You run a business online, you market it as best as you can (and you’re doing a great job!), and of course you read all sorts of online tips and tricks to help you improve your marketing along the way.
If that description fits you, and even if it doesn’t, I’d be willing to bet that you’ve heard quite a bit about “content marketing.”
But what exactly is content marketing? How can it help your business? How do you come up with new ideas of “content” to market?
I know those questions bothered me, and I’m sure you wouldn’t mind hearing some answers to those questions.
Which is why in today’s post we’re going to explain just what content marketing is, and show you a few examples of creative content marketing ideas that will inspire your own marketing efforts!
A Little Introduction (What is Content Marketing?)
Before we get into the examples, I just want to review a few quick points about content marketing.
Content marketing is, as you would expect, any form of online marketing that is based around content, be it blog posts, news articles, videos, social media, etc. The purpose of the content is to educate relevant consumers, and draw them in to your business through content.
So here is the general picture of a content marketing cycle.
You post content of some sort >> Your target customer sees it and relates to it (and possibly forgets about it) >> You keep posting content >> Your target customer keeps seeing it >> Eventually, your target customer will have seen your content enough times, and like it enough times, that they will have a positive connection with your brand.
That positive connection is more powerful than the bond that can be formed through cold sales. People always view companies more positively if they “like” the company. They are more likely to buy, and they are more likely to refer it to their friends.
So, in a nutshell, content marketing is a longer form of sales process that produces more powerful customer-brand bonds in the long run, leading to higher potential sales in the long run as well.
1. Become an Industry Know it All (and Educate Your Customers)
This is the classic type of content marketing. Create a blog, newsletter, or information resource of any kind that is related to your niche, and publicize it to your target consumer.
The idea here is that if you show the world that you are an expert in your field, they will trust you, and appreciate your expertise. And of course then they will buy from you.
There are many eCommerce sites that do this. But, you don’t have to do it in a classic way. Why not give your content a little twist?
Asos’ Daily Style Feed
Asos is eCommerce store focused on fashion apparel, so quite naturally the content that the company publishes is related to style. Rather than choosing a simple blog format though, Asos decided to mix things up by creating a “Daily Style Feed.” Sign up for the feed (or go to the site) and you will see daily style tips featuring celebrities, trends, and seasonal fashion tips. The tips are short, and to the point with colorful (but not overpowering) images, which make the posts easy to read and digest.
The beauty of this method is that not only does it create bite sized pieces of information that Asos customers can read, it also provides the company with a perfect opportunity to gently push its merchandise on the readers by adding in its simple “Shop the Story” section at the end of the post. Conclusions: Short and quick daily tips that relate to your niche can be very effective, because they are so easily digestible.
If you’re looking for a brand that takes content seriously, then look no further than Williams-Sonoma. This home goods store turned its blog into an entire information center. You can even see that from the name. It’s not the Williams-Sonoma Blog. It’s called Taste. A whole new entity!
You can check out recipes, get tips for entertaining, learn how to make things (who doesn’t love a good DIY project?), and more!
Essentially, they took multiple blogs about super specific topics and created an awesome resource center!
Now you might be thinking, but this content isn’t all related directly to their products? And that is not a problem at all! Because remember, content marketing is about forming a relationship with your niche market. (Plus, their products are featured at very least in the pictures).
Conclusion: Write guides, tips, and how-to’s, for a few specific topics so that you can create a larger, resource center. (This will make you look very authoritative in your field).
Do you sell products that can be hard to choose between, use, or understand? Then content should be your best friend!
REI is an outdoor sporting goods retailer that understands this 100%.
You might think, hey how hard can it be to pick out a tent? Well, if you want just the right tent for your needs, then it could be pretty hard!
Which is exactly why REI provides how to choose videos and articles for all sorts of products: In addition to this, like Williams-Sonoma they also provide tremendous amounts of content related to outdoor sports in general.
Conclusion: There’s no shame in teaching your customers how to use or choose your products. In fact, when your customers feel informed (and not just encouraged to buy at random), they will be more likely to buy your products and trust their own decision. They will feel like they researched the product, measured the pros and cons, and came to a decision on their own.
Lowe’s is a home improvement store that decided to take a very interesting approach to its “how-to” content marketing.
First, rather than just showing the obvious things that you can do with merchandise purchased at Lowe’s (everyone knows you can build stuff with a hammer and nails), they decided to show some pretty handy how-to stuff (with their merchandise) that you might not have thought of on your own.
Second, rather than making videos or writing up a blog post, Lowe’s got crazy and created some pretty wacky Vines. (Vines are six second videos that play on a loop).
Conclusion: Get creative with your how-to’s. You don’t have to just show people what they might already know, show them something new! Plus, don’t be afraid to put your content on different platforms. This change of pace could be the thing that separates you from your competitors.
2. Make Your Customers into Stars (User Generated Content)
Ready for a secret that some of the most successful brands have realized about online marketing? Here it is – customers love themselves.
I don’t mean that in an egotistical way at all, but to tell the truth, everyone likes to be in the limelight.
Based on that, brands have realized that if they featured their customers in some way then their content would suddenly become more appealing.
But why should that work for everyone? Won’t only the fan who is featured be happy?
In fact the answer is no, because, it’s not just themselves that customers love to see, they love to see other customers as well. They like the idea that it could be them, and they like to see brands connecting on a more personal level.
So, this brings us to the next type of content that we will look at – User Generated Content (check out this post for more on UGC).
Forever 21 #F21xME
This first example is the classic case of user generated content!
Forever 21, a fashion brand, created a campaign in which they asked their fans to post pictures to Instagram of themselves wearing Forever21 clothing. The best pictures would then be featured by the brand. This is a great campaign, because it requires minimal effort on the part of the company, and results in amazing content.
People have posted thousands (well over 200,000) pictures, and now not only does Forever21 have pictures all over Instagram, but they also have a massive bank of images that they can use on their website or in their marketing content which people will love, because they feature customers (just like themselves)!
Conclusion: You can literally take this campaign and run it right now with about two minutes of preparation. It’s quick and easy, and super effective. (Check out these hashtag tools for a bit of help with the competition)
Warby Parker #WarbyHomeTryOn
Warby Parker, an eye glasses retailer, took a somewhat different approach to user generated content by framing (no pun intended…) the “ask” differently.
Rather than asking users to post pictures to a social network with the possibility that they might be featured by the brand, Warby Parker created a brilliant scheme wherein the user was actually presented with an immediate benefit for posting pictures of themselves with their glasses online.
Here’s how it worked – much of Warby Parker’s operations are online. Obviously, buying glasses online is not simple, because people will usually want to try them on. So, the solution Warby Parker came up with was to allow customers to choose a few different glasses frames which would all be sent to the customer’s house, so that they could choose the one they liked best. Now the fun part – customers are encouraged to take pictures of themselves in the different frames and share them on their social accounts with the hashtag #WarbyHomeTryOn.
The upside for the customer is that they could get the opinion of their friends as to which pair of glasses was best. The upside for the company of course is that they received free advertising in a very natural way! Conclusion: If you can think of a way that your customers will benefit from the user generated content above and beyond the potential for “fame” then you should have a pretty darn good campaign on your hands.
The second conclusion I’d take from this is that you should try to get creative with your user generated content competitions. You can run the basic one like Forever21 every now and then, but you should also try to mix things up to keep your customers interested and engaged!
3. Fun and Interactive Content is…Fun!
If you’re looking for a way to boost engagement then interactive content is for you! This content is fun, and customers love it.
Bonobos Chino Fit Quiz
Bonobos, a men’s fashion retailer that prides itself on selling clothing that fits well, entered the realm of interactive content marketing by creating a “Chino Fit Quiz.” With this quiz, Bonobos claims that they can determine the correct fit for any guy. Pretty cool.
What they do so well in this quiz is, first and foremost, the fact that they have it at all! But aside from that, they ask relevant questions, in a funny way, and they ask (at least seemingly) irrelevant questions as well, that are also entertaining. In short, they designed a quiz that keeps the customer interested throughout. And of course, at the end of the quiz there is this: That’s right, a big old call to action button at the end of the quiz to buy the “perfect chino.”
Conclusion: Anytime a customer gets to interact with something and it’s useful they will definitely enjoy it. Try to think of interactive content that is both engaging and pushes your customers towards a purchase.
Reebok Be More Human
Reebok, one of the largest sports apparel companies in the world, obviously has a strong brand focus on physical fitness. In keeping with that theme, Reebok decided to create a piece of interactive content that would appeal to its target customers based on shared culture.
So Reebok created the Be More Human sub-website (it’s a smaller site of its own, separate from the main Reebok site) dedicated to becoming a better person through physical fitness. The site includes a number of different things: There is the Human Score quiz, which determines your personality (as related to: being driven towards goals, sociability, and of course fitness), Gray Matters, which is an interactive tool that shows how fitness feeds the brain, and of course, Break Your Selfie, which gives Reebok customers a place to upload selfies of themselves from right after a particular brutal workout.
Overall, this site is built to show the connection between physical fitness and overall well-being. It is a brilliant site that utilizes excellent interactive content to engage users.
Conclusion: Interactive content that is related to your brand culture can be very effective for forming long term bonds with your target customers that will result in brand affinity, and sales down the line, even if it doesn’t result in an immediate boost in revenue.
4. Ridiculousness and Branding
The last type of content marketing that we will discuss is branding through ridiculousness. There are some brands out there that have managed to create an utterly ridiculous and hilarious online presence through a particular person, to the point that this presence has become a branded image that their customers can relate to.
Blendtec – Will it blend?
When you sell blenders you might think that it’s hard to separate yourself from the competition using content…but that is certainly not what Blendtec thought.
Instead, Blendtec came up with an incredibly viral YouTube campaign called “Will it blend?” These videos are basically two minute videos of a quirky “scientist” blending random things in a Blendtec blender to see if they will blend.
For example, they did an iPhone vs Glalaxy (blending) test:
Sounds stupid, but it’s actually quite smart.
First of all, it gets people’s attention because of how shocking it is – I mean who blends a phone?? Secondly, it’s actually just an advertisement in disguise for the Blendtec blender, because it shows off how powerful it is. And finally, Blendtec achieved amazing branding through ridiculousness.
“Will it blend” and of course Tom, the star of the show, are associated with Blendtec. It has gotten to the point that, Tom, much like Flo the progressive girl, is now just a walking advertisement for the Blendtec brand.
Conclusion: You don’t have to get as ridiculous as Blendtec, but if you can come up with an image, person, or mascot for your brand that you will popularize through some form of viral, or funny content, then you will be able to use that to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Content Marketing Time
OK! We’ve gone over four different types of content marketing that you can use in your eCommerce business, plus we’ve hopefully given you a few good ideas of how you can implement these strategies.
If you have any ideas that you think would be relevant to the StoreYa community please share them! All questions and comments are also welcome in the comments section below!
Zack is a social media enthusiast who loves all things digital. He is the inbound marketing manager at StoreYa where he spends his days searching for the newest social marketing scoop. If you’d like to chat with him, feel free to connect with him on any social platform.
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