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According to most successful inbound marketing professionals, content is key. It's the driving force behind successful ecommerce. Content leads customers to your site, increases your brand loyalty, and shows that you really do know what you're talking about. There's just one problem: figuring out how to create the high-quality content that your customers are looking for in order to create a high-quality content-driven ecommerce experience.

How Websites Can Encourage Engagement With Content

You can't realize all the exceptional benefits of your content if you don't produce the types of content your customers need. If you want to encourage customer engagement, make sure you're utilizing these content creation strategies.

Make it easy for customers to connect the items they need. If they're looking for a sleeping bag, for example, they might also need a tent, a tarp, or a pair of hiking boots—but a first-time camper might be clueless about it! Suggesting recommended items is one way to increase the odds that customers will recognize those other items that they need, but creating and linking to content will make it even easier.

Posts like, "Everything you need for a camping trip," "The best fishing lures for X types of fish," or "How to go hunting on a tight budget" all allow you the freedom to list items in your online store that will enhance the customer's experience. Just like a knowledgeable sales person in a store, those posts will up-sell items for you.

Focus on the information your customers need. In many cases, customers will find your website through an online search. Often, this isn't a search for stores that are selling the specific item; instead, they'll search for information about a product. When you're the one who provides them with that information, they're more likely to turn to you when they're ready to make the purchase. Not only that, customers feel more confident about your brand after they've heard positive things about it.

Increase your email list. Your email list is a direct connection to customers who are already interested in what your store is offering. By providing gated content or special promotions for subscribers to your email list, you raise the odds that you'll be able to connect successfully with your customers and increase their engagement with your brand.

Offer ways for customers to get involved. Reebok's "Be More Human" campaign is a great example of this. They didn't just present new products. They offered their customers a way to get involved in the promotion--and it saw incredible levels of success as a result.

Content Builds Loyal Customers

Think about what a sales person would provide loyal customers within a store. Great customer service means knowing the products, sharing that information with the customers, and helping them make the right decision for them--not necessarily the one that's best for the store in that moment--helps build loyal customers who will come back to you for all of their outdoor needs in the future.

Showcase products that are worth the price. Take the time to use them yourself. Try them out, let customers know whether or not they're quality products, and examine how well they hold up over time. 

Highlight benefits, not features. A specific type of fabric might be meaningless to your customer. Knowing that their sleeping bag will keep them warm up to 0 degrees, -20 degrees, or better, however, is key information!

Likewise, knowing that a lure is great for a specific type of fish or that a given scope increases long-range accuracy by a certain percentage will help encourage your customers to appreciate the products you're offering. Patagonia does a great job of this: they encourage customers to choose exactly the products they really need, not to simply buy things for the sake of buying.

Make your emails relevant. Every time you send an email to a customer, you're shaping the way they'll feel about your company's emails in the future. Emails that contain interesting, relevant information about upcoming promotions, new products, or other things that the customer wants to know will encourage them to open your emails in the future. Spam their inboxes or provide irrelevant content, on the other hand, and your emails will be left unread, deleted, or even sent straight to the spam folder.

Do something unique. No one is going to soon forget REI's decision to close on Black Friday 2015 in order to allow customers to spend more time with their families. When you do something unique that's worth doing and create the content that showcases it, your customers' loyalty to your business will increase along with it. 

How Content Can Generate More Purchasing

Content generates plenty of purchasing punch. The items that you choose to show off with your content  

Showcasing how an item works can help customers decide to take the leap. Grocery websites find recipes to be a great solution to encouraging sales of specific products--and the same applies to yours. What fantastic recipes can be cooked in that dutch oven? How does that gas stove change the camping experience for the better? 

Adding content to your social media channels encourages customers to come check out your latest offerings--even when they weren't considering a specific item. It's not until they see it that they know they want it!

Letting other customers market for you triggers the "keeping up with the Jonses" effect. Everyone else has to have it, so your other customers do, too--even if they were satisfied with their former product.

Telling stories increases the lure of your product. A strong story to go with a product can substantially increase your sales as people imagine themselves as part of the story. Let your content paint the picture and watch your sales increase as a result!

Great content makes customers part of the process, leading to an increased sense of loyalty to your store.

Your content marketing strategy is a critical part of increasing customer engagement, building customer loyalty, and generating larger numbers of purchases. By creating solid content that speaks to your target market, you can watch your success in your industry soar. What are you waiting for? It's time to get started today.



UX Director, Principal UX Designer, Strategist
Rick has been designing user experiences since 1999 and managing UX teams since 2005. As a leader, he helps people be the best designer they can. He continues to consult, having led engagements with universities like Emory University, UNC, UCLA, and University of Minnesota as well as mission-driven companies like RedHat, Stickergiant, and Obermeyer.

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