Content and Commerce: How Data, Content and Microservices Drive Sales
Aug 14, 2018
By: Alexandra Barcelona
The modern consumer doesn’t show up at a store, talk to a salesperson and make a purchase. Those days are over.
Furthermore, the modern consumer doesn’t just flick through your online store catalog, either. Today, a consumer will research their target product or service by checking out customer reviews, unboxing videos and professional review sites. As a result, customers are now better informed than ever before — and they crave that feeling of being in-the-know before they make a purchase.
Brands like Amazon have cleverly integrated their content to create a customer journey which can be accessed on any device, whether it be an Amazon Echo, smartphone or tablet.
The Role of Content As a Relationship Builder
With both B2B and B2C customers preferring to do their own research, content is now more crucial than ever. The time adults are spending on digital media and digital platforms has nearly doubled in the space of 7 years. Figures from 2008 show users have spent 2.7 hours on digital devices, this raised to 5.6 hours in 2015. This increase highlights an opportunity for eCommerce brands to create content that is tailored to them.
Effective content marketing can help eCommerce brands to escalate their conversion rate by almost 6 times. Also, the following statistics show how effective content marketing is:
Content aims to teach, entertain and engage, not sell. Effective content marketing can help to arouse a variety of positive emotions within the customer, thus helping to build strong customer relations and deliver an excellent customer experience.
Customer experience is essential, especially for eCommerce brands. In fact, a recent Walker study has stated that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Why the Customer Experience Drives Sales
The primary goal of any marketing effort, online or off, is to boost sales. When an eCommerce site delivers content that the user wants, at the moment the user is ready to make a purchase, this can lead to increased conversions. The more capabilities an eCommerce store has to deliver a smooth, efficient, and effective digital experience to users, the better conversions will be - and content is crucial for this. Here are some tips for using content to drive sales:
Consistent Digital Experiences
Today’s customers are likely to research a product across multiple channels before making their purchasing decisions. When the site delivers a different branding message on its smartphone app from its traditional website, this inconsistency can throw off potential customers and the company can lose out on sales. The ability to maintain a consistent digital experience across platforms can go a long way toward establishing strong customer relationships. Leveraging a headless CMS, like dotCMS, lets marketers reused content across channels or devices to ensure this consistent experience with ease.
Timing is Everything
While giving customers the content they need is a crucial element to the success of any online content campaign, another key component lies in delivering that content at the right time. After all, content that promotes a Christmas sale doesn’t do much good if that content is in front of the customers in July. On the other hand, an email with a discount code for camera equipment might be the right message to send a customer shortly after purchasing an expensive camera.
Regular Content Publishing
With millions of pages published every day, search engine crawlers must trawl through and index vast amounts of content on a regular basis. As newer content gets published, sorted, and indexed, older content can fall by the wayside, which can prevent new customers from finding the content they need. A consistent approach to publishing new and relevant content can be an effective strategy to prevent the existing content from falling out of relevance and for boosting your eCommerce site’s SERP and sales.
Loyalty and Retention
When a customer makes an initial purchase, that purchase signals the end of the initial buyer’s journey, but it should not signal the end of the buyer/seller relationship. When customers can get valuable content from a website, content that they can’t get anywhere else, they’ll want to follow the site. Content helps businesses to retain customers and count on repeat business.
Integrating eCommerce and CMS platforms
A powerful content management system is a vital component of any business, as is a robust eCommerce platform. However, when both systems work together, they often deliver results greater than the sum of their parts. The relationship between CMS and eCommerce platforms can be a highly effective symbiosis. In-line with this, dotCMS seamlessly combines content and commerce with its Commerce Experience Solution for engaging and personalized customer experiences.
Most eCommerce systems lack the capability to deliver content in a timely, relevant manner, so a CMS integration can be a crucial element in any successful marketing plan. That’s why so many companies are moving towards headless commerce. Here are some strategies for getting the most out of your CMS and eCommerce platform integration.
The Buyer’s Journey
One way to ensure that the marriage between content and commerce leads to conversions is not to use content as a way to “hard sell” prospective customers, but as a means to craft a buyer’s journey that, in the end, will lead to a sale. Content can be used to reach that goal at each stage of the buyer’s journey:
- At the Awareness stage, content can make a buyer aware of the seller’s products.
- At the Consideration stage, content can educate the buyer on the features of the seller’s products.
- At the Decision stage, content can show the buyer why the seller’s product is the right choice.
This is vastly different from most eCommerce sites that only provide product descriptions, and not high-quality, informative content. When retailers offer content that goes beyond size, color, price, and other basic product features, customers are more likely to want to learn more about the site’s offerings.
Although the steps in every buyer’s journey are the same, the ways in which customers reach those steps are as different as the customers themselves. When a CMS can lead customers through these steps in ways that appeal to those customers’ preferences, those customers are often more willing to make a purchase then and there. A CMS that tracks those preferences, whether through purchasing records or browsing history, can be an essential tool to convert visitors into paying customers. That’s why dotCMS has NoCode features to profile and segment visitors, and deliver dynamic content in real-time.
Customers frequently start their buyer’s journey on one channel (e.g. work desktop), then pick it up on another (e.g. home laptop), then continue it on another (e.g. smartphone app), then make their purchase on still another (e.g. brick-and-mortar store). A CMS platform that can deliver the same content across multiple channels will both save the seller time and money in duplication of effort, and keep the buyer engaged with that content across every available channel.
Content performance can be measured by numerous indicators: traffic levels, social media engagement, search engine rankings, among others. A major benefit of linking up content with eCommerce is that marketers can measure content performance by what could be the most important metric of them all: revenue. When marketers can track which types of content generated the most sales revenue, marketers can concentrate their efforts on producing the most effective content. dotCMS provides all of this out of the box with its Analytics & Reporting module, so marketers can easily track content performance and other key metrics from an integrated dashboard.
We are entering the realm of hyper-personalization. And brands can only achieve delivering a truly personalized experience if they analyze data from predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to get a better understanding of their customer so they can deliver content that has been uniquely tailored for each customer. But more importantly, brands must ensure they have a flexible and future-proof IT infrastructure in place (i.e. a microservice architecture), so they can deliver this personalized experience.
How to Deliver Data-Driven Content to the Consumer
Delivering data-driven content can be explained in three parts:
- Part 1: Integrating Content
- Part 2: Challenges of Integrating Content
- Part 3: Planning for the (previously) unexpected
Part 1: Integrating Content
To integrate content, brands must analyze all the available analytical data from predictive analytics, AI and ML. This will provide a better understanding of consumer behavior trends. And will also provide the foundations to create a customer journey roadmap.
In a recent webinar, David Ebel, CEO Sabae Group, gave an example of a Vancouver fashion retailer Aritzia. During the demonstration, he showed how Aritzia integrated their content from their social media accounts and their own photos to create a customer journey. He highlighted how Aritzia didn’t lead their customer directly to the product or catalog page in the first instance. Instead, they used pictures to show their customer of what the product will look like when worn. And also directed their customers to the latest trends and featured designer collections.
It is no secret to say that this Aritzia’s customer journey had ignited some form of desire within their customers. And the user interface and integration of content created a memorable customer experience.
Part 2: Challenges of Integrating Content
Even though integrating content is the perfect solution for creating a customer journey, it does have its challenges. There are three main areas that organizations must address, and they are brand objectives, technological requirements and management:
Content Production: When integrating content, brands must decide what content to use and how to incorporate it. In some cases, some brands will not need a content strategy. In the recent webinar, Ebel gave the example of wholesaler BJ’s — they knew a content strategy would not be feasible since their customers only wanted to view the product catalog in the first instance.
Frequency: Brands must determine the frequency of delivering their content. I.e. should the content be delivered in the morning or in the evening? Brands must also identify when their content is getting the most customer engagement and on what device.
Purpose: Finally, brands must determine the purpose of their content — what is the end-result of their content strategy?
Existing system integration: When conducting a data-driven content marketing strategy, IT teams must evaluate whether their current systems can deliver it. If not, then investing in a microservice architecture is the way forward (more on this later).
Ease of Update: The content will be reviewed and updated by brands on a regular basis depending on consumer trends and consumer behavior. IT teams must ask if the existing system can allow for this?
Ability to Measure: Brands must be able to measure the success rate of the content strategy.
Segmentation/Personalization: As we embrace the era of hyper-personalization, can the current infrastructure deliver?
Analytics: Analytic tools provide the foundation of data-driven content strategy. Management needs to have access to this information to make the next step in their content strategy.
Operation Dashboard: Can organizations manage their content strategy from one platform or multiple platforms?
Omnichannel: Can content be delivered to various devices?
Part 3: Planning for The (Previously) Unplanned
As with everything, when implementing a data-driven content strategy, you will encounter something that you may not expect. Ebel suggests to try and plan for the unexpected through looking at previous examples. Ebel provides the following examples in his recent dotCMS webinar:
- Does your team understand how to order on behalf of the customer?
- How are you integrating your great content in the physical experience?
- How do you enforce keyword strategies with your developer?
- As you replace content over time, how can you maintain the links previously generated?
Cross Department Collaboration
- How do you align your purchasing department, planning, IT and digital services?
How Can a Microservice Architecture Aid Data-Driven Content Delivery?
The complexity of digital commerce is reaching new levels as more transactions are executed through an increasingly diverse range of channels.
With a microservices architecture, brands can build individual applications for each touchpoint using API calls to call in headless content. Thus, each microservices gets to enjoy a clear separation between the content they deliver and the front-end delivery layer. Moreover, this architecture allows developers to work with the technologies and frameworks that make most sense for the touchpoint in question.
This all results in a better customer experience for every touchpoint, rather than experiences that are ported over from channel to channel.
For eCommerce brands specifically, microservices can help when it comes to building native mobile retail apps, progressive web apps (PWAs) and single page applications (SPAs) at scale, without worrying creating content individually for each touchpoint. Instead, you create data-driven content once, and deliver it anywhere.