Content and commerce is a growing digital trend.This week, we pick Bernardine Wu’s brain on all things content and commerce.
Bernardine is the founder of FitForCommerce, a boutique consultancy that helps ecommerce and omnichannel businesses make smarter investment decisions on strategy, technology, marketing, merchandising, operations, financials and organizational design.
Q: One hot topic at ecommerce conferences and among vendors is “content + commerce,” and to stay relevant, retailers must become for like publishers. What’s your take?
Content and commerce is definitely a hot topic in ecommerce today. Differentiating through merchandises and prices and relying on the same old marketing tactics won’t cut it in today’s omnichannel world. Brands and retailers need to consider the entire customer journey and build experiences that will help them stand out. Building a strong brand and relationship with the customer is key and content is critical in achieving that.
We’ve seen the evolution of content in commerce throughout the years but, typically, it has been product-centric: rich imagery, better product descriptions, videos, reviews, UGC, etc. While some are still very focused on product-centric content, others use content to connect emotionally with customers throughout the path-to-purchase via trend stories, lifestyle and aspirational content. The latter is really where we’re seeing the greatest transformational impact. Through relevant editorial content, they build meaningful relationships with customers by engaging with them and giving them a reason to come back.
This whole model of merging content and commerce is not easy to achieve. To many, it seems overwhelming, but we find that most retailers and brands already have the content assets available in-house. The challenge is finding the right balance among these assets because marketing and commerce often operate in separate silos and have different goals and metrics and use different technologies to carry out day-to-day operations.
Q: What ecommerce platform features / services are critical to delivering content + commerce?
When it comes to content and commerce, there’s some discussion about whether the ecommerce platform (ECP) or a traditional web content management system (WCM) should control the experience. From our perspective, ECP is the natural system to lead the way. The commerce platform is essentially the glue that leverages information from dozens of other systems across the entire enterprise. It easily extends to contextually relevant and adaptable digital experiences that combine both marketing and commerce features.
In order for an ECP to support this type of approach, it must contain several attributes. First, it requires a robust set of APIs in order for the commerce engine (platform) to communicate with the content system. It’s a tall order for a platform to secure the depth and breadth required to completely segregate the content from commerce. It requires restful API services at all levels, including services around presentation, site management, segmentation, checkout, promotions, order management and dozens more.
These APIs must be bi-directional as well, allowing for content and data to feed into and out of the commerce platform. Secondly, the platform must be completely autonomous in terms of dependency on any frontend (content) system or response. There are a myriad of additional attributes and features required to present a seamless experience for the user.
Your content and commerce solution needs to deliver a totally dynamic, personalized experience at scale – leveraging all data and content “in the moment”. Also, keep in mind that leveraging data means including offline behavior across the entire enterprise.
Traditional content, such as copy, PDFs, video and rich imagery, needs to be created and available. But data and content from ecommerce are just as important, such as product catalogs, search and navigation history, user reviews, merchandising, recommendations, order management, pricing and other sources such as ERP system, social content, local availability, in-store data, etc. Not only should the content and commerce solution leverage the data and content, but alsodynamically presented in context of the moment and across time to the consumer.
It is also important to deliver highly relevant and personal content across all channels, not just via the ECP but via social media, video (YouTube), stores, TV, etc. Retailers and brands can’t continue to deliver disconnected and uncoordinated campaigns across a variety of different channels. Those who do will have impersonal and generic communication with their customer. Because consumers expect more, the single view of the customer is critical.