Using content to drive commerce

November 17, 2014 10:06 am

Using content to drive commerce



  • The holy grail – engaging content which drives sales
  • We discuss examples from Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Winsor & Newton

The idea of combining content with commerce isn’t entirely new – almost every major high-street fashion retailer has some kind of editorial section of their site to feature the new trends. But recently, retailers have been finding more innovative ways of merging content and commerce to provide a more engaging customer experience.

At the 2014 Internet Retailing Conference, Waitrose showcased how they’re doing this. Alex Murray, Waitrose’s Web & Multichannel Development Manager said, “People don’t want to buy food – they want a nice meal.” It’s this concept that has inspired Waitrose to not only sell products to customers, but to help customers create the experience they’re looking to get through buying those products.

Waitrose TV, along with the Recipe section of the site, help users to create this experience, by giving users the content they need to create an inspired experience from the products they’re ordering.

This isn’t content for the sake of content – it’s important to actively use this content to drive sales. Waitrose does this seamlessly in many areas of the site. As well as featuring cooking and baking tutorials with celebrity chefs, Waitrose also list their own branded products in the ingredients lists. In this way, Waitrose doesn’t just anchor itself into the transactional journey, but all the way from research to experience.

content to commerce

Other areas directly link content to products. For example, items listed in the ‘New kitten check list’ link directly to the product listings for those items. Users need go no further to buy everything they need for their new kitten.

content to commerce

Another way content can help to drive commerce is by giving customers endless reasons to come back to the site. Artist material retailer, Winsor & Newton have created one single location for both amateur and professional artists to buy, learn, exhibit and socialise. Their site is comprised of three sections: Discover, Shop, and Connect, all intertwined to create an engaging transactional journey.

content to commerce

Users are encouraged to join the community to experience the benefits of being part of a network of artists. The site is highly personalised, displaying products and content based on the profiles created by users and what they have liked. This creates a very dynamic platform for users which gives plenty of inspiration to re-visit the site and discover new things. This gives Windsor & Newton the opportunity to retain customers and present them with products related to the content they’re consuming.

Content and commerce – M&S

Of course, retailers don’t have to transform their ecommerce site into a social hub to make content and commerce work well. There were plenty of more subtle ways of doing this discussed at this year’s conference.

Content and commerce - M&SWhen Marks and Spencer redesigned their website, they kept the customer in mind throughout the entire process, and so combining content with commerce was a natural development to the site. So instead of following the “Turn left to shop, turn right to read” model of content and commerce traditionally used by fashion retailers, David Walmsley, Director at M&S.com talked about how they “wove content through the experience.”

The site now integrates a range of different content and editorial pieces into the purchase journey, including “Snackable” content, like the daily ‘Editor’s picks’ and much deeper content such as ‘Trend Spotlight’. These kinds of content have their own benefits, with small daily features driving frequency and more detailed features working to tell the brand story and engage those users who visit the site for inspiration. Again, each of these pieces provide calls to action for the user to find the products they’re reading about and add to basket in one smooth journey from inspiration to transaction.

There are clearly endless ways retailers can incorporate content into their ecommerce offering; from cooking classes, to art exhibitions. But actually using content to increase revenue isn’t as simple as adding a blog to an ecommerce site.
Content needs to be engaging and relevant to the customer, telling a story about the product and the brand. It needs to give customers a reason to keep coming back for more, and crucially, it needs to seamlessly integrate with the transactional journey.

Mobile provides the perfect platform to combine snackable content and commerce in a bricks and mortar environment. Stores like Topshop and House of Fraser offer app functionality specifically for use in store. With retailers aiming to create a truly seamless customer journey between channels, it’s likely that the future will see more retailers taking advantage of this to keep customers engaged in-store as well as online.