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The Modern Retailer's Ultimate Guide to E-commerce Content Marketing
The Modern Retailer's Ultimate Guide to E-commerce Content Marketing
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The Modern Retailer’s Ultimate Guide to E-commerce Content Marketing

Content marketing is an inbound marketing approach in which brands create and share useful, value-adding digital assets with their readers, for free. Content can come in the form of videos, infographics, blog posts, podcasts, email marketing, white papers, social media posts, and more.

In a retail environment where customers hate traditional ads so much that they’ll spend big bucks to avoid them, content marketing can help brands give the people more of what they want while establishing themselves as useful, authoritative resources.

In short, high-quality content marketing helps you build credibility, authority, and a loyal audience. But where do you start? In this guide to e-commerce content marketing, we’ll share the complete A to Z of how to get started.

The Top 5 Trends Shaping E-Commerce Content Marketing

In the early days of content marketing, you could throw together a weekly email newsletter, seed an influencer to give you a shout out, and call it a day. With just a few well-placed keywords on your product pages, you could even snag the top of the search engine results page (SERP) and drive organic traffic to your checkout page.

Today’s content marketing is different: the content is just as much of the product as the items you’re trying to sell. Your reader is actively turning to the assets you produce and using them to solve a problem, answer a question, or stay informed.

To win with content marketing, you need a more strategic approach. Here are some of the latest shifts and trends to help shape your strategy.

1. Optimizing for Generative Search

Search engines like Google and Bing are shifting from a keyword based approach, toward an AI-powered experience where search engines directly answer users questions. This new type of search (Google calls it search generative experience or SGE) extracts useful content from authoritative sources — like company blogs and web pages — to create plain-language summaries, which are displayed at the top of the SERP.

The gradual shift from SGE to SEO can mean a lot of work for a marketing team, but it can also simplify your search for meaningful content marketing ideas. Instead of stuffing blog posts with keywords and looking for creative ways to string terms together, you can keep your focus on providing the clearest, most comprehensive answers to readers’ most common questions.

Top Tips:

  • Use tools like Semrush and Ahrefs to learn what questions or long-tail keywords readers are searching for, and generate helpful blog posts and tutorials accordingly.
  • SGE-type search algorithms tend to prioritize content that answers the user’s question right away, so summarize the topic of the piece in plain language, before getting into the specifics.
  • Keep content readable. Use short sentences and paragraphs, active voice, and simple language (at an eighth grade reading level). Use lists, bullet points, and headers to keep content skimmable, and avoid typos and jargon.

2. Collecting First Party Data in a Post-Cookie World

With the death of the third-party cookie, many marketing teams are still working to find the right first-party data strategy. The search is on to find ways of understanding the customer without triggering growing concerns about data privacy.

E-commerce brands can leverage content marketing by using it to gather more data while giving the customer more control over what they share. Brands can offer gated, opt-in resources, in exchange for names, email address and other basic demographic data — or let customers log in with their social media accounts and capture their handles.

Top Tips:

  • Offer free, gated content like white papers, e-books, and research studies on your website, in exchange for email address and other voluntarily submitted user data.
  • Implement gated, interactive tools on your website, like polls, surveys, or estimate calculators.
  • Hook users with engaging, authoritative web content, then get them to subscribe to your newsletter or loyalty program for more content and incentives.
  • Deploy user behavior-tracking tools like Hotjar and Smartlook to track sessions and understand how users interact with your onsite content.

3. Video Content and Tutorials

Video content is taking over the internet: a recent Firework survey found that consumers are 51% more likely to make a purchase when they can engage with video content. Potential buyers browse both your own content and user-generated content to learn how specific products work, how they fit, and which ones they should buy.

However, video content doesn’t stop at product demonstrations or telling your brand story. It’s also a powerful tool for building topical authority and offering your followers — and, hopefully, their followers — value-added content.

Top Tips:

  • Find out what types of searches potential customers are conducting and create explainer or tutorial content to answer their questions. For example, if you sell products geared toward campers, you might create video tutorials on how to read a compass or pitch a tent.
  • Optimize video content for search and conversions by following platform-specific tips and guidelines: for example, using the right keywords and descriptions for Google and YouTube, and paying attention to trending songs, tags, and filters on TikTok, and posting consistently across all platforms.
  • Widen your audience by making sure all your video content includes accessibility tools like captions, subtitles, audio descriptions, and alt-text for people who use screen readers.

4. Snackable Content

Memes, gifs, games, quizzes and especially infographics are some of the most engaging and easiest marketing assets to generate. “Snackable content” refers to these short-form, easy-to-digest, single-serving content formats.

For very little cost, you can quickly create highly shareable, viral-worthy images and content that gets your audience talking about your brand.

Top Tips:

  • Use snackable content to answer potential customer questions, address key pain points, educate readers on pertinent topics, or cite relevant factoids without shouting about your product. For example, if you sell sleep gummies, don’t share an infographic about the power of melatonin supplements. Instead, share one about the health benefits of a good night’s sleep.
  • Emphasize your imagery. Snackable content works because 91% of consumers prefer interactive, visual content. Focus on colorful visuals, high-resolution images, and an easy-to-follow format.
  • Optimize for mobile and social. Like a bag of chips, snackable content should come in one bite-sized unit that’s easy to toss over to a hungry friend. Package your content in a mobile-friendly format they can read without much scrolling, and be sure to enable one-click sharing across social media and chat applications.

5. AI-powered Content Repurposing

Repurposing video into audio, audio into blog posts, and otherwise converting content from one format into another used to take a lot of time and resources. But with new AI tools, it’s much simpler to quickly transcribe videos, extract text from images, and more.

With AI, the hours it might’ve taken to manually transcribe a podcast, edit out the “ums” and “ahs”, and create something readable are condensed down into just minutes of skimming and proofreading a document. As soon as you’ve created a 10-minute informational video, you’ve also generated material for images, blog posts, quote snippets, multiple TikToks, and more.

Top Tips:      

  • Use AI content tools to automatically summarize long-form content, generating shorting blurbs, infographics and other snackable content for social media marketing.
  • Try experimenting with large language models to rewrite articles for different market segments, personalizing content, tone, and voice to each target audience. You can even use AI to translate content into different languages or dialects.
  • Always approach AI with caution, especially when it comes to performing creative tasks. AI is prone to mistakes and outright falsifications, so make sure there’s always at least one set of human eyes on all AI content, or you could wind up making a major faux pas or even running into serious legal issues.

Going Beyond the E-commerce Website: 4 Bar-setting Examples of Content Marketing

Ready to dive into your content marketing strategy?

Here are four content marketing examples from brands that are acing their content strategies, including what they’re getting right (and sometimes wrong).

Scrub Daddy

Though currently known best for its firm grasp of niche TikTok humor, Scrub Daddy’s secret has always been its content marketing. From product demonstrations on Shark Tank to killer reality show style long-form YouTube content, to a brief (but useful) how-to blog, the brand succeeds with the right combination of a distinctive, aggressive yet accessible voice and a steady stream of helpful information.

These tactics have taken the brand to $220 million in sales, with 80% revenue growth year-over-year in 2021. Scrub Daddy also boasts around 4 million TikTok followers (top competitor Scotch-Brite has only about 118K), an intimate relationship with fellow TikTok beast DuoLingo, and an exciting new partnership with Dunkin Donuts. This viral success also means it can get away with expanding its product line to include merch items like Scrub Daddy hoodies, Valentine’s gift sets, and even Halloween costumes.

NYX Cosmetics

L’oreal beauty brand NYX is an interactive content genius, with a plethora of onsite tools for users to virtually test out its offerings. From its School of Brows quiz to its AI-powered Ultimate Shade Finder to its Snapchat Beauty Bestie, NYX knows how to get users to give up their names, email addresses, and social handles in exchange for an intensely engaging content experience and personalized product recommendations.

Of course, a controversial Cardi B ad caused a big stir during the 2024 superbowl, but the end result was incredible buzz for the brand. The campaign earned NYX at least 13 million YouTube views, likely bringing in some traffic and new subscriptions for its helpful video tutorials.

Home Depot

Like NYX, Home Depot is a master of interactive content, with estimation calculators for everything from countertop space to mulch. The company also has countless videos on its website and over a thousand DIY, Home Improvement, and other How-To videos on YouTube.

Unfortunately, Home Depot also offers an important lesson in what not to do when customers deliver up their personal information in exchange for your valuable content. The company’s Canada division recently came under legal scrutiny for sharing customers’ personal data with Meta without their consent.

AG1 Greens

This powdered greens supplement star does a beautiful job with its blog content, including comprehensive health guides and expert interviews. However, where the brand really shines is in its use of real scientific research to illustrate the purported health benefits of its products.

A rich, scrollable onsite portfolio of infographics, key stats, and findings highlight evidence of its ingredients’ effectiveness. Science jargon, percentages, and charts are offset with plain-language explainers (“Why This Matters”) to drive home the connection between supplements and gut health. Instead of telling you why you should buy its products, AG1 just shows you the data.

How to Build and Launch Your Content Marketing Strategy

Before you get started on developing (or revamping) your content marketing efforts, remember these six key takeaways:

1. Set your goals and KPIs

Decide what you want to accomplish with your content marketing strategy and how you’ll make it happen, including which metrics you’ll track and why they matter to your e-commerce business.

  • Set actional SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals around specific business objectives, like increasing revenue, improving brand awareness, or acquiring new customers.
  • Define and develop a plan for tracking key KPIs, like conversion rates, click throughs, website sessions, or social media impressions, then set new targets based on your historical data and industry benchmarks, where applicable.
  • Use a KPI tracking dashboard or Google Analytics to keep tabs on your progress and adjust your plan as needed.

Pro Tip: Your content marketing strategy doesn’t have to do everything all at once. Focus on gradual progress, establishing brand credibility, and building long term relationships, and watch your numbers rise.

2. Define your brand persona and tone of voice

To differentiate yourself from competitors and really connect with potential customers, you first need to understand who those customers are and how to talk to them.

  • Conduct market research to understand who your audience is and how to relate organically to them with your content. Do they respond to humor, like Millennials and Gen Z, or do they tend to prefer more formal, informative content?
  • Choose an authentic brand voice and do your best to stay consistent, avoiding wild shifts in tone, or testing out risky jokes or unfamiliar slang on the wrong crowd.
  • Consider the delivery method: The same audience expects a slightly different tone on different platforms. No matter how traditional your brand voice, your TikTok should still skew a little more on the playful side than your LinkedIn.

Pro Tip: Many brands have used a unique, edgy voice to stand out (think Wendy’s sassy Twitter strategy), but this can be a risky call if you don’t deeply understand your audience or the platform. When in doubt, keep it authentic instead of copycatting other brands, and always ad test your content with a mixed audience before it goes live.

3. Audit your competitors

Understanding your competitors’ approach to content can help you differentiate your voice, stand out with unique content, and establish yourself as an even better resource for useful information.

  • Use competitive content analysis tools, like MarketMuse and Clearscope, to understand where your competitors are succeeding with content, what they’re getting wrong, and most importantly, what they’re missing.
  • Adopt social listening tools, like Sprout Social and Brand24, to learn what followers are saying about your competitors and whether their strategies are working.
  • Take your findings and convert them into actionable steps in your content strategy, for example writing blog posts on topics they haven’t covered yet.

Pro Tip: Don’t neglect old school tactics like following your competitors’ feeds and subscribing to their newsletters — you might uncover some nuance or nugget of insight that AI isn’t prepared to grasp.

4. Inventory your existing content

Competitive content analysis tools can help you discover gaps in your existing content marketing, but you might also need to take a more thorough approach.

  • Compile all your existing content, including onsite content, still-live social media posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, email templates, and more. Make sure anything and everything is updated with current style guides, logos, and brand voice.
  • Read, listen, and watch through each digital asset for tone, timeliness, and appropriateness, removing dated references, updating old links, and editing any problematic humor or word choices.
  • Review your current onsite content, using search engine optimization (SEO) and performance analytics tools, to determine how it’s ranking and which pieces might earn more traffic with a solid refresh.

Pro Tip: Audit your content on the regular. You never know when a customer could dig up an old blog or social media post and find a joke or reference that hasn’t aged well.

5. Choose your channels and formats

You don’t need to launch an entire content marketing strategy overnight. Instead, take a more gradual approach by starting with the highest priority (or most affordable to implement) marketing channels.

  • Define your target audience, understanding who you want to reach and what platforms they’re already using to get their content.
  • Get a sense of the costs, effectiveness of each channel, and format, and what you currently have the budget and resources for. Recognize that you may need more skills, expertise, or startup capital for certain channels.
  • Make sure you’re using the right platforms for the right kinds of content, generally saving the text-heavy pieces for email and the visuals for social media.

Pro Tip: Always consider the use case. An audio- or text-only format probably isn’t the best way to share home repair how-tos, but an infographic or image carousel could work if you don’t have enough budget or know-how for video production.

6. Create your content calendar

You’ll need a detailed content calendar to manage content creation, stay on a regular posting schedule, and keep track of team members’ and freelancers’ work.

  • Understand how frequently you need to post on each channel in order to win the most traffic (and avoid annoying customers). For example:
    • Long-form YouTube videos: about once a week
    • Emails and blog posts: 1-5x per week
    • Instagram Feed Posts: 3-5x per week
    • TikTok and Instagram Stories: 1-4 x per day
  • Use project management tools to loop your team members into your production schedule, establish roles, set deadlines for new content, and determine when and how often to refresh older pieces or assets.
  • Where possible, use automation tools to post your content on schedule, especially — or use scheduling tools to set reminders. But never use bots to respond to comments: it’s tacky, and they can usually tell.

Pro Tip: If you rely on pre-scheduled blog or social media posts, keep a close eye on the news cycle. Be ready on a moment’s notice, for example, to take down an overly cheery post in the event of a tragic event or natural disaster. And make sure you always leave room in your content schedule to post or create content on newsworthy topics.

Plan Your E-commerce Content Marketing Strategy Like the Best of Them

To win at content marketing and drive your business to the next level, you can’t just plug your brand or sound off about the latest hot topic. You need a clear, comprehensive plan for your content that’s centered on high-revenue, high-impact tasks.

To learn more about effective marketing tactics, see our SellersFi resources hub. Or, reach out and learn how our full suite of e-commerce financial solutions can help you get there faster.

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