Russell Parsons: While content is important, remember its purpose is to sell

I have been lucky enough to take part in a couple of panels recently that focused on the need for brands to tell their story.

Russell Parsons

I agree with the need to differentiate in a world where permanently low prices mean many categories risk becoming commoditised and any brand with a story to tell should tell that story through content.

I do, however, find myself bemoaning the lack of mention of the other S word – ‘selling’. It does appear on occasion that some in the industry forget what marketing is ultimately about – selling more stuff.

I was reminded of this last week when reading about the redesign of HMV’s ecommerce site. The retailer has made a bold move: it’s selling the same physical items it sells in stores online. Yes, you read it right – it’s selling stuff on its ecommerce site. Although this might not seem like a radical move, it is a marked shift for the retailer. Previously, the site was focused on entertainment content with the option to buy digital products tucked away.

HMV is not the only high street icon to have rebalanced its site’s focus. Marks and Spencer relaunched its website with great fanfare in March 2014. The new-look site, which had previously been a quietly effective, if standard, ecommerce site, was reborn as a content- led, magazine-style, lifestyle aid. It looked great, but one basic tenet of ecommerce had been forgotten – make the path to purchase easy. Online sales fell 6.3% in the first half year following the relaunch, which led to improved navigation and checkout facilities being introduced.

I’m guilty of oversimplification, I know. HMV had to try new things after being brought out of administration and it was its failure to compete online that contributed to its near collapse. Poor transactional functionality was also just one factor in M&S’s online woes, now partly reversed.

Content is an incredibly potent tool in telling your story but we shouldn’t run too far away from what it is there to do: help boost a brand’s performance. Marketing Week is hosting a ‘Masterclass’ in content marketing on 30 June in London. To book your place click here. You will hear best practice from top brands about how to create really engaging content, and how it will lead to a  boost in sales.

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