How great content drives E-commerce

This week Morrisons began trialling Morrisons Cellar – a new standalone website dedicated exclusively to wine. From what we can see the site is aimed at establishing Morrisons as an expert voice on the market and a first point of call for wine buffs looking to grab a bargain. This is a bold move from the supermarket and is clearly aimed at staking a claim to the lucrative e-commerce world. With this new initiative in mind we took a look at other e-tailers that use great content to drive sales.

Aussie clothing retailer ModCloth has some fun ways of involving its customers further in the online brand experience. One is its neat ‘Be The Buyer’ feature that uses a nifty little flash application, allowing visitors to choose the pieces that appear on the site.

ModCloth also offers a lot of content related to the wider world of fashion with how-to guides on the latest looks and interviews with designers about their favourite bargain fashion finds. Features like this do something to dispel the air of inaccessibility that sometimes surrounds fashion and make the online experience of shopping with Modcloth a more inclusive (and fun) one.

Get Into Gardening (Homebase)

Get Into Gardening is a site that Homebase has created which functions as a repository of information and how-to tips for the budding gardener. The site features crisp visuals that complement the copy, as well as a huge video library of instructional videos. But the stand-out area of Get Into Gardening is the forum available to the site’s users. The web forum is sometimes thought of as a slightly outmoded social media format but here it is used in a way that presents information tidily and clearly. The forum is easily navigable and puts the expertise of a dedicated team of moderators and the wider community at the (presumably green) fingertips of the user.

Simply Business

Click to enlarge

Simply Business is a UK firm that specialises in small business insurance. What stands out about its online content is the series of productivity flowcharts that offer solutions to any number of problems facing the small business owner. At the end of each arm of the chart you’ll find a tool, video or article that will help increase your productivity in a particular area. This kind of innovative content is aimed at making the Simply Business site indispensable to its users and it is features like this that will have customers coming back to the site time and again.

North Face

North Face’s greatest strength is perhaps the way it exploits a wide range of channels while maintaining a consistent, on-brand tone.

North Face uses a lot of different content to demonstrate the quality and versatility of its range. Sections on sponsored athletes cleverly push the products by highlighting the remarkable feats achieved using North Face equipment and the Expedition Journal area of the site gives updates on the progress of current races, climbs and other expeditions. These feats are neatly summarised in shareable infographics that bring home the realities of the awesome challenges the athletes perform.

All this content is pulled together well by a Facebook page that features photos and videos, discussions, polls and links to recent blog posts. The Facebook page has 2.8m fans and photos posted there rarely garner less than 1000 likes eclipsing the equivalent statistics for rival brands Craghopper and Rohan.

Department store Liberty’s heritage is its greatest asset and it expertly marries this sense of historic prestige with engaging online content to create an environment where e-shoppers will want to stay, and perhaps more importantly, return. There’s a TV channel, a blog and a feature on the store’s iconic window displays.

All these touches help to give the online experience the same feeling of sumptuous luxury that shoppers experience in the real-life Liberty store.

Why it works

In the examples above, we’ve tried to cover a range of different businesses that vary both in product and in scale. However, there were three characteristics common to each of them. Engagement, quality and tone.

The first characteristic sounds obvious. Isn’t that what this whole content thing is about? Sadly, so much of the content we see online falls at this first hurdle. Whether it’s twitter accounts that don’t actually interact with customers or mystifying on-page copy, inaccessible, unengaging content is anathema to building brand relationships.

Then there’s the quality. Irrelevant or uninteresting content does nothing to enhance your relationship with the customer. Brand content should elevate the e-commerce experience beyond simply ‘click and buy’ – it should, as Ben Hammersley said at last year’s International Content Summit, be both “true and beautiful”.

And of course, extra content must still feel like part of the brand as a whole – with a consistent tone of voice across all channels and an accurate understanding of the expectations of the intended reader.  There’s no sense in producing something powerful that doesn’t chime with the rest of your output or fails to resonate with your consumer.

More great content on e-commerce sites:

Urban Outfitters are a great example of an e-tailer with a huge online community who manage to nail their tone every time. are great at putting across their financial services in familiar, and trustworthy ways.

Check out lifestyle deal-merchants for examples of riotously funny, high quality product copy.


Author: George Wright Theohari

Branding | Content | Design. We develop and deliver beautifully effective communications across print, digital and film.

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