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.
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.
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
Conversions rarely occur on a whim; usually, there is a layered process behind ecommerce purchases. Known as the conversion funnel — or the sales funnel — this model shows the conduit between the least aware prospects to those who are most aware, interested and bent on conversions.
Brands have to be both wary and strategic in the ways they set up conversions, and that is where the concept of the conversion funnel comes into utility. While no one can truly “set up” conversions, you can set the scene and command all the workings that bring visitors closer to converting by heeding the conversion funnel and optimizing it.
As UX-perts, we like to blare the horns on the importance of UX, so it should come as no surprise that a good UX plays an important role in conversion rate optimization. Let’s take a look at how you can optimize your conversion rate by way of working in a good UX to the different stages of the conversion funnel.
What is the Conversion Funnel in Marketing?
The conversion funnel denotes a process in which brands work to turn potential customers into converting customers.
It is comprised of several stages, with each one indicating your customers’ level of brand awareness, interest, and willingness to buy — along with the gradual steps/ undertakings you can to take to lead users further down.
While the stages in each conversion funnel may differ from brand to brand, each shares the ultimate goal of “pushing” site users down to the very last step, which, evidently, represents conversions.
Through this structure, brands can group their potential customers into easy-to-understand categories, thereby dictating several efforts they can maneuver to encourage prospects further down the funnel.
There are various marketing tactics to drive customers down the conversion funnel; they can be deployed through more than one stage. Let’s dig deeper.
Good UX in Conversion Funnel Optimization
Now that you know what a conversion funnel is, the next thing to cover is how to apply good UX practices that relate to each stage in the conversion funnel. The following spells out the ways brands can enhance their UX per each stage of the conversion funnel to optimize it and garner greater conversions.
Stage 1: Awareness
Sitting atop the conversion funnel as the entry point, the awareness stage is the stage with the least… awareness of your brand or offering. It’s also the stage with mounting awareness, as potential clients become cognizant of your business and click onto your website, the act which carries with it the possibility to spawn possible interest.
But that requires capturing new customers. Think of Stage 1 as a person attempting to swoop butterflies into a net. They’d have to reach out to catch them with careful movements to assure they don’t miss out on snatching their butterflies, or in marketing, their business opportunities.
The same should go for your Stage 1 marketing endeavors. You need to be careful and methodical so you can securely create a heightened awareness of what your brand does.
Educating potential customers to your brand involves using common practices such as:
- PPC ads
- Social media campaigns
You have to keep your target audience in mind and create your campaigns accordingly. But once you’ve brought new people onto your site, the UX must be optimized, or at least suitable to pique interest within visitors (lead them to step 2), or — even better — make them convert on the spot.
There is a slew of general ways to improve upon the user experience. But in regards to stage 1, users usually arrive at your site via a landing page.
The UX has to be top tier on this page. Keep the copy and imagery relevant to the conversion goal, while making it clear what your brand does. The latter is more important since you’re introducing new prospects to your company. The copy and other contents on landing pages should be to the point, so steer clear of wasting users’ time. In short, don’t overload it.
Most importantly, construct the landing page so that it is relevant to the message that led visitors to click on it in the first place.
Stage 2: Interest
Next, we reach the stage of interest. Now that prospective customers know your company exists, they have to frequent your website; simply knowing about your offering does not ensure they’ll return to your site or engage with your site or social media content.
Content is key in this step, as it can foster and maintain interest within your prospects. There’s a twofold approach for optimizing the conversion funnel: the first is the nature of the content and the second concerns the UX, or the feelings and attitudes users develop over their experience.
The first element deals with the core of the content — the content type, its subject matter, how it can help with your prospects’ problems, its visual identity, etc. You would need to establish a blog with relevant posts to your industry or niche.
Other useful content for stimulating user interest are:
- a resources page
- Etc. (get creative)
You would have to make sure these align with the needs/interests of your vertical as well as making your content stand out and offer something different. Videos and other content, for example, should not focus on the product alone, but offer something of value — whether that’s inspirational content, news related to your niche or something else.
As for the attitudes toward the content, i.e. the UX, consider the amount of content on your page; is it slowing down your site? If so, reduce it so that you never have issues with loading speeds.
Make sure everything can be easily seen and accessed. This will encourage further browsing. For example, if you have an in-page element that requires scrolling, the width of it, at the very least, needs to be wide enough so all the content can be easily read.
You should limit scrollable in-page content to one type of scrolling function (either by length or width, never both.) This is generally length, as this is easier to look through. Use carousels, in-page recommendations and links to other pages to incite browsing.
In fact, when it comes to the UX in general, be sure to keep it continually optimized so that all content elements are easy to understand and seamless. The best way to gauge customer understanding and frustration is of course to measure interactions with each element.
Stage 3: Desire
Once you’ve developed some level of interest, you need to propel prospects towards the lower half of the conversion funnel, which starts with desire. Representing a heightened interest, desire attracts users to your actual offering aside from your content alone.
At this stage, you should make your product or service, as the stage suggests, desirable. It’s also where you have to distinguish your offering from that of your competitors, specifically, by positioning your company as the better option.
This can be done by:
- Employing more targeted social ads that lead to pages with CTAs
- Highlighting how your product can alleviate specific problems
- Offering sales/promotions
The users with the highest level of interest will sign up for a newsletter or other form of email communication. This is vital, as it enables you to see exactly who your most interested prospects are and market to them directly.
For the Desire stage, your best bet is to arrange a drip campaign, or an automated email campaign, which can be set off by different triggers and sent at strategic periods. For example, when someone signs up or makes a purchase, you can then sent prewritten emails during key periods, such as sales, new blog posts, company news, etc.
Also, although they’re prewritten content, assure that emails are personalized with the prospects’ names or their company names. Emails that appear roboticized yield a poor UX.
As you may have gathered, content is as weighty a component at this stage as in others. You need to eliminate any traces of a poor UX, such as an image that appears clickable, but doesn’t actually take users to a landing page, enlarging the image instead, a common UX problem. Nothing spoils a customer journey like obstacles in the digital experience — another reason to measure user behavior.
Stage 4: Action
Last, but certainly not least, we’ve reached the final stage: action. This is the most targeted stage of the conversion funnel for obvious reasons. After pumping out UX-optimized content and building a relationship with potential customers, only a small portion of them will make it to this stage.
Most will hang in the balance of desire and action, toggling between the two until they make the decision to either buy or bounce. This is where your UX can make or break you.
First, you need to ensure that the navigation of your product pages are neatly organized so that products are easy to find. Don’t succumb to the UX sin of overstuffing your navigation. Finding your product/service should be a seamless experience.
As for the product pages, each must have selection tools that make it easier for customers to filter out products by way of their particular needs. (Think of common product organization types like size, color, price, etc.)
Additionally, all aspects of this experience must promote purchases, from the ability to zoom in, to quick load times of the actual product pages (when clicked on from a multi-product page), to the product image quality.
Any element can be off-putting at this stage, including non-design bits like pricing, so make sure your UX is superb and built around actual customer intelligence.
UX Insights Throughout the Conversion Funnel
Measuring the success of your marketing efforts does not end while you embark on optimizing the conversion funnel. In fact, you should not approach the conversion funnel as a standalone marketing tactic to reel in more conversions.
This is because not all user experience exists in such a linear way. As such, it may ring true for some users but not all. Particularly, the customer decision journey can be seen as a contrast to the funnel. This can be observed by viewing user paths and segmenting your users to narrow behavior-based categories.
By tackling a specific segment, you can customize the UX to that segment, to assure an optimized journey that reduces exists and bounces. For example, pure player brands understand that their content will not be consumed by a general audience. Only specific segments will visit their sites and social channels. As such, they create content that aligns with the interests of their segmented users.
Hero Image: Visual Generation / Adobe Stock