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.
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.
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:
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):
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.)
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).
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 niche-y long-tail topics like bike helmet fit and how to deflate a sleeping pad.
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?