Three Mistakes That Undermine eCommerce Content Marketing

Last updated Mar 22, 2018

Reading time: 3 minutes

It’s no surprise that eCommerce retailers have grasped content marketing with both hands. Content marketing campaigns have proven successful in many industries, and a number of eCommerce success stories have encouraged retailers to get on-board with a marketing strategy that can seem foreign to companies that follow the mantra “always be selling”.

It’s that constant focus on selling that leads some retailers to practice content marketing in a way that limits its potential. Or, even worse, think they’re doing content marketing when they’re doing nothing of the sort — setting up a blog and using it to push traditional marketing and sales copy is not content marketing.

Content marketing is the practice of creating excellent, niche-relevant content that gives something of value to readers. The aims of content marketing fall into three rough categories.
Firstly, content marketing for lead generation — companies create valuable content and allow users to access it in exchange for information (often an email address).

Secondly, content marketing to build an audience of loyal readers, some of whom will convert into buyers.

Thirdly, content marketing to raise awareness of a brand on other platforms — a typical example being the sort of native advertising that appears on sites like BuzzFeed, but blog guest posting and thought-leader ebook authorship also falls into this category.

I don’t want to specifically address content marketing strategies here, but I do want to talk about the content itself, and the ways in which retailers are failing to build an effective foundation of high-quality content. Whether you use content for lead generation, for audience building, or for syndication, it’s the quality of the content that matters. Poor content will throw a spanner in the works of any content marketing strategy.

It’s Not All About The Hard Sell

As I said earlier, sales copy is not suitable for content marketing, and yet many retailers seem insistent on publishing blog, newsletter, and social media content that does nothing but highlight products and their supposed advantages / competitive pricing.

Consider a fashion retailer who focuses on shoes. Write about shoes for sure, but don’t consistently push your own stock. Write about the fashion world surrounding shoes, write about shoe design, write about shoe care, write about fashion more generally. For almost any product, there is a range of potential topics of interest to the people a retailer wants to make a connection with.

Content marketing is about generating sales, but it’s not a direct sales technique.

Writing Into The Void

As any writer worth their salt will tell you, if you don’t know your audience, you’re wasting your time. eCommerce brands must carry out market research and customer research to generate a clear idea about the customer whom they want to target.

Content that fascinates a twenty-something millennial is unlikely to interest a retired senior, even if they both love cooking and are a potential customer of your artisanal cookware store.

Lack Of A Cohesive Strategy

The most effective content marketing strategies combine customer research, editorial planning, content creation, editing, and social media promotion. Sticking a blog post up every once in a while and tweeting a link won’t cut it. Content marketing requires careful planning to build a cohesive strategy so that everyone involved is pulling in the same direction.

The basic concept of content marketing isn’t all that hard to grasp — create great content, publish it, promote it. The devil, however, is in the details. If retailers don’t focus on learning about their customers and building a cohesive content marketing strategy, their investment in content won’t have the desired effect on sales.

Graeme Caldwell

Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog,