Tag Archives: online communication

Content Marketing – Stories that Add Value to Your Target Audience

Content marketing is the only marketing left. Teaching your customers and giving your customers the resources to believe you are new marketing, said Seth Godin, renowned marketing author. Seth was right in 1999, and he is still spot on.

The internet provides numerous opportunities for retailers to share information about their brand and products. And this is what customers want. According to the Content Marketing Institute 1, 70% of people would rather learn about a company via an article than an ad.

In fact, “Nine out of ten organizations are now marketing with content – that is, going beyond the traditional sales pitches and instead enhancing brands by publishing (or passing along) relevant information, ideas, and entertainment that customers will value” confirmed Alexander Jutkowitz 2 back in 2014.

What is Content?

Before discussing the “content marketing’ construct, we must first understand what ‘content’ is. Content is everything that a web user reads, hears or experience when he/she visits and interacts with a digital communication.

Dr Dave Chaffey 3 refers to content as the combination of static content forming web pages, but also dynamic rich-media content which encourages interaction such as videos, podcasts, user-generated content and interactive product selectors. But what is the best content for retailers to use?

James Yankey identified the following as best content for retailers to use:

  • Reviews – customer reviews ensure that shoppers feel confident in their purchases. It also let retailers know where they can improve or respond to negativity.
  • Personalized recommendations – knowing your shoppers’ purchase history and what they’re currently in the market for is the best way to offer personalized recommendations.
  • How-to articles and videos – retailers can capture more traffic by providing in-depth how-to’s on their website to help customers get the most out of a new purchase.
  • User generated content – is the fastest growing content type. It helps you create emotional connections with your shoppers and shows that you value your customers’ experience with your products.
  • In-store remarketing – Display ads: similar to ads used by digital marketers, however they’re designed for customers who have browsed in-store rather than browsed online. Email campaigns: to remind shoppers of the products they saw and loved during and instore visit.
  • Loyalty offers – loyalty programs are the second most prominent driver of repeat business (AccessDevelopment.com). Things like offering 10% off a next purchase or creating a loyalty points system helps to establish loyal customers.

All content needs to be marketed…

Content Marketing

What is content marketing? The concept of content marketing can be defined as a marketing approach, which aims to find products produced according to customers’ needs and create customer satisfaction and fulfilment in this way 4.  Conveniently, we live and work  in the digital age…

Digital media allow retailers to target prospects with a defined need. With content marketing, which is proactive and self-selecting, little advertising is wasted 3. Jayson DeMers, contributing in Forbes mentioned three key advantages of content marketing:

Key advantages of content marketing:

  1. Customer relationships. Retailers have the opportunity to build and solidify a customer relationship. The customers, on the other hand, experience a sense of empowerment when digesting the content of retailers. They feel the retailer knows what they want and speaks directly to them. In return, retailers gain satisfied, loyal customers with higher retention rates.
  2. Cost efficiency. It is far less costly to communicate with your customers via content marketing. Creating a valuable blog post might only take a few hours of your time, and it will continue to create value for your brand indefinitely. A paid ad campaign, on the other hand, can be expensive, and its long-term value is comparatively fleeting.
  3. Long-term returns. Content marketing has a higher potential for long-term returns as well. Because paid ads disappear the moment you stop paying for them, there’s a finite and linear value to your investment. Content, on the other hand, offers compounding returns over time.

However, for retailers to enjoy the benefits of content marketing, they should do it the right way.

How to make content marketing work

Important for retailers is that the content they and their users create is managed properly. Therefore a strategic approach is needed…

When you develop a content strategy, there are some key things to consider according to Justin McGill:

  • Who you’re creating it for
  • The problem it’s going to solve for that audience
  • How it will be unique
  • The formats you’ll focus on
  • The channels where it will be published
  • How you will schedule and manage creation and publication

Ok, you’ve tried your best, but are getting nowhere with content marketing. What on earth could be the problem?

Neil Patel, a lifelong evangelist of Kissmetrics proposed the following 10 reasons way your content marketing effort may have failed:

  1. You haven’t refined your strategy. Like any other form of marketing, you need a strategy if you expect to be successful.
  2. You don’t spend much on content marketing. Retailers who spend a lot on marketing are able to grow their markets faster than companies who don’t spend as much.
  3. You aren’t promoting your content. The quickest way to kill your content marketing is to do nothing after you create your content.
  4. Your content sucks. Sometimes, the content just plain sucks.
  5. You’re in a tough niche. The content marketers who are struggling the most are those that are in really hard industries.
  6. You’re up against a goliath of a competitor. There are times when you’re simply facing a dominating competitive landscape.
  7. You haven’t waited long enough. Content marketing takes time. Don’t expect results in a matter of a few weeks or even a few months.
  8. You have horrible SEO. If you’re doing content marketing, but have poor SEO, you might as well not even be creating content. No one is going to find it.
  9. Your expectations are too high. Take a step back and get realistic about content marketing. You might not double your traffic or triple your revenue.
  10. You’re not having any fun with it. Have some fun with content marketing. It’s not supposed to be a painful, awful and dark journey through despondency.

If you’re still battling with content marketing in spite of trying everything, best is to consult a digital marketing expert. Now let’s conclude…

Concluding

Everyone has a story to tell, so they say. Your story, however, may be a good one – a story that your customers value and enjoy. With billions of stories on the web you should take care that it’s your story that is read, hear or seen. Hence the necessity of content marketing.

Read also: Content Marketing Tips for Retailers

Notes

1 Walters, T. and Rose, R. 2015. Is native advertising the new black? Content Marketing Institute, Northeast Ohio Media Group.

2 Jutkowitz, A. 2014. The Content Marketing Revolution, Harvard Business Review.

3 Chaffey, D. 2015. Digital business and E-commerce management, Pearson Education Limited.

4 Köse, U. and Sert, S. 2016. Intelligent Content Marketing with Artificial Intelligence, In International Conference of Scientific Cooperation for Future.

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Photo Credit: <a href=https://howtostartablogonline.net/>via Richard Goodwin</a>
Video

Crossing the digital threshold – adding Clicks to Bricks for sustainable retail outcomes

Retailers should start crossing the digital threshold to survive and grow their business.

The word ‘normal’ no longer has a place in the vocabulary of retailers around the world. The advent of the internet has caused a revolution in the retail industry with customers doing their shopping online at the expense of their neighborhood retailers.

As revolutions go, it started out slowly, but the adoption of innovative digital technology and the rolling out of broadband mobile connectivity have caused the retail revolution to spectacularly, and exponentially get out of control.

Big and small retailers are closing shop and shopping centers stand empty because of the online migration by their customers. The high street in London has an oversupply of retail space and shopping centers have run out of ideas on how to lure customers back. “For retailers, the space race is over!

Because of the multi-channel landscape, ‘clicks’ are just as important, if not more important, than ‘bricks,’” says Robert Chapman Chartered Surveyor and Director, Robert Chapman & Company. In spite of the perceived threat that the online channel poses to traditional retailers, it may offer a huge opportunity.

There is a saying, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’.  The key to this in the retail sector lies in multi-channeling. Traditional retailers or ‘Bricks and Mortar’ retailers who added an online channel to their business, becoming ‘Bricks and Clicks’ retailers, are surviving and doing well. But what exactly is multi-channel retailing and how can retailers communicate with customers online?

Crossing the digital threshold by reaching customers in different ways

Multi-channel retailing is the use of more than one channel to sell products or communicate with customers. The channels can either be physical such as ‘Bricks and Mortar’ shops, catalogs, and/or kiosks; or virtual, such as online shops, mobile app stores and online catalogs.

Vanheems and Kelly investigated consumer behaviour and found that the use of multiple channels in retailing is effective for reaching more customers. They sell more products, and are making more profits (International Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications, 2009, 1(2):44-56). Research by Kwon and Jain found that consumers in the retail industry value multi-channel retailing since they have more options where they can shop and make purchases (Journal of Marketing Channels, 2009, 16:149-168).

Although multi-channel retailing is not a new business practice, the online retail channel has revived it. Digital innovations, broadband connectivity, mobility and computer savvy consumers have revolutionized retail industries globally.

Meet your ‘new’ customer – the online shopper

The internet has helped to empower traditional retail customers to become what we now call ‘online shoppers’. Online shoppers are dynamic, hands-on, mobile and interactive users of the internet.  The internet offers them quick access to a variety of products and prices, anywhere at any time. They find it easy to pay for products online and the delivery is conveniently at their place of choice.

It is therefore unsurprising that online retail continues to grow exponentially. The exponential growth of online retail sales in the United Kingdom from 1998 to 2015 is shown in Figure 1. A staggering 20% of UK retail sales for February 2016 were online (Internet Retailing). The customers have crossed the digital threshold, but what about the retailers?

uk-online-sales

Figure 1. Online retail sales in the United Kingdom from 1998 to 2015 Source: (http://www.statista.com/statistics/315506/online-retail-sales-in-the-united-kingdom/)

 

The impact of online retailing on ‘Bricks and Mortar’ retailers

 As shoppers are entertained with more innovative apps to enhance their online shopping experience, many ‘Bricks and Mortar’ retailers are still in the denial phase of their self-imposed digital nightmare. Some commentators are, however, seeing the writing on the wall: “The fun of going to shopping malls, department stores, and stand-alone locations may soon be a thing of the past.”

Bricks and Mortar stores are in danger of dying out completely and it has been happening little by little over the past decade,” says Danny Cox in reaction to the closure of 15% of the giant retailer Macy’s physical shops in the United States as they move their business online. It is not only the big retailers that close shops and move online.

Adding an online channel to their physical business has helped small retailers to remain open. According to Lawrence and Schiller, local people or people somewhere nearby use the small retailer’s website as a tool. They consult the website to see if products are in stock and how the prices compare with that of other retailers.  It is critical that ‘Bricks and Clicks’ retailers know how and where to communicate with customers in the online channel.

Communicating with your customers online

Nothing can be more frustrating for Bricks and Clicks retailers than having spent thousands of rand and many hours creating a website only to realise that nobody is finding you on the internet. Adrienne LaFrance, writing for The Atlantic, puts the vastness of the internet in perspective: “Although there are more than one billion websites on the internet, the vast majority of them are never seen”.

Once a visitor has found your website, she should enjoy the experience and then click to buy something. She may also be an online advocate for your business by telling her Facebook friends about her great shopping experience. She may however do the opposite if she had a bad experience. Retailers can reach their customers via different digital marketing channels.

Digital marketing channels

Communicating with your customers in digital marketing channels is rather different than doing it the traditional way. While most traditional mass media outlets provide audiences with scheduled content, digital media usually function as a gateway to a variety of information, entertainment content and communication tools.

Retailers can measure how effective their marketing communication is in the digital channel. The digital marketing channel offers retailers the opportunity to target conversations with their customers, and to create better relationships with them.

Drs Dave Chaffey and Fiona Ellis-Chadwick from The Open University in the UK have identified and described digital media channels such as affiliate marketing, e-mail, social and search engine marketing that retailers may use to attract visitors to their websites.

Affiliate marketing – is a commission-based arrangement where referring sites receive a commission on sales or leads by retailers. It is an opportunity for retailers to become more ‘visible’ on the internet since each time a customer clicks on the link of your site, search engines may give their site a higher ranking.

 Opt-in-email marketing – is a valuable digital marketing tool for conveying short, simple messages that call for action on behalf of the recipient. It usually involves sending advertisements, to request business, or solicit sales and to build loyalty, trust, or brand awareness.

Social media marketing – millions of people use social media to discuss, review, recommend, and give feedback about an organisation. As result, social networking sites such as Facebook have become one of the most popular and fastest-growing internet activities. Therefore businesses find them useful for connecting with customers, contributing to customer learning and getting customer input.

Search engine marketing – search engine marketing is an important digital marketing channel for acquiring customers. Customers use search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing to find information on the internet. Search engine marketing can be ‘organic’ or ‘paid’. Organic search results are listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms. Organic search is free for retailers.

Paid search, by definition is not free for the retailer. The ranking that a retailer’s advertisement achieves on a search engine result page depends on the bid price, the content of the advertisement, and quality score of the landing pages.

Your business need to be found online in order for you to communicate with your customers online.

Have you started adding Clicks to your Bricks?

If your answer is ‘no’, then there is a real possibility that your retail shop is already losing business. Your customers have started crossing the digital threshold a long time ago. If they can’t find your business online, they will stop buying from you. The choice of crossing the digital threshold remains yours…

Image: flickr.com