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How a scalable content strategy can spur e-commerce success

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Hamster wheels are entertaining to hamsters, but they're not good models for a marketing strategy. But without content arms, marketing plans look a lot like those wheels: lots of effort, no movement.

Content drives e-commerce return on investment.

FabFitFun is a media-turned-e-commerce success thanks in large part to its understanding of exactly how effective content can be for a brand (full disclosure: my company was an early investor in FabFitFun). What started as an online magazine quickly evolved into a branded powerhouse.

To kickstart revenue, FabFitFun's leaders decided to launch some of their own lifestyle products, leveraging their existing media footprint to accelerate the process. The team quickly realized that streams of content and new products created a symbiotic relationship, and soon the company had a whole matrix of content, products and influencer pieces for customers to consume. Blog posts and newsletters turned into live events and the brand unveiled FabFitFun.tv, a subscriber-exclusive perk offering content on fitness, cooking and lifestyle tips.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow's company Goop, a lifestyle brand, underwent a similar transformation: What started as a weekly newsletter consisting of shared recipes, interviews with industry experts and lifestyle recommendations has evolved into an incredibly successful company that has seen major growth. The catalyst to this growth? The content it produces.

Even at my agency, we've prioritized implementing content strategies within our clients' digital campaigns as a catalyst for brand awareness and credibility. At this point, the importance of content marketing is no secret: It's now known to be a cost-effective way to generate a high number of leads and one of the best ways to establish credibility and brand trust. While achieving a level of mastery in branded content does take time, commitment and insight, I don't believe content models like FabFitFun or Goop's are impossible to replicate.

When brands build content arms that function in tandem with product launches and other initiatives, customers can feel more immersed in that brand and its community, making them more likely to buy. Here's how your business can find the same success using own branded content strategy:

Leverage content as a value proposition.

Companies with revenue-generating content use that content to increase conversions and lifetime customer value. People buy products because of what those products claim to do. What better way to communicate what a product can do than through content that evangelizes such a thing?

Generate content that is going to source organic traffic, then create even more content to convert visitors into fans (and fans into customers). Make content that can stand on its own through educational or entertainment value in order to attract engagement.

For example, one of our clients, which offers a program that provides support for children with anxiety and focus challenges, recently launched an editorial blog to improve its SEO visibility. From topics like "Mothering a Child with Anxiety Due to Bullying" to "Aromatherapy for Kids: How to Use Essential Oils for Focus," the company's search-optimized content not only supports its mission but also brings its audience to its site by answering the questions parents are asking. This has allowed the company to tap into conversations around non-pharmaceutical remedies to anxiety and attention disorders.

In order to know exactly what value your various pieces of content serve, ensure you have a solid understanding of the buyer life cycle. You should have content that will serve a consumer at every stage of their journey.

Increase conversion by boosting engagement.

The more time people spend in a brand's ecosystem, the more likely they are to purchase. Cosmetics brand Glossier made its name by skillfully marrying visuals, stories and an intimate connection with consumers through social media prowess and a holistic understanding of its key demographic.

Earning engagement isn't easy and takes creativity and consistency. Knowing your customers well is almost as important as the content itself. In tandem with the launch of its new cream blush, Cloud Paint, Glossier hired 10 makeup artists to use the blush on celebrities attending the Oscars, then posted the results online. Because Glossier understood the likes and needs of its community, it knew how to market a new product in a way that would elicit engagement. In fact, after four weeks, there were over 6000 images of Cloud Paint on Instagram.

Make sure you know exactly what your ideal customer likes, dislikes, wants to learn, wants to fix etc., and then create attention-grabbing content based on those needs.

Use gated content to supplement products.

Gated content is used in many marketing campaigns, and requires prospects to provide information (name, email, etc.) in order to receive valuable pieces of content. These often include white papers, videos, product demos or case studies.

This strategy can also be supplemental to your product as well. Subscribers of FabFitFun receive subscription boxes, for example, but those boxes are only one part of a complete content-driven package: They also receive exclusive videos, articles and more.

Consider providing free content to kickstart the engagement, then use gated content to add value to the membership and demonstrate that your brand offers much more than just products.

Content is king.

Content is crucial when it comes to establishing the value and necessity of your brand. It's no longer acceptable to only offer your product with no content surrounding it. It's what helps brands shine through all the noise and can be used at any stage of the buyer journey.

FabFitFun was able to find success in the overly-saturated subscription box market thanks to the marrying of its content and video streaming strategy, while Glossier filled a gap in the beauty industry by marketing its products in ways that best resonate with its audience. What these businesses demonstrate is that content-driven value aids with both product discovery and fulfillment. Content is the key to it all and as markets see more (and steeper) competition, content will continue to help brands achieve e-commerce dominance.

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