Digital Marketing | Ecommerce | Miscellaneous

Balancing Content and Product Investments for Retail Brands

Melissa Aronson
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December 13, 2019
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Read Time: 3min

Though an obvious goal of a business is to sell, the customer experience (CX) expectations that consumers have are not as obvious. Particularly in a landscape that is defined by digital innovation, it can be hard to keep up with shifting CX expectations. Customers place a high amount of interest in value — whether it’s the value of convenience, economy or sustainability — and that’s often on top of the product itself.

A retail brand’s challenge in the digital space hinges on balancing content investments versus product and merchandising decisions. While any marketer can argue in favor of the value of content, businesses are often concerned with the evaluation of its ROI.

When a brand invests in content and pushes a large message, it is not always with a strict “purchase” agenda. The message could be emphasizing a directional change, new mission or in some cases, an explanation to customers. What is difficult to measure is if this content has a positive, long-term halo effect on conversion.

So what is the real value of content & how do you stay find the right balance to drive sales and repeat purchasing?

Three Methods for Approaching Content

Retail brands exhibit three major forms of tackling content:

Approach 1: heavy content with few, but staple, products
Approach 2: very little content, but a vast product inventory and customer reviews
Approach 3: balancing content and product within the same site page to drive engagement

Smaller click-and-mortar, or digitally native brands, are able to master the challenge of approach one, prioritizing content over product. With less inventory to showcase, a strong focus on (often inspirational) content allows a brand to distinguish itself and create a loyal customer base. These brands are able to capitalize off of the staple products they’ve created, and create deep connections with a targeted audience.

For example, Away, a digital luggage company, uses a content heavy approach. This brand positions itself by highlighting lifestyle, with content around everything one might need for traveling and nothing unnecessary. Their content identifies with a variety of travel personas, while also considering travel standards. Their content directly states their product solves real travel pains. By the time a user navigates to the product page, they’ve learned enough about Away to ensure this purchase will improve their travel experience. The sleek and modern designs do not hurt, either.

The second approach, product-first with very little content, is present in larger retailers, those with a seemingly endless inventory. These businesses reap large revenue. Amazon, the world’s largest online marketplace (and seller) caters to a variety of retail sub-verticals without much content, but rather, a reliance on customer reviews.

 

Adob Stock, via kathayut

 

Balancing Product Prioritizations and Content Creation

There are plenty of brands, including our own customers that take the third, middle-of the-road approach. To find the right balance between content and product, there’s a solution; measure the performance of your content. Once you measure content and segment audiences properly, you’ll have a better understanding of what content is driving purchasing across which customer profile.

If you can draw the lines between customer engagement, conversion and revenue, and answer how to measure the ROI of specific content elements, it removes the guesswork and fear of making content investments.

This safety net allows you to go bold when you measure the success of each content element, with the agility to test different versions or remove the content altogether. You will also answer the looming question of yes or no: whether content has a correlation with product sales.

Adobe Stock, via beeboys

 

The Verdict

When making investment decisions for content against product, you need to determine whether your content — or any proposed content — is complementing or detracting from your product. Unfortunately, there’s no single best practice for every brand.

Content is a longer term engagement than promotions, because a sale may lead customers to come to your site once or intermittently. The goal of content is different, with the intention to drive repeat visits, purchases, and ultimate loyalty.

Content can be engaging, but without substantial or trusted product behind it, there are no sales. And yet product is not always standalone — it may involve storytelling, materials, or qualifications to encourage a customer to add-to-cart. In either case, analytics is the connection between content performance and revenue objectives.

How bold can you go to allow your brand to shine? That’s something only granular behavior analytics can answer.

 

Hero image: Adobe Stock, va jeler

Author

Melissa Aronson

Melissa Aronson is a Lead CSM in Contentsquare’s New York office. Melissa’s experience is primarily in digital marketing at well recognized retail brands such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Gilt, and Macy’s. Prior to, she also worked at Cheetahmail, servicing customers in the retail vertical to optimize their email programs.