As 2021 fast approaches (and we look forward to what will hopefully be a less stressful year), the world of e-commerce is gearing up for another momentous period.

And while it has always been incredibly important to stand out and offer your customers a user experience like no other, it now takes even more to succeed. After all, traditional retail is losing the fight against online shopping faster than ever before.

One of the overarching strategies e-commerce platforms, stores, and shops can utilize to their advantage is certainly content marketing. A digital marketing veteran, it, too, has become more and more competitive as the years have gone by.

In this post, we’re going to explore this lucrative combination and determine how e-commerce can leverage the immense power of content marketing in 2021.

1. Have a Strategy

Every article worth it’s salt covering this topic will tell you that you need a strategy. And sure, this might be the most boring part of content marketing (if you choose to look at it that way). But having a strategy in place will determine your levels of success, so it’s a point worth reiterating.

The strategy you write should serve as a blueprint for all of your future actions. When in doubt, you’ll be able to refer back to the strategy, where the seeds for solutions to future problems are sown.

The key to your strategy is understanding your audience.

Invest the time and effort, and use the right tools to learn as much as you can about them.

Inform yourself about their needs, desires, and pain points. What is it they are trying to solve by coming to Google for help?

Learn about the solutions your audience is being offered and what it is they like and dislike about them. Look for answers to questions such as: 

  • Who are you competing against? 
  • What are their prices like? 
  • What do they offer that you can’t – and vice versa (free or worldwide shipping, loyalty discounts, etc.)?

Ensure that you base your strategy on reliable data, rather than just your own assumptions about the kinds of people you will be targeting. Once you have your data, segment your audience. Determine what stage of the funnel they are at and what kind of content you need to offer to help them convert.

Here’s an example. Get Safe sells medical alert systems, and as such, a segment of their audience includes the elderly. They offer this audience segment content on health and safety at an advanced age, as well as insight into living a great life as a senior. However, they also know that another part of their audience are the children of seniors – for whom they design content focusing on helping their parents out and keeping them safe.

2. Focus on Value over Promotion

Modern-day humans see between 5000 and 10000 ads every day. They’ve naturally developed coping mechanisms and unique filters to be able to survive in that kind of an aggressive climate.

Ads are literally everywhere, and you can’t even read a blog post anymore without being advertised something.

In fact, most users have gotten used to this assault on their attention and pockets, and have come to tolerate it. This doesn’t mean they are ready to spend – just that they are ready to listen.

Your way into the mind and attention of internet users is simple – provide actual value.

If you focus on promoting a product, you will always end up talking about the product. On the other hand, if you aim to provide value, share knowledge, and help someone solve a problem, you will get a lot more attention directed your way.

If you then choose to point out that you also offer a product that can solve the particular issue – that’s just your way of offering a friendly recommendation without asking for anything in return. You have already provided plenty of value.

Case in point: here is a post by Gourmesso on cleaning Nespresso machines. Their posts are aimed at providing real value to coffee lovers and coffee enthusiasts, and not just selling more. Yes, they talk about their products too, but only after you have realized you might want to give them a go anyway.

Gourmesso

image source: gourmesso.com

3. Offer More Than One Content Format

Video is often hailed as the best content format you can use today. And while people certainly consume more video than they do blog posts and other written formats, this can mostly be ascribed to the popularity of YouTube. And you can’t always convert someone on YouTube.

Instead of choosing to focus on a single content format in 2021, try to do more.

This will naturally raise the issue of producing that content, which will take time and money, to put it bluntly. However, researching your audience will have revealed to you which content formats appeal to each segment at each stage of the funnel. Use that knowledge to target your audiences with the best possible piece.

You can even cut down on production times and costs by repackaging information. Write a blog post and turn its main points into an informative clip. Do a podcast but also publish its transcript. Do a video and then do a series of articles following up on it. Since you will be working with the same information in these instances, you only need to do research once – which is what takes up most of your content production time in the first place.

If you are smart about the topics you cover and the solutions you provide, you can easily find a way to complement these different formats with each other.

Another example: TrainingMask does this incredibly well. Their blueprint can be applied to any number of e-commerce products. Offer informative blog posts that include mentions of your products and how they help solve an issue and pair them with video content that shows the product in action.

4. Take a Look at Your Published Content

The past is an incredible source of information and answers.

When it comes to content marketing, we can all make the mistake of focusing on the future, and the next post or the next video, trying to predict how it will perform. All the while, we can do something much more reliable than gaze into a crystal ball – we can take a look at the performance of our previously published content.

As long as you are actually the owner of your content (i.e., you post most of your stuff on your own blog), you will have instant access to a well of data that will easily overshadow any other form of research.

Take a look at your best-performing posts and consider the following metrics:

  • Users
  • Pageviews
  • Unique pageviews
  • Time on page
  • Bounce rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Inbound links
  • Social shares
  • Other types of engagement (like comments)
  • Behavior flow

All of them combined will help you determine what kind of content works best. Maybe you’ll discover you have been writing 1500+ word articles, while content that is around 800 words but features a lot of images or video performs much better.

Make sure you also consider user information. Who is reading these posts and engaging with them? Who is converting, and how much are these users worth? Then consider their value against your content production costs to come up with a formula that will work best.

5. Look at Keyword Data

Speaking of predicting the future – it is still a legitimate and effective content marketing strategy. If you choose to back it up with data, of course.

The best way to determine what you should be covered in a blog post is to look at search volumes for the keywords you are interested in targeting. You can use different tools (Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush) to get access to a plethora of keywords, and all of these tools can then help you discover one that will be best suited to you.

For example, let’s say you sell cat food. Ranking for the term “cat food” and anything similar might be quite a challenge with all of the major brands out there already taking up the top positions.

However, if you add the keyword “cats” into a keyword research tool, you can get lists of related terms that can help you out.

You want to be looking at keywords that have a decent search volume but don’t have too many pages competing for them. What decent is will depend on your industry and target audience – sometimes 200 is great, sometimes anything below 1500 is low. You want to be able to produce better content with more value and build enough backlinks to your content to outrank the competitors.

With our cat example, you might discover a topic like “why do cat like boxes” (monthly traffic of 9700, and a rather low keyword difficulty according to Ahrefs). This can be a great way to attract an audience of cat-lovers who might be ready to try your products too.

6. Rely on User-Generated Content

Don’t forget that there is more content out there than the one you choose to create. We’re talking about influencer- and user-generated content.

Some of your customers are already out there, sharing images, sharing videos and stories, doing in-depth reviews, writing entire posts, or including you in parts of their posts. Using some of them can help circumvent the issue of having more content to market, plus it’s a great trust-inspiring and brand-boosting tactic.

User-generated content is often trusted more than anything a brand can hope to create. Users and shoppers are seen as unbiased and honest, without an agenda to push. What brand will ever say something even slightly negative about their own product? “Sure, the seams are a bit frayed, but otherwise, the jacket is lovely.”

Reviews are definitely a type of content you should encourage and rely on. For example, Somnifix encourages dentists, health influencers, and life-hackers to leave reviews of their products on YouTube. This kind of open call can be a great way to gain more content.

image source: youtube.com

On the other hand, you should also actively seek out user-generated content yourself. Google your brand and look for reviews on other websites. Especially make sure to do some proper research on YouTube and other social media.

You may uncover plenty of in-action images you can use (with the author’s permission; that goes without saying). You may also strike up a partnership with an online influencer or even just a regular shopper without too much influence, whose friends and family have loved them bringing attention to your brand.

7. Think Outside the BoxYoutube

Ultimately, your content marketing goal for 2021 should be to try something new. If you have already used some of these tactics, try using the ones you haven’t. Try writing about something you have not written about before.

Going down a new route will always come with a bit of a risk. But if you arm yourself with the right data, and if you have real-life evidence to back up your assumptions, your risk will likely pay off.

On the other hand, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do something no one else in your industry has done before. Content marketing pioneers and trailblazers are not the ones who patiently do things by the book, after all.

To Sum It All Up

Content marketing is expected to play an important role in e-commerce marketing in 2021. And while we can’t yet predict what the new year will bring, especially to the world of e-commerce, we do know that data-driven and creative campaigns are what audiences like to see and engage with.

Put your creative cap on at the end of 2020 and start planning out a content marketing strategy that will help you reach new audiences and provide a little bit more value to the internet as a whole. Your customers will thank you for it. 

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