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content-marketing-elements-

Every company seems to do ecommerce content marketing differently. That’s a good thing, of course – every retailer is different. But the more you step back from the details, the similarities start to stand out.

I took a close look at five different online retailers with the understanding that they’d use different mediums (text, images, video, audio), and then use those different mediums on a slew of different platforms. That was right – to an extent. But the more data I gathered on them, the more they started to look similar.

Here’s the basics of how these five successful retailers do their content marketing:

1) They make content in these formats:

  • Blog posts
  • Photographs
  • Video
  • Interactive: Calculators and games

 

2) They make content about:

  • How to use their products
  • They share information about how to live a life and a lifestyle that fits with their products

 

3) Then they take all those content formats and content topics and spread them over the Internet. They do this in a way that fosters a sense of community. They’re always trying to elicit a response from their audience.

4) They never do the hard sell. But there’s always an easy way to place an order.

That’s basically it.

Whole lot simpler than this, right?

A flow chart for the best practices inecommerce content marketing
Ecommerce content marketing gets complicated fast.

 

I don’t mean to pick on PickaWeb. This is actually a terrific flow chart of all the content marketing options online retailers have.

But the complexity available might be why some smaller retailers remain a bit leery of content marketing. It might also explain why only 38% of B2C content marketers say they are effective… they’re getting bogged down with the massive complexity of trying to be a publisher and a retailer.

These five retailers make it seem easier than that.

1) Fat Brain Toys.

An online retailer for children's toys that does content marketing particularly well

Here’s what they’ve got:

Facebook: 103,000 likes, posts a couple times a day.

Twitter: 6,300 followers

YouTube: 1,300 subscribers, 73 videos and 1,297,841 views

Instagram: 95 posts, 1,300 followers

Pinterest: 56 boards, 3,500 pins and 1,800 followers

Email newsletter: Yes, weekly. Also has a newsletter for educators.

Blog: Publishes every 3-4 days

Gift Guides: Toys sorted by age, gender, interest, country of manufacture. Plus lists of toys for a different development or special needs children.

Interactive: “The Gift Bot” and “Birthday Reminders”

Events: Yes, mostly tradeshows

Stores: 2 retail stores

What’s noteworthy:

  • The content of the blog is distributed to all their social channels.
  • Their content is targeted at parents.
  • They launched a catalog six year ago, after years of being a web-only retailer.

 

Facebook content marketing
Despite a large audience and great giveaways, Fat Brain Toys is still getting somewhat engagement rates on Facebook

 

What they could do better:

  • Send a welcome email when someone signs up for their newsletter/s.
  • Work to get more engagement from their Facebook account. Their engagement rate is low.
  • Make the site mobile friendly. Unfortunately, Fat Brain Toys fails Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

 

2) LL Bean.

Online Rretailer LL Bean's home page
LL Bean has a vast content marketing program – but no blog.

 

Facebook: 666,803 likes, engagement rate of 0.27% according to Fan Page Karma

Twitter: 46,000 followers

YouTube: 3,400 subscribers, 187 videos and 4,476,904 views

Instagram: 330 posts, 22,600 followers

Pinterest: 33 boards, 1,900 pins, and 5.1 million followers

Email newsletter: Yes, once or twice a week.

Blog: They stopped publishing posts in August of last year.

Education: “Outdoor Schools” – real-world course and classes that teach people who to do different outdoor sports and activities.

Sponsors the Outdoors show (TV show)

Has a Maine lodging and activity guide

Gift Guides: Several

Interactive: The “Park Finder”/ Oh Ranger app

Stores: over 40 retail stores

Books: Has published several books about fishing, the outdoors, and cooking

What’s noteworthy:

  • LL Bean is a content marketing powerhouse. Most companies won’t be able to keep up with the volume and quality of what they publish, but they’re worth watching simply as a source of ideas.
  • The Park Finder app is a perfect example of true content marketing. None of LL Bean’s products are ever mentioned in the app. They’ve just put out a useful tool for anyone to use. Of course, the same sort of people who would like their app are probably the same sort of people who would like their products…

 

What they could do better:

  • The page speed for the mobile version of LL Bean’s site is surprisingly low. Google gave it poor marks in its Page Speed Insights Tool.

 

Page speed affects content marketing
Page speed has a huge impact on both conversions and your content marketing efforts.

 

  • What happened to the blog? If any company could come up with interesting content for a blog, surely it’s LL Bean. Maybe they should partner with a few influencers to contribute content. There are probably dozens of outdoor enthusiast writers who would love to get a post published on the LL Bean blog.
  • I did get a welcome email when I signed up for their newsletter, but it arrived four hours after I signed up.

 

3) Lion Brand Yarn.

Lion Brand Yarn does excellent ecommerce content marketing

Facebook: 528,491 likes, engagement rate of 0.06% according to Fan Page Karma

Twitter: 51,300 followers

YouTube: 45,000 subscribers, 493 videos and 11,026,793 views

Instagram: 1007 posts, 87,800 followers

Pinterest: 46 boards, 9,100 pins and 87,300 followers

Email newsletter: Yes… but no welcome email.

Blog: They publish a post about once a day.

Podcast: They had a podcast, but stopped broadcasting last December

Education: They offer paid online courses, plus detailed instruction on how to crochet and knit. There’s also a “StitchFinder”, a Yarn substitutions guide, and several other resources.

Stores: 3 retail stores

What’s noteworthy:

  • Lion Brand is a great example of educating your audience. The free resources are exactly what knitters and crocheters would need to enjoy their hobby.
  • It’s great how many videos there are. But many of them are under 20 seconds.
  • They sent a welcome email!

 

ecommerce welcome email
Lion Brand was the only retailer than sent a welcome email immediately

 

What they could do better:

  • Lion Brand has a huge audience. And yet, the design of their website makes them look like a very small, low-budget retailer. It’s time for a site redesign.
  • They’ve got nearly 90,000 Instagram followers, but there’s no Instagram icon in the footer area of their website. The blog does have a link to their Instagram account.
  • Their Facebook engagement rate is low.
  • The site got low marks from Google’s Page Speed Insights tool for both the mobile and desktop versions.
  • The site failed Google’s mobile-friendly test.

 

4) Beard Brand.

Online retailer beard brand does great content marketing

Facebook: 67,855 likes, engagement rate of 0.021% according to Fan Page Karma

Twitter: 9,900 followers

YouTube: 108,636 subscribers, 290 videos and 9,944,083 views

Instagram: 1558 posts, 92,600 followers

Pinterest: 39 boards, 6,600 pins and 3,100 followers

Email newsletter: Yes… but no welcome email.

Blog: No blog

What’s noteworthy:

  • Their presence on Instagram and YouTube is impressive. But several of the retailers mentioned here have far more videos than I was expecting. This is a smart move – research from DemacMedia found that YouTube has a dramatically higher average order size than any other social network.

 

Social media platforms ranked by average order size
No wonder so many retailers are creating videos.

 

What they could do better:

  • Add a blog
  • Improve their Facebook engagement
  • Send a welcome email
  • The Beard Brand website got low scores from Google’s website speed tool for both the mobile and desktop versions of the site.

 

5) Entirely Pets

the online retailer Entirely Pets

Facebook: 413,588 likes, engagement rate of 0.069% according to Fan Page Karma

Twitter: 12,000 followers

YouTube: 800 subscribers, 310 videos, and 344,205 views

Instagram: 516 posts, 822 followers

Pinterest: 83 boards, 5,500 pins and 8,100 followers

Email newsletter: Yes… but no welcome email.

Blog: They publish a post about once a day.

Education: There’s an extensive library of pet care articles.

What’s noteworthy:

  • Entirely Pets is the only retailer that had a video section on their website. All the other retailers had their videos on YouTube. YouTube is great, but it’s better to keep people on your site.
  • They do an excellent job re-publishing their articles on Pinterest (and often on Facebook). Notice how the header/promo image for the articles has been specifically designed to look good on social media.

 

republished blog posts on Pinterest

What they could do better:

  • This is another site that’s due for a redesign.
  • Their Facebook engagement rate is really low.
  • For all the videos they’ve published, they’ve got very few subscribers.
  • Both the mobile and desktop versions of this site got low scores on Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

 

What it all means

Most of can’t create the type of content marketing machine that LL Bean has developed. And we may never be able to catch up to the 493 videos Lion Brand Yarn has created. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start small, focus on what works, and build from there. Make a realistic weekly plan for your content creation, then borrow some of the content sharing and republishing tactics these companies are using.

A few things about all these retailers really jumped out at me:

  • They are fully invested in YouTube and Instagram. And at least in the case of Instagram, their audiences are clearly hungry for their content.
  • Almost all of them could do better in terms of website speed. If that doesn’t sound like something that’s related to content marketing, please reconsider. Slow site speeds alienate visitors and drastically reduce conversion rates. Every extra second it takes for your page to load can cause a 7% drop in conversions.
  • Only one of these retailers sent a prompt welcome email. This is a super-easy tactic to implement, and it gets great results. Welcome emails often get nine times the transaction rates of regular promotional emails.

welcome emails get extremely high transaction rates per email

  • Welcome emails sent immediately (not delayed, as LL Bean’s welcome was), also get ten times the transaction rates of delayed welcomes.
real time welcome emails versus delayed welcomes
Send your welcome emails immediately – don’t batch them.

 

Conclusion

Big or small, online retailers have an extensive list of options for what they can do to promote their products with content marketing. In fact, probably the hardest part of content marketing for retailers is picking which tactics to use and which to set aside.