Consumer shopping behavior has driven the convergence of content and commerce in ways that retailers are scrambling to understand.
Today’s consumer is hyper-connected, has instant access to information and expects a seamless journey across all touch points. The new “funnel” of the consumer’s engagement with brands is no longer linear, but rather weaves through the virtual and physical worlds as she discovers, researches and purchases products. These information omnivores devour information on their journey – tipping the scale from lowering prices to creating branded content as a key differentiator.
And yet, despite the fact that branded content is often created to encourage sales, many content investments fail to provide consumers with a clear purchase path. This disconnect represents a massive missed opportunity.
Rob Garf, VP of Industry Strategy and Insights at Demandware, recently sat down with L2 to discuss a new study – entitled “Content and Commerce” – conducted in partnership with Demandware and L2.
Why did you partner with L2 for the study?
Demandware understands how important it is for retail brands to provide consumers with a positive digital experience. The right blend of brand and product content infused into the commerce funnel can increase consumer engagement, optimize conversion and encourage loyalty. That said, it’s been a challenge for many retailers. It must be authentic. It must be natural. And it must ultimately remove barriers to purchase.
We engaged L2, which leveraged its Digital IQ Index along with primary research, to explore this topic in more detail than ever before. The global study provides granular insights on relative maturity of content and commerce convergence across regions. The objective was to provide actionable guidance on what successful integration looks like. The study shows that commerce experiences infused with strategic content educate, engage and delight consumers, impacting revenue and the bottom line.
Should all retailers approach branded content in the same way?
Branded content has increasingly become a way to differentiate on service and quality. The University of Arizona’s Terry Lundgren Center for Retailing identified the Digital Diva segment a few years ago. These consumers, on average, utilized 3.5 information sources during each shopping journey. It’s imperative that retailers provide the requisite knowledge that they seek.
Branded content should provide digital context to guide purchase decisions, but it often comes in different forms, everything from product finders for fashion and seasonal items, to shade matchers for health and beauty products, to guided selling for complex or configurable merchandise. The trick is to identify a consumer problem and determine how content can help solve it.
Did L2 identify the key content initiatives that retailers should prioritize?
L2 identified four types of content believed to have a disproportionate impact on ecommerce conversion: blogs and microsites, videos and tutorials, user generated content and guided selling tools. These types of content help to both provide more context around products leveraging formats like how-to videos, and to educate consumers with guided selling tools. Playing this role, content propels consumers further down the funnel.
80 brands were then scored based on how seamlessly content is integrated into the consumer shopping journey. Each content asset was evaluated for its availability across the purchase path – homepage, grid page and product detail page – and its ability to provide a clear path to purchase to the consumer – either no commerce integration, links to product pages, integrated buy buttons or integrated “buy all” buttons.
Brands with the highest quality scores exhibited higher conversion rates, indicating a correlation between content woven into the commerce experience and retailer’s bottom lines.
Did any findings from the study surprise you? How so?
According to research from Nielsen, branded content is more influential than expert content in consumer purchase decisions on purchases under $400. While content and commerce integration is imperative, the study revealed that there is still work to be done. Much of this “catch-up” is driven by the fact that content and commerce strategies were historically managed separately. Think about “branded site” versus “commerce site” mentality that existed for the last 10 years. Legacy technology, processes and organizational structures stood in the way of mashing them together.
It surprised me that our industry has taken so long to move away from content dead-ends by seamlessly integrating content assets into the purchase path. We’ve made progress. But we have a way to go. Despite maturity in the U.S. market, average scores showed signs of weakness.
We also found some of the regional trends illuminating. For instance:
- APAC is a leader in user-generated content. Given everything we know about China’s demographics, it wasn’t a total surprise.
- Just 1 in 5 retail brands in Asia are investing in product page videos.
- 1 in 3 retail brands in Western Europe, and half of brands in the U.S., are investing in product page videos.
How does Demandware’s business fit in with the findings of the Content & Commerce study?
Content plays a pivotal role in the commerce experience to create brand value and drive revenue. It’s not really about one or the other; it’s about creating an authentic and genuine balance that enables connected and influential consumers to seamlessly weave their shopping journey together. To differentiate in today’s competitive marketplace, our clients have evolved their digital interactions to include rich content that engages and educates consumers in a seamless path to purchase.
The strategic value of branded content in the shopping journey will only continue to rise as digital influence on retail grows. Leading brands in L2’s study are responding to research online/purchase offline with richer content and product information, guided selling tools, video, blogs, and user-generated content to foster consumer confidence in their purchase decision.
Our One Platform strategy is designed to provide retail brands with the flexibility and innovation required to effectively execute this strategy. Case in point: true economy of scale is achieved when content can be syndicated across every brand touch point on a global scale and propels consumers through the funnel. 42% of Demandware brands operate sites in multiple countries, many using the same content and product assets across their global sites to achieve scale.
To learn more about the study, register to attend a live webinar and receive a complimentary copy of the full report. Scott Galloway, Clinical Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern and Founder of L2, will present the findings on Thursday, November 6 at both 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. EST.
This post also appeared on The Daily, L2’s blog.
 “The Role of Content in the Consumer Decisionmaking Process,” Nielsen and inPowered, March 2014.