Integrating content and commerce
October 20, 2011 Leave a Comment
“Content is king” has long been a mantra for eCommerce merchants. Rich subject-matter content not only lends credibility and authority to the brand, but it can also help boost a site’s rankings in natural search engine results.
But it’s not enough to create scads of relevant content and post it. In order to maximize the efficacy of content as a sales tool, it has to be integrated fluidly with products and promotional offers.
Many merchants are partway there when it comes to content integration: increasingly, there’s plenty of helpful content on eCommerce product and category pages to help guide shoppers’ purchase decisions. For its Balance Ball Chair System, lifestyle company Gaiam provides comprehensive product information – in the form of a thorough description, multiple images, a video, customer reviews, and a “question and answer” section where staff and other customers can respond to shopper inquiries. In addition, via one of the product’s content tabs shoppers can also access a selection of instructional content related to balance balls on Gaiam’s partner site, Gaiam Life.
In short, when shoppers are already browsing products, merchants are increasingly featuring relevant content alongside the merchandise. But what about when consumers begin their shopping journey by consulting the content first?
Many merchants with otherwise robust content sections fail to integrate products fully into instructional articles, how-to videos or even buying guides – as this outdoor merchant does in an article about springtime weather fronts and how they affect fishing. Although the article mentions various types of lures and baits which are on offer in the eCommerce store, there are no product images or even text links to entice readers (and potential shoppers) to purchase immediately.
A good first step toward integrating products with content is to feature related items in a side column – as Gaiam does in the top example above. Visitors to the balance ball article on the Gaiam Life site view related products in the left-hand column, and can click to purchase them on the Gaiam site. Similarly, REI’s article for beginning cyclists includes links, not only to further related articles and instructional videos, but to relevant product categories – including comfort bikes, cycling helmets, and hydration options. Browsers at both Gaiam and REI can act on article information instantly and with a minimum of clicks between content and relevant products.
But sidebars are traditionally the location for banner advertising and other promotions which readers are adept at tuning out; product links positioned there may be overlooked altogether. A better solution is to build content with merchandise in mind – that is, to integrate commerce and content completely, providing both credible information and easy access to relevant products in one package.
Party supply and costumer retailer Party City offers a series of party planning guides that include links to products throughout. These guides have more how-to content than simple theme-based shopping categories, and more product links than a plain instructional article – striking an effective balance.
Similarly, educational supplier Carolina Biological offers a visually attractive guide to raising butterflies in the classroom that includes not only instructions for hatching and breeding butterflies, but comprehensive links to the kits and other products to get the project started.
How are you maximizing the effectiveness of your content?