How To Use Content In Online Retail
By James Brooke - CEO of Amplience
After a brief resurgence in high street spending during the holidays, online retail looks set to continue its rise to dominance. The latest IMRG Capgemini Sales Index showed an impressive 12 per cent year-on-year increase in online retail sales in January, the strongest growth in that period for seven years.
The investment that retailers have put into their online systems is quickly paying off. However, online clothing retail still lags behind. With an increase of 11 per cent, online clothing sales growth sits at its lowest figure since March 2016. Overall fashion sales fell 2% in the 52 weeks to Christmas, and the sector hasn’t quite yet emerged from this rut.
This article will look at how to use content in online retail, and what it can achieve.
Chewing up the high street
For pure-play online players it has been a different story. In the same period, their sales grew 7 per cent, and online retailers Boohoo and Shop Direct have both posted enviable year-end results. As the high street wanes, shoppers are moving in droves to their computer and phone screens to make their purchases. Indeed, 44 per cent of UK shoppers seek inspiration online prior to making a purchase.
With consumers browsing between several devices at a time, traditional fashion retailers are faced with the challenge of keeping their shoppers loyal to the brand, and those who fail to provide a joined-up customer experience are falling behind.
Keeping customers loyal is crucial to converting browsers into customers. While offering a large range of items coupled with low prices was once appealing to shoppers, they now expect more from the shopping journey. More than ever, customers go online for an experience rather than a product and the retailers that can meet their demands will end up on top.
Online retail is influenced and intermediated by content at every step of the customer journey, and the quality and use of this content can make or break the online experience. Gartner revealed that in 2017, 89 per cent of marketers expect to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience their brand, product, and service delivers to the client or the consumer. Key to this fight is high-quality personalised content in online retail.
Personalisation is hardly a new concept, but it is essential for enhancing the customer experience and building customer loyalty. However, surprisingly few fashion retailers are successfully executing personalisation strategies online.
Providing a bespoke and personalised service to every customer is no easy task, but retailers must ensure that they do not bombard shoppers with content that is neither relevant nor interesting. If fashion retailers can master the art of utilising customer data to generate personalised, relevant content they may be able to turn the tide.
High quality content that shoppers can engage and interact with at all levels of the shopping journey is imperative. When shoppers browse clothing online they need as much detail as possible in order to envisage the real thing and complete their purchase.
By providing the capability to view how a product’s material hangs, how it looks in different colours, retailers can provide a shopping experience on par with an in-store visit, supplemented by the convenience of the online platform.
The combination of these elements has given pure-play, online fashion retailers the competitive edge over the high street. Today’s shoppers have come to expect a personalised online shopping experience and, should a retailer fail to provide it, a competitor is only one click away.
The increasing competition of the online retail content landscape is demanding rapid innovation from content managers and ecommerce teams. For brands who want to catch-up, technology is key. Those struggling to stay relevant in an increasingly crowded online space, will likely find technologies such as shoppable and user-generated content (UGC) to be the answer.
Through engagement on social media channels, loyal followers have shown that they are eager to share their experiences with others. In this way, customers become the creators of your brand’s engaging content as they share their styling, top-tips and recommendations online.
(See these 5 tips for social media in online retail.)
With social media use growing at a record pace, fashion retailers cannot afford to ignore UGC. This can be anything from a blog post to a product review or a video shared across a social channel. With the increased use of social media, retailers have unlimited access to customers’ positive sentiment on their products or brand, offering a two-way conversation and providing an authentic purchase journey.
A retailer can collect UGC from Instagram, for example, tag the products that are featured and then republish to their website so that visitors can view the posts. Similarly, brands can create media galleries on their sites, which are built by content created by social media followers.
These colourful additions help drive brand engagement and inform the customer journey, invariably resulting in happier browsers and increased purchase rates.
Another critical piece of technology for retailers to remain relevant is shoppable content. This can be as simple as a buy-button pin on a Pinterest photo or as specific and customised as an image on a retailer’s site.
At its base, shoppable content allows shoppers to purchase directly from a piece of content. As retailers look to engage their customers and shorten the path to purchase, shoppable content is becoming increasingly prevalent.
(Read more about shoppable photos.)
By enabling the customer to buy an item straight from content, retailers eliminate a major step in the purchase journey.
However, that journey need not end once a customer has made their purchase. Fashion retailers tend to prioritise their content in the period leading up to a sale, as this is viewed as the most critical stage in securing a purchase. While this is undoubtedly sensible, retailers should not ignore the timeframe immediately after a shopper has placed an order.
The moments following a purchase are a window of opportunity to engage the customer with personalised content and encourage customer loyalty. Retailers should capitalise on post-purchase euphoria by subtly personalising the check-out page and preparing them for their next shop. This can be done through personalised banners, special deals on relevant products and money-off vouchers.
Post-purchase engagements, however basic, are also an ideal time to gather valuable information on the customer, which can then be used to provide further recommendations. Although more time-consuming than an automated email, post-purchase content, provided it is relevant and unobtrusive, increases the chances of customer retention.
The future of online retail will be defined by technology and engaging content as traditional retailers finally adopt the tools they need in place to build great experiences. Online shopping is fundamentally about accessibility and efficiency, and if a retailer can complement that with high quality, personalised content the shopper is sure to return.
Creative and intelligent use of content in online retail can encourage customer loyalty, drive new and repeat sales, and even reduce some of the disadvantages of online retail.
Be sure to:
- merchandise your products with the suitable levels of personalisation.
- encourage your users to share their experience with your product.
- use shoppable social media as a direct path to purchase.