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Content Marketing for E-Commerce: 3 Great Examples

September 09, 2013
19
Marketing Strategy

As a content marketer here at WordStream, I see great examples of content marketing almost every week – but most of them are coming from lead gen and B2B companies. It makes sense – if you offer a service or some kind of software that helps people do something, content marketing helps you position yourself in the customer’s eyes as an expert in that area. When people step up and show interest in your educational content, they’re letting you know that they might need other stuff you offer.

But what about e-commerce marketing?

The same principle works for e-commerce companies, but the tactics need to be a little different. I think attention is even scarcer in the B2C e-commerce space, so content marketing in those verticals needs to be truly awesome – beautiful, exceptional, and all those other words that go into great content.

Here are three examples of really good content marketing ideas coming out of the e-commerce space.

RELATED: Content Promotion: The Difference Between Brands with Fans & Anonymous Content

Lands’ End Apostrophe: Catalog as E-Commerce Marketing

Lands’ End recently launched Apostrophe, a quarterly online magazine cheekily named after the typo in the company’s name – which, they explain on the first page of the first issue, was a misprint on their first catalog cover that they couldn’t afford to fix.

e-commerce content marketing ideas

Sure, this nicely designed “magazine” is basically a glorified catalog – but the glorification stuff is really well done. For example, there’s a spread on stuff to do in Portland, Maine (where the catalog was shot) that reminds me of something you’d see in, say, Food & Wine or Bon Appetit:

Content Marketing for E-Commerce Companies

Then there’s a style guide–like spread with tips for wearing items (from the Lands’ End product line, of course) either “on or off the clock” (i.e. to work or on weekends):

e-commerce content

content marketing examples

It’s just a little bit of value-add, but it’s enough to push this beyond catalog into the realm of content marketing. There are also a couple of profile pieces and some (always popular!) lists in the first issue, like a list of “pieces every man should have in his closet.”

Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating: Book Marketing for E-Commerce

Years ago, my brother’s then-girlfriend, now-wife gave me a copy of Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating as a gift. (She’s from Ann Arbor, where the company’s flagship store is based.)

E-Commerce Marketing Guide

The book, written by founder Ari Weinzweig, includes a bunch of recipes, but it really is a how-to guide for becoming a “foodie.” It basically teaches you how to become the kind of well-informed food snob who knows good olive oil when he tastes it. There are chapters on oils and vinegars, grains, cheese, meat and fish, seasonings, and sweet stuff (honey, vanilla, chocolate).

e-commerce marketing materials

Because it’s all about being a food snob (without naming it as such), this guide aligns perfectly with their prospective customers. Zingerman’s has an awesome selection of mail-order food gifts like:

  • Gift baskets, such as a “cheeses of the world” basket and a Reuben sandwich kit.
  • X of the month clubs including cheese clubs, bacon clubs, olive oil clubs …
  • Fancy condiments like walnut butter and fig molasses
  • Imported delicacies like Spanish tuna and Italian caper pesto
  • Baked goods aplenty: Coffee cakes, brownies, cookies, scones, fancy  bread, etc.

Now, whenever I went to send someone a gift of food, I order from the Zingerman’s catalog/website, and everything I’ve tried from Zingerman’s has been delicious. And, I still keep the guide on my cookbook shelf. Nicely done, guys!

REI: E-Commerce Marketing with Videos

REI is capitalizing on the fact that how-to keywords make for great video content. For example, check out this video on how to get started with slacklining:

Slacklining, popular with the dude-bros out in Colorado, is kind of like low-level tightrope walking. You string a taut but “dynamic” nylon rope between two trees and walk it to improve balance and core strength; apparently you can actually work your way up to pro level and do tricks on these things.

REI has a series of similar, nicely produced videos on highly specific long-tail topics like bike helmet fit and how to deflate a sleeping pad - a great example of niche marketing in action.

The beauty of this is, they are drumming up interest in outdoor activities that require equipment that – you guessed it – you can buy at REI.

E-Commerce Content Marketing: Not Just for the Big Boys

Of course, two out of three of these examples are mega-big companies with gigantic marketing budgets. But that doesn’t mean smaller e-commerce companies can’t follow their lead and create exactly the same types of content. A style guide like the one in Apostrophe could be created as a blog post. Write a book on the topic that makes your business run, like Perry Marshall or Brian Halligan at HubSpot. (Zingerman's is actually a small company with just ~50 year-round employees!) You can make a how-to video without a big budget – target the long tail.

What other e-commerce companies are killing it with content marketing? 

Comments

Sep 09, 2013

They are 3 great ways to market an online website and food for thought for those who have smaller marketing budgets as you can streamline to fit.

I would try adding one of these to your usual marketing mix and see what happens!

"Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating" is my favorite example. Forgetting about the fact that I LOVE to eat food (lol)... it's stylist nature of an information product appeals to me... probably because I have information products of my own and that I am an ebook marketing consultant.

Elisa Gabbert
Sep 09, 2013

It's a great book! One of my coworkers used to be a food buyer and she loves it too!

I like how Lands’ End turned their little mistake around and made it as their asset. How e-commerce works is the quality of marketed content delivered coupled with vivacious storytelling, brought up to inspire readers with quality informational experience.

Elisa Gabbert
Sep 10, 2013

Yes, it's clever! Thanks Belinda!

Tangerine Digital (not verified)
Sep 10, 2013

Hey Elisa, very informative article. E-Commerce and Content Marketing moves Hand-in-Hand and are interdependent on each other. The case studies provided by you, which have successfully adopted the various means of Content Marketing, are great motivators for the rest. We, being a Content Marketing company, have hands-on experience in Creating and Managing Content for various E-commerce Clients globally.

Thank you so much

Team Tangerine Digital

Sep 10, 2013

You're right! Company's with a small marketing budget tend to get stuck in their ways thinking out of the box and trialing some of your ideas is a good way forward.

Elisa Gabbert
Sep 10, 2013

Thanks Sharron, hope the article inspired you!

Very well done article Elisa! My favorite points that you made are 1) content marketing is not JUST for business-to-business; and 2) even smaller companies can think outside the box and produce wonderful content that's highly targeted towards their niche market. Excellent!

Thank you!  ~ Team Net Site Marketing

Thank you for the great artivle - I fully agree with you, that the key to success in e-commerce is attracting attention and not eveyone would view the catalog - the "magazine" solves this problem and looks really wonderful!

Thanks for that article.

I agree. Done well, (As the examples you have shown are) content like that makes a contribution on a number of fronts. 

As well as being a reason to connect with the audience, it ALSO helps to position the business correctly in their minds.

Being in Australia, I'm not familiar with either Lands' End or Zingermans. But in both cases, I ALREADY havde a feel for what they are about, just from that material. In both cases, they have projected a strong 'on brand' image, and if I were in the market for their products, my confidence level is already up.

So on that basis, it is CLEARLY a powerful e-commerce tool!

As I said...    great article.

Thanks!

Jerry

PS. And like the earlier poster, I LOVE what Lands' End have done with their "apostrophe typo" store. What GREAT marketing!!

Elisa Gabbert
Sep 13, 2013

Thanks for your comment, Jerry! Very true about these examples being super "on brand"!

Sep 14, 2013

Hi Elisa,

A very interesting article with some good pointers. I might just have to see if that book is available here in the UK.

Thanks

George

fin (not verified)
Sep 15, 2013

Great aticle, it was really helpful.

Jose Montelongo (not verified)
Oct 09, 2013

Just wandering -and for the sake of bullding a compelling business case- for an eCommerce site with average conversion rates of no more than 1%, what could be an expected increase in conversion rate if a well structured content marketing strategy is implemented? Any idea?

Your blog states so many relevant tips and insights that we need to know regarding social media and blog posting. You have given us ample information on how we can be able to utilize social media for blogging. There's a lot of things that needs to be considered and you tackled enough information that is very useful and timely.

Really vry informative and inpiring articles.I love to read your articles.

I see a lot of e-commerce sites that don't use content marketing which I think is a big mistake.

Mar 01, 2014

Marketing is a heart to any company. Good Information amout marketing.

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