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Savvy retailers understand that content sells. It’s not enough to have a catalog — consumers spend a lot of time researching and learning about products long before they make an actual purchase. 

Brands need to figure out how to integrate content into their e-commerce strategy. They need to create a voice for the brand and tell a story, strategically using content to drive purchases.

Unfortunately most e-commerce platforms do not provide the content management capabilities needed to manage content-driven commerce experiences. Content-based promotions, expert articles, media, community and other digital content play an important role in the modern commerce experience — but this requires alignment between your content management system and your e-commerce platform.

Let’s look at three ways integration of your web content management platform with your e-commerce system drives better digital commerce experiences.

Manage Promotions

Promotions — be they discounts, special offers such as two-for-one or buy one get one free, recommended additional products, etc — encourage consumers to buy a product or service. 

When a consumer comes to your website, you can show promotions through widgets, sliders or special content blocks managed in your web content management system and connected to the e-commerce website using CMS taxonomy and metadata. By tracking the performance of these promotions using analytics you can update content in the CMS if a promotion isn’t performing as expected.

You can also personalize promotions based on the visitor. Tracking the visitor’s activity on your site enables you to determine programmatically the best promotions and deliver them using predefined content blocks created and managed through your CMS.

For example, you create a promotion for a new pair of sneakers that offers a 20 percent discount on athletic apparel with a sneaker purchase. If sales do not increase during the promotion period, you can adjust the promotion in the CMS to be 30 percent off apparel and have the change reflected in real-time on the e-commerce site.

Content Marketing and Native Ads

Studies show that consumers prefer content-based advertising to traditional ads. Content-based advertising, by way of blog posts, articles, research and so on, may or may not directly relate to the product being sold. Once again, taxonomy and metadata on the backend can link content to products. It's often shown alongside the product or in a blog on the e-commerce site.

For example, someone is looking at skis for their son. A widget next to the product list might link to an article on how to select the best pair of skis, or an article on safe skiing tips for teenagers.

This demonstrates to the buyer that you not only sell the product, but you know about proper selection and usage. Expert content translates in many consumers’ minds to you being an authority on skis, encouraging conversion.

Native advertising is also gaining traction. Native Ads, or sponsored content, tell a story that indirectly relates to a product you sell.

By creating content for sites other than your e-commerce site, you demonstrate your knowledge of a specific topic related to your product or service. Consumers researching products may read your content. And though this content does not directly mention your product, the consumer may attempt to find out more about the topic from you through your website.

All of the content created in content marketing activities is created and managed within your CMS. From there it is promoted through various channels — website, social, search — and distributed to third party channels.

Unified Search

E-commerce practitioners have long recognized the strategic importance of search. But too often they limited it search to their product catalogs, missing the opportunity of aligning search strategy with customer personas and buying stages to help move buyers through the customer journey.

Two search strategies support commerce: faceted search and federated search. Faceted, or "guided" search allows customers to narrow or expand search results by a set of categories or content types. When developing a faceted search experience, include narrative content and media results along with products, and clearly merchandise the content, so it’s relevant to the buyer.

The example below includes both Product results and Expert Advice (content results) in a search for fences. The "how to" articles help buyers understand the products and encourages cross-selling by promoting a project. Using content to drive bundle purchases, such as kits and assays in scientific catalogs; outfits, and accessories in clothing, increases average order size.

site search example

The second strategy is federated search. Federated means you are searching across multiple systems or applications. Assuming you manage your content and catalog in different applications, federation can create a seamless, single search experience for customers, making content and products discoverable.

Open Your Borders

Too many commerce sites today use hard borders between the catalog and content. You need to "go" to the commerce site. But consumers often want to view product information in the context of the overall website and view premium content in the catalog.

If you build your e-commerce site on a modern web framework that shares templates and technology across CMS and commerce platforms, it allows you to align your technology across all of your web-based systems. Aligning on a specific technology enables you to co-mingle your content and commerce elements into a single web experience, yet keep them separate so you can easily reuse your content.

Bringing content and commerce under a single roof also gives the content manager more visibility into the customer experience. They can see what products are most popular and develop content and promotions around those products. They can see the products that aren’t selling as well, or what promotions and content marketing aren’t converting.

In addition, integrating your CMS with your e-commerce system provides a customer experience editor or presentation view so you can easily change the look and feel of the shopping experience.

A well-planned integration of your web content management and e-commerce platforms is critical to success. When planning your commerce strategy and technology stack, look for an agile CMS that aligns with your commerce application, and think about how a web CMS can help you deliver a more successful customer experience.

Title image Jannik Selz