Content and Commerce Where Do We Go From Here

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Forrester said it best in the title of a report: "Content and Commerce: The Odd Couple or The Power Couple?" According to the report, companies need cohesive digital customer experiences, but marketing and e-commerce groups often operate in silos with differing objectives, leading to a poorly integrated digital presence that confuses the customer, is difficult to manage and leaves revenue on the table.

While combining content and commerce has made large strides in 2014, there is room for improvement. Are we really utilizing content plus commerce to its full potential? Does this approach really work? What strategies and tactics have we not tapped into yet to elevate our engagement?

What Isn't Working

Let’s start by taking a look at what’s not working and where the opportunities for improvement lie:

Viewing Content

People have worked to atomize content for a few years now, and for good reason. This approach makes it easier to serve connected consumers with different screen sizes by mobilizing certain experiences. But a content plus commerce approach provides more value -- surfacing the right piece of unstructured content, formatted and displayed in the right way and delivered to the consumer via the right channel. There’s more that can be done to extend beyond the traditional product catalogue, and an e-commerce system that combines with content to help create a more informed decision reduces the risk of being overlooked.

Confidence in Purchases

Have you ever asked yourself this question: What value is content plus commerce really providing? The answer from the consumer’s view is simple. The value lies in helping consumers make decisions that they feel are risk free. For example – why do customers abandon carts? Typically, it’s because they’re not sure that they should make the purchase. It feels risky.

Easier Decision Making

I’ve always been a fan of the “don’t make me think” concept which Steve Krug coined. Make it easy for the consumer to glide along their journey and don’t make them think about next steps. It’s a question of presenting all the information needed for consumers to inherently know what step to take next in their journey -- and that doesn’t just mean the next step they need to take on the site in terms of what button they have to hit. Unless of course, that button is buy.

What's Working

Despite the areas for improvement, there are aspects of content and commerce that retailers and the like have gotten right and a plenty of new opportunities on the horizon:

A Buffet of Content Displays

What is working is the variety of ways content is displayed -- in different channels across differing interfaces. There is a mix of content formats that e-commerce teams are using to support commerce journeys online. In a recent survey conducted with eConsultancy, titled "Where Content and Commerce Collide," video was noted as the main investment area with 80 percent of the companies interviewed citing this as the most important content format they’re pushing to support e-commerce.

Keeping Your Consumer

Think related content. If you’re a B2C retailer, the manufacturer is probably going to start selling online as well. And in most cases, the consumer trusts that brand more than they trust the retailer. That means you as the retailer have to think about different sort of content that’s interesting to the consumer and not just about the product. Things like trends, practical experience and comparisons -- what expertise can that retailer bring into the equation to create content that’s compelling and brings traffic into the site?

Relevance -- Use All Data Available

It’s sanity check time for anyone who isn't paying close attention to what’s happening to technology. When you combine small content elements with visitor behavior that you can collect from every visitor on the site and in-store, you’ve got the ability to create an enriched profile and put machine intelligence to work to surface the right content to meet the needs of a specific segmented persona. It’s taking the old market segmentation problem and automating it so that you can surface content to the exact right person at the exact right time.

The challenge of B2B and B2C e-commerce is greater than ever before. Customer expectations are higher, competition is fiercer and retailers are bombarded with marketing messages daily. It has never been easier for customers to price compare, look elsewhere and switch allegiances. It’s imperative to remember what we’ve gotten right but also understand where we can improve and find new ways to grab customer attention -- and keep it.

Title image by jacinta lluch valero (Flickr) via a CC BY-SA 2.0 license