics you need to cover.
- Keyword and competitor research: While this method is useful if you plan on using Google search engine results to generate traffic — a great marketing channel, as a matter of fact — the information you will get will be of great use in any other channel. Use tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush to find this information, both from your site and your competitors.
- Your company: This includes your company’s vision, purpose, products, and brand identity. Companies like Beardbrand and Hims grew at exceptional rates thanks to their unique, brand-focused content.
As long as the topics you choose matter to your customers and are brand-relevant, you can cover them.
Once you have a potential set of topics, he recommends the following process to pick the right ones to cover in your content plan:
- Develop an understanding of the experience level of the audience for your topic. Is this something that beginners would search for, or is it more applicable to those with more experience? Then, write in accordance with their needs and level of understanding.
- Determine where this topic aligns with your funnel. Is it something someone would search when they're looking for information on a topic or product category? Something they'd search when they're comparing options? Or maybe when they're ready to buy?
- Based on past performance from previous content you've published (your content audit 👆), replicate what you know works when crafting a plan for your piece. Which types of content does your audience respond to best? Does your average time on page suggest they're willing to read something long, or do they prefer content that's short and to the point? Do they like videos or other visuals?
As you develop your content plan, you want to add your ideas to a spreadsheet. To make your plan even more detailed, you can organize your ideas by their creation cost, time, category, and stage in the customer’s purchase journey. This last point is crucial, as it will dictate your content’s effectiveness for their intended goals
Your customer journey represents all the steps your customers take from the time they become aware they have a problem — one that your products solve — to the moment they become loyal fans of your brand.
You want to create content for each step in the customer journey, so your content persuades your visitors to continue moving forward along their journey while simultaneously purchasing from your company.
One handy framework we’ll use here to map your customer journey with your ecommerce content marketing strategy is Avinash Kaushik’s “See, Think, Do, Care,” which you can read in this article. Kaushik’s framework consists of the following steps:
- See: Made up by large volumes of people, unlikely to purchase at their first visit. This content type must be informational — e.g., tutorials, how-to’s, guides, etc.
- Think: Made up by smaller groups of people who are considering buying from your company. Use content like product comparisons, detailed product pages, buying guides, etc.
- Do: Made up by the smallest groups of people who are ready to buy. Content to use includes shipping and return policies, testimonials, FAQs, etc.
- Care: Made up by your existing customers. This content type must focus on developing brand loyalty, which includes sending special offers to your customers, loyalty programs, etc.
Step #4: Define your traffic sources
In the previous step, we briefly mentioned traffic sources — the channels you will use to attract site traffic. Since this is one of the topics that marketers obsess about, we’ll take a deeper look at the options you have to drive traffic to your site in every step along the customer journey.
To start, there are several traffic acquisition sources available such as:
- Google: This includes their organic search results and their paid advertising networks such as Google Ads, Google Display Network, among others.
- Facebook: This only includes their paid advertising network, as the company has curtailed their Pages’ organic reach.
- Other social networks: Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and others also represent large traffic sources you can tap organically or through paid acquisition.
- Your email list: Last but not least, you can use your email list to drive your existing audience back to your site, something we’ll discuss later.
Your ecommerce content marketing strategy should define the traffic sources it will use after explaining the content it will create and publish. Distribution only works when the content, its intent, and the source match.
Two aspects that will influence your traffic source’s decision are your resources and capacities:
- Resources: With a monthly budget of at least $10k, you can try Google and Facebook’s advertising networks (separately, as each one is costly in its own right). Otherwise, it makes more sense to focus on SEO, organic social media, and reaching out to industry blogs.
- Capacities: Hiring experienced professionals is the best way to promote your content in any of the traffic sources mentioned above. However, if you lack the resources to do so, leverage whatever existing knowledge your team has to implement your marketing tactics (or learn how to do it yourself).
Step #5: Build an email list
Email marketing is, as Charlene Boutin explained, a relevant, cost-effective, and data-driven way to run promotional tactics. Since most visitors won’t convert immediately, you want to build an email list that will drive your subscribers back to your site, and eventually, to your checkout page.
To start building your email list, you have to start by defining a free offer, like a free gated ebook, a first-purchase discount, or any other benefit that your visitors will find enticing.
Then, you want to promote that free offer through the use of email opt-ins. One well-known opt-in type is popups. While they interrupt the user experience, they can be effective at generating conversions.
You can also use other popup designs, such as sticky bars or slide-ins which are less invasive than modal popups.
Once you start building an email list, you need to develop a separate email marketing strategy that will foster a stronger relationship with your subscribers and generate sales, like the content marketing strategy explained here.
Step #6: Promote your products
As explained earlier, content marketing isn’t about making sales but building an audience to which you can sell to. That explains why we haven’t talked about promoting and selling your products in your content plan.
Your ecommerce content marketing strategy’s goal should be to provide value through useful and relevant content.
Selling shouldn’t be an explicit goal of your content; weaving your products in your content, however, is a much better idea.
Once you start creating the content defined in your content plan, consider the following points:
- Create tutorials that solve a specific problem and use your products as the tool as the solution. Examples: Beardbrand.
- Mention your product in your guides. Examples: Legion Athletics and Bulletproof.
- Review your competitors’ products and compare them with your own. Examples: Perfect Keto.
Your ecommerce business needs a sustainable and cost-efficient method of acquiring customers. With the help of a content marketing strategy, your ecommerce store will slowly build an audience of loyal fans that you can rely on. Think of it as a long-term investment, one that will transform your business.