By Amanda Massello, Product Marketing
In an era of swipe-to-pay and one-step checkout, today’s consumer demands an effortless transition from discovery to purchase. Content and commerce, as a result, must merge to provide value for consumers, wrapping context around the shopping experience and providing deeper information to guide purchase decisions.
Needless to say, providing consumers with an engaging digital experience is paramount for retail brands.
We engaged L2 to conduct a study investigating how content and commerce are converging to reshape the customer experience. As a result of this partnership, L2 released the Intelligence Report: Content & Commerce in late October, which examines the content and commerce efforts of 80 global brands.
I had the chance to interview Scott Galloway, Clinical Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern and Founder of L2, about the new study to discuss how integrated content and commerce experiences are driving brand value and sales, both online and in-store.
Q: Why do you think content is so important in the commerce experience?
Retailers may worry about the showrooming phenomenon, but the reality is that consumers are spending more time webrooming. This means that they are researching products online and, by the time they enter the store, they are well-informed about what they are about to purchase. Surprisingly, branded content has more sway in driving consumers to buy than other neutral types of content, such as user reviews, press articles and industry blogs. In fact, for purchases between $50 and $399, our intelligence report showed that branded content provides a 125% lift in purchase intent. Brands that don’t hold their content to the standard of being a conversion-driver are really missing an opportunity.
Q: So, to take advantage of this opportunity, what are successful organizations doing when it comes to content and commerce?
Retail brands that succeed weave their content into the purchasing journey. All retailers with content should ask themselves four questions:
- Does your strongest brand content sit somewhere other than the main site? Microsites receive as little as 0.2% to 0.5% of the traffic of the main brand URL, and remain hidden from consumers that don’t specifically search for them.
- Is your most expensive content a commerce dead end? All content should bring consumers down the purchase funnel. This even extends to non-traditional content types, like videos and blogs – videos should be shoppable and blog posts should link to product pages
- Are your hardest-working content publishers being ignored? Those hard-working content publishers are reviewers, and their input on products should be featured on product pages. In addition to helping with SEO, products with reviews have higher conversion than those without.
- Does your top sales associate provide better customer service than your digital channels? According to our study, guided selling tools (fit guides, shade finders) saw the highest increase in adoption from 2013 to 2014, and that trend is likely to continue as brands recognize a ROI. However, many brands are failing to effectively showcase these tools. For example, while 79% of beauty brands have created some form of guided selling tool, just 57% are promoting it on their home page.
If retail brands find the answer is “no” to all of these questions, they are on the right track.
Q: What role do you think digital content investments have in today’s omni-channel purchase funnel? Do you see this influence role rising in importance?
Today’s consumers are researching on all devices; the average smartphone owner spends 15 hours a week researching products on their mobile device. However, according to eMarketer, 94% of retail sales still take place in brick-and-mortar stores. Branded content that is optimized for tablets, phones and desktops can be the driving factor to encourage consumers to click the buy button on the desktop or visit a store. The influence of content will increase as retail brands make more investments in content and commerce experiences.
Q: Speaking of investment, what new roles do you see entering the retail organization chart as a result of integrated content and commerce?
In addition to content creators, I think we will see more data analysts enter the retail organization. Their sole purpose will be to study consumer behavior and find out when and where to deliver content for best results.
Q: What do you think is next for content and commerce experiences? Do you have any innovative content and commerce examples?
What’s next is more merging of content and commerce experiences. There is still a divide between content and commerce on most retail brand sites. The disappearance of double-door sites (where one leads to a “world of brand” experience and the other leads to a shopping site) has led marketers to falsely believe they have achieved content and commerce integration. A lot of brands, even digitally sophisticated ones like Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren, have a separate content tab on the main site; content assets should be syndicated across the site to contextualize the shopping experience.
Q: Why do you think it’s been so hard for brands to combine content and commerce?
When marketers across the US were asked about the barriers to deliver a content and commerce experience, the majority of complaints were around the quality of content, resource constraints and organizational structure. They felt their organizations didn’t have the buy-in or the integration needed to make these initiatives successful.
The first step organizations can take is to ensure their ecommerce and brand marketing teams are collaborating to provide a more seamless consumer experience.
Q: Was their anything surprising to you in the study results on content and commerce?
In many ways, the APAC countries are ahead of the US and Western Europe in providing their content and commerce efforts. While US marketers still believe traditional ads are the most effective type of marketing, Asian brands have instead been featuring user-generated content, something they’ve done successfully for a long time. As a result, a unique content ecosystem has developed in China. The most effective types of content are published to Weibos and WeChat, both of which have integrated payment systems, putting them further ahead in social commerce than the US has ever been.