The Future of Content-Driven Ecommerce

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For marketing and technology professionals alike, the decisions made today will impact whether businesses succeed or fail.

Digital Marketing: Looking Back to Look Forward

How did you imagine the year 2015 in 1985? When Michael J Fox went “Back to the Future,” he encountered hoverboards and flying cars. Well…we’re not quite there yet, but we have seen massive technological innovation over the past thirty years.  Oculus Rift is making virtual reality and household concept, and smartwatches are no longer a science fiction concept. These technical developments offer significant opportunities for marketing innovation– creating original experiences that resonate with customers in previously unimagined contexts.

I recently asked Robert Rose (Senior Analyst at Digital Clarity Group and Chief Content Officer at the Content Marketing Institute) and Anthony Wilson (head of strategy at marketing technology consultancy Kanban) to look at the future of digital marketing, and explore the steps businesses can take now to ensure that their content drives commerce, and helps outperforms the competition

Here are some key takeaways:

Marketing innovation goes hand in hand with technological progress

In just a few decades, we’ve gotten so far beyond billboards and television advertisements– even banner ads have lost relevance compared to new methods of data driven content marketing. So, what’s next?

We’ve got some ideas: we know content will be a major driver of online business– particularly when it comes to eCommerce. And we know that technology integrations will be key to driving this growth.

But we can’t predict everything– so we should be prepared for what we don’t yet know. Businesses should anticipate, and create space for the technology we can’t yet imagine. Our digital strategies today should not close doors on future innovation.

Marketing has fundamentally changed, and very quickly
Customers have evolved: their expectations and their choices in the market have multiplied significantly in the past years– and the customer experience needs to step up to accommodate them through personalization and relevance.

Content and digital experiences have democratized. Brands are no longer the sole owners of the digital experience– social media has made the brand experience an interactive, dynamic dialogue.

While less centralized, marketing’s role in business has amplified. But to truly serve business goals, content must be a strategic differentiator. And though content is increasingly key to creating opportunities and leads– but it still struggles to communication ROI.

“Silos Suck”

As Robert Rose emphasizes: “Silos suck.” But content and content management can be central to breaking down these silos, and centralizing organizations around a content strategy.  As he writes in a post on the Hippo CMS blog,

Today marketers not only need a technology system that will enable the rapid launch of new channels, interfaces, platforms etc… they must also allow for cross-functional teams to start pollinating content across all those channels. In short – social teams should be producing web content, web teams should be producing email content, the blog team can be producing web site content. A critical piece to this is a system where collaborative workflows can repurpose and repackage content easily and quickly.

We’ve seen content, and the facile management of it across multiple channels become a centralizing force that transforms the marketing department from collateral creator to instrumental strategic leader. When the marketing group (as a whole) is charged with acting as centralized actuary, cheerleader, facilitator and ultimately owner/author of the totality of branded content, it’s both much easier to not only make the customer experience promise, it’s easier to keep it.

Technology should create space for marketing innovation

As we look forward towards the Internet of Things (IoT), and whatever comes after, businesses must anticipate the role of content-rich experiences that transcend channels as the purest form of customer engagement. This does not simply apply to branding and marketing strategies, but also to the technical tools they select to power these strategies. It’s here that open systems and standards become so crucial: they enable scalability, extensibility, and integration with new technologies as they crop up, and avoid vendor lock-in.

Content Works for eCommerce

To quote Sonja Wraith, VP of Marketing at Hippo: “Mobile commerce transactions will reach 3.2 trillion by 2017. In the United States, 73% of internet users make online purchases, while 85% of UK internet users shop online. 80% of German internet users engage in mobile commerce. Businesses need to take this seriously.

As Forrester Analyst Jeff Ernst points out, “in the age of the customer, business buyers don’t “buy” your product; they “buy into” your approach to solving their problem.” To differentiate, online retailers need to reach potential customers earlier in the buying cycle: when they are considering the solution to a problem, rather than selecting a product. It’s here that strong content can position these businesses as trusted advisors. Engagement early in the customer journey through thought leadership and advisory content can lay the groundwork for a strong relationship with the customer beyond a single checkout.

Addressing the higher need behind a purchase is an investment that can create engaged, returning customers who advocate for the business and brand.

Content takes Ecommerce Beyond the Catalogue

Strong content helps online retailers address the core needs behind purchases, by providing the dynamic and engaging information needed to truly make their decisions. In his whitepaper CMS -A Critical Solution For Today’s eCommerce, Robert Rose writes:

“One of the primary challenges of today’s eCommerce sites are that many are treated as a collection of store “pages” rather than as a collection of potential buying journeys. Many eCommerce sites are just static catalogs or ebrochures not “shopping assistants”

Content-driven Ecommerce Serves Business Goals

As Anthony Wilson points out, the conclusion is simple: eCommerce retailers using content driven experiences are gaining an edge on the competition. So what makes them succeed?

Relevant Content

By providing interesting, informative and relevant content to their audiences, they’re creating a reputation in industry leadership and expertise.

Closing the feedback loop

Insights into content consumption and interaction can help eCommerce retailers understand customer intent, and find new business or product ideas, straight from the consumers.

Visitor to Lead Management

Insights on content performance can help turn visitors to leads appropriately, based on their individual, real-time behavior.

SEO

Good quality content increases your ability to be found, and increases likelihood of serving the underlying need of the visitor when they find you.

This article was written by Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.