Skip to content

No Lies: How to Get Content Marketing Right in E-Commerce

get-content-marketing-right-ecommerceContent marketing is a great, wonderful, powerful way to earn attention and loyalty online … but much of what the industry talks about comes from a B2B perspective.

A lot of the rules change when you move to the B2C sector, and still more change when you talk about businesses operating on the online marketplace.

I’m not here to tell you that everything you learned about content marketing is a lie and you need to ditch everything. I am here to offer a few options that will help you shake things up and make waves in the e-commerce sector.

Let’s get started.

1. Interactive content

One advantage in-store shopping still has over the online experience is, in most cases, interactivity. Shopping in person can be a more engaging experience, and many still find it relatively fun.

E-commerce retailers can change up this dynamic – and you can stand out from your online competitors – by investing in interactive content.

Take the cosmetics brand Sephora, which markets itself using the Sephora Virtual Artist app. Users can “apply” makeup to get an idea of what would look good on them. While the app isn’t a perfect substitute, it can help users decide if the colors are a good fit for them.


Interactive content isn’t limited to fashion brands. The never-ending love of personality quizzes, the usefulness of web apps and calculators, and the cool engagement with 3D videos are options for nearly any e-commerce brand with an appropriately creative marketing approach.

Interactive content can stand out more and be more memorable than static content. Interactive video ads, for example, boost viewing time by 47%.

Interactive #video ads boost viewing time by 47% via @IPGLAB @TremorVideoDSP. #interactivecontent Click To Tweet

To incorporate and promote your interactive content: 

  • Identify the problems people are looking to solve which are most closely associated with your brand and your products.
  • Brainstorm interactive content that will help them solve those problems, including both mobile and web apps, video, quizzes, calculators, and others.
  • Identify keywords associated not only with the problem users are trying to solve, but the interactivity of your solution.
  • Create a dedicated page for your interactive content.
  • Put a call to action in your site navigation to your interactive content.
  • Place a call to action to your interactive content from related product pages, blog posts, and other content throughout your site.
  • Reach out to influencers who would take interest in the interactive content, and pin it to your social media platforms.

2. Lifestyle storytelling

Much of content marketing is focused on the how-to blog post format because it works well. But this approach is often over-emphasized because it’s produced by content marketing agencies that exist in the B2B sector, where a how-to approach is most effective.

For many brands in the consumer market, especially in e-commerce, one important alternative is to tell stories that sell your audience on the lifestyle of your brand.

Take the outdoor lifestyle brand YETI. There’s no shortage of brands selling coolers, travel bags, and related accessories on the market, so YETI differentiated itself by producing high-quality stories, documentary-like videos of people living the outdoor lifestyle that sell the emotional appeal of the brand. Its YouTube videos regularly receive tens or hundreds of thousands of views, with high like-to-dislike ratios.

To incorporate more storytelling:

  • Interview and spotlight extraordinary people who embody the kind of person your product helps your consumers become.
  • Identify the emotional core of every story, putting the focus on what struggles were faced and how they changed the person in question.
  • Encourage customers to share their stories with contests or reach out to satisfied customers to learn more about their story.
  • Tell your own story, particularly if it relates to the core message of your brand and the impact you expect it to have on your customers.

Storytelling is very powerful, and most people want to see themselves as the hero in their own story. Associating your brand with these kinds of stories does a lot for building brand image, loyalty, and appeal.

3. Stance-taking

Getting involved in politics in 2018 is, shall we say, a bit risky? At the same time, the politicization of nearly everything also means that people react much more strongly, good or bad, to brands that take a political stance.

This isn’t always a good idea, especially for brands that don’t want their image to be closely connected to a political cause, but there’s no denying that it works in the right situations.

Setting aside the obvious example of Tesla, look at the environmentally responsible outdoor apparel brand Patagonia and its blog The Cleanest Line. The risk-taking strategy has paid off. Its Instagram post declaring that “The President Stole Your Land” has received over 200,000 “likes” and a related 360-degree interactive video experience, This is Bears Ears (a national monument), has been well received by many (and there’s been some negative reaction too).


Patagonia’s pledge to donate Black Friday sales resulted in $10 million for environmental groups, which almost certainly created some loyal customers and added to the over 3 million followers of its Instagram account.

If a cause is appropriate for your brand to support, it’s worth weighing the potential alienation of some customers against the attention and loyalty you could earn in return.

4. Email content

A lot of content marketing strategy lessons revolve around gaining visibility, with the goal of converting that traction into email leads or buyers. But customer retention is arguably a far more important goal for online retailers because a one-time sale likely doesn’t result in a big enough return.

In the B2B industry or some B2C, customer retention isn’t as important to or handled by content marketers. Thus, much of the talk about email isn’t the most effective for online retailers.

An email field should absolutely be a part of your cart checkout process, with a check mark option to receive special deals.

An #email field should be part of your cart checkout process for buyers to opt in to #content. @Manish_Analyst Click To Tweet

To incorporate more effective email marketing:

  • Send abandoned cart emails. If a would-be customer fails the checkout process, send an email reminder about the abandoned cart and give an option to explain why it was abandoned if the act was intentional.
  • Send product recommendations based on previous purchases. Options such as “people who bought this also bought this,” or reminders to repurchase products that periodically need to be replaced can be effective. Avoid recommending a direct replacement for an item previously purchased that isn’t periodically replaced.
  • Send promotional emails for on-sale items, especially if those items are a good match for the recipient’s buying history.

Closing advice

If you can find one common thread in the above recommendations, it’s probably this: Retail is far more about experience and identity than it is about practical advice.

#Retail is far more about experience & identity than it is about practical advice, says @Manish_Analyst. Click To Tweet

The traditional approach to content marketing – identifying problems associated with your core products and producing content that helps people solve those problems – still can be valuable for e-commerce brands. If it is working for you, I certainly wouldn’t recommend stopping.

That said, in general, e-commerce brands heavily rely on style and lifestyle appeal. Investing in that doesn’t mean ditching your more practical, use-focused content, but it does mean investing more in storytelling and creating memorable experiences.

Make that central to your brand and you will be miles ahead of most online-based brands.

Selling products or services on your website? It’s time to buy online too. Register for Content Marketing World (use BLOG100 to save $100) and then get insight on how to better your sales with content marketing from over 100 presenters Sept. 4-7. And don’t miss registering for the retail/e-commerce industry lab on Sept. 7.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute