For many, it’s become second nature to shop for products and services online, and to browse and research via multiple sites before making a purchase decision.

If you own an ecommerce store, or are thinking of starting one, then it’s crucial to start thinking about your content marketing strategy sooner rather than later. Today’s consumers (arguably all consumers) dislike being ‘sold’ to; instead, they look for stories and information that’s going to help them find what they’re looking for. Done right, content marketing will enable you to generate traffic, increase engagement, and boost sales.

Are you ready to start creating great ecommerce content for your online store? Read on.

Look to your customers first

Content marketing can be really fun, and you might feel quite excited about the content you’re producing. But unless you are part of your own ideal audience, then it’s important to take a step back. Do you have a firm enough grasp of your target market to understand what content will appeal to them?

Identifying and getting to know your potential customers is often the first step when you start mapping out your ecommerce business strategy, so use that information now. It’s best to focus on demographic data here – factors like where they live, their level of education, their income, and their common interests. You can use this data to create customer personas: that is, fictional profiles that help you to relate to your audience more easily.

Because at the end of the day, you’re not writing for machines; you’re writing for individuals with human needs and values. And so you should look to gather as much data as possible, through interviews, surveys, research, social media, analytics, and more. You won’t be sorry you did.

Leave boring content to boring brands

Are you a boring? No? Then my advice is not to write boring content – or people may be forgiven for making that assumption. Web pages don’t have to be boring, even if they serve an everyday purpose such as answering FAQs or outlining how a product works.

There are lots of ways to add life to your content, whether it’s with a lighthearted tone of voice, strategic use of illustration, or having video guides instead of copy. Outdoor clothing brand REI uses its video channel to answer all kinds of questions related to its niche, from How to Use a Compass to How to Lace Hiking Boots (which they sell, not so coincidentally).

You can use your readers’ opinions to your advantage by setting up an interactive survey or enabling comments. As potential customers, we naturally trust the unbiased testimonies of those who have been before us. Short quizzes can also be a useful way to gather information and direct the subject of future content.

Need a little inspiration? Here are 5 brands who have a ‘lit’ inbound content strategy.

Encourage customers to leave reviews

When it comes to having legitimately unique content, customer reviews are one of the best ways to go about getting it. Essentially, it’s free promotional content – provided the reviews are good. We’re also more likely to buy a product online that has good reviews. 50 or more per product can lead to a 4.6% increase in conversion rates.

Assuming you’ve been through the motions of optimizing your on-page content, user reviews will only add to your efforts. What you don’t think to write about your products or services, your customers will almost certainly cover on your behalf. But you may need to coax it out of them.

Ecommerce platform Shopify has some great tips for generating powerful testimonials, which includes asking the right questions at the right time. You don’t need to pester customers too aggressively – a gentle email reminder should help to do the trick. Also, try to ensure that the process of leaving a review is as easy and enjoyable as possible. If you make your customers jump through too many hoops, they will be quick to abandon the mission entirely.

Around one week after the customer has received their purchase is the optimal time to ask for a review, as by this point they’ve had enough time to form some thoughts and opinions.

Write long-form copy

Long-form copy is your best friend when it comes to satisfying search engines, enabling you to target those all-important long tail keyword phrases. Google tends to favor long-form content, as it is generally of the greatest use to customers. While we’re often told that digital writing needs to be broken down into bitesize ‘scannable’ chunks, when it comes to satisfying customers, detailed content still wins the day.

Ideally, you need a little bit of both. Short-form content such as FAQs to answer people’s immediate queries, and long-form content to delve down into features and function.

Read more: How to Make Your Blog Go Viral.

Video is your friend

Of course, copy is just one of many forms of content. But it’s important to think beyond that. If you have the budget and the creativity, then engaging your audience with video is increasingly popular and effective, as we saw with the REI example. Here are 5 more examples of successful video marketing campaigns.

Not only are videos easy for users to watch and digest, research shows they improve conversion rates as well. And the best part is, you can use them for a range of things, whether it’s a product demonstration, a how-to video, a look behind-the-scenes, or an off-the-wall creative piece. One of my favorites is this Bodyform Responds video, which was created in response to a man called Richard who left a tongue-in-cheek post on their Facebook page:

Identify trending topics

Of course, nothing sells like a hot topic. If you can figure out what’s currently causing a stir in your customer community, you’ve got a real advantage. Use tools like EpicBeat and Buzzsumo to stay abreast of what’s happening and potentially reach a wider audience with your content. Trending hashtags on Twitter and Hashtagify will also help to give you an idea of what’s being talked about.

Of course, when you’re writing a blog post or crafting a piece of content around a trending subject, you will need to keep it relevant to your own business in some small way. One can go too far with newsjacking and end up turning off readers with irrelevant information. Keep in mind what your users want to hear about.

Sell value, not products

Great ecommerce content – in fact all great web content – has to provide value for the reader, whether that’s by being useful, informative, funny, entertaining, or shocking. One thing’s for sure, you can’t just aim and fire sales messages at people all day long. Users are discerning and they want to hear from industry leaders.

Therefore, you should use your content strategy to position yourself as such. Your keyword research should uncover some useful insight into what your readers want to know, so go in-depth answering their questions. Today’s marketing is all about subtlety – first looking to what your audience will enjoy, and then finding a way to relate that to your product offering.

Here are five brands who have mastered the art of creating content that sells.

Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing, there’s no such thing as a silver bullet. Depending on your niche, your customers may have vastly different needs and interests compared to another ecommerce sector, so your approach should be as tailored as possible. My parting advice would be: don’t be afraid to experiment. The online world is flooded with samey, boring content – and the aim is to stand out from the crowd. So go ahead and do just that.

 

** About the Author: Victoria Greene is a brand marketing consultant & freelance writer.She works with ecommerce businesses and marketing teams to create valuable content and targeted marketing strategies that yield strong results. She’s also written a lot about it over the years and knows all the little tricks of the trade.