How brands can link customer, content and commerce

While many people enjoy viewing and shopping brand content, research has shown that many marketers are struggling to keep up. So how can brands connect customer, content and commerce?

Social commerce is growing in popularity. Research by DigitasLBi Commerce shows that 25% of UK shoppers have bought something via a social platform in the last month, prompting brands to create compelling content and consider social channels like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest as an important part of their ecommerce mix.

“People now expect relevant and engaging content from brands as a matter of course, so making that content ‘shoppable’ makes good commercial sense,” DigitasLBi Commerce head of marketing Paul Smith.

Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram have also clocked onto this trend, trialling different ad formats and rolling out features like “learn more” and “shop now” buttons.

But a CMO Council study revealed that while content has become vital to the way companies and brands acquire and grow customer relationships, many marketers fail to connect content and commerce.

The research found that only 5% of respondents have highly integrated content and commerce. However 64% say they want to improve in this area.

Brand testing

One company trialling ways to link its content to commerce is Diageo. This summer, the brand linked Pimm’s Facebook content to a major UK retailer as part of a broader multichannel strategy.

Pimms_Live-1002x668

“We created relevant branded content that was timed to the weather and targeted specific groups,” Diageo Europe GM digital and ecommerce Marco Preda told Marketing Week.

“Consumers could click straight through to the retailer – making the user journey quick and easy, and ultimately leading to an uplift in conversion.”

Multinational confectionary company Mondelez International is also seeking to monetise its creative content.

In July this year it appointed Laura Henderson to the newly created role of global head of content and media monetisation, who will focus on driving sales from the company’s content.

It also partnered with Facebook in a deal that the company said would help it produce scalable creative content and “engage consumers in new ways” across 52 countries.

But not all good intentions are instantly rewarded. M&S relaunched its website last year to focus more on content and publishing, but struggled with sales as customers complained the new site was more complex. 

It has since gone on to change the website, with an increased focused on improving functionality, performance and speed.

Old system struggles

So why are marketers struggling? According to Smith, many brands are moving away from the “shop the grid” product list page approach and are now mixing content, imagery, videos, stories and product.

“Some have struggled to do this because of legacy ecommerce systems, which were created before content was such a focus for retailers.

“It’s essential to select a vendor solution with in-built web content management that allows for flexibility and the distribution of different types of content,” he says.

But before brands put pen to paper and start creating the content, its role needs to be defined, says 360i London CEO James Townsend.

“Whether it’s brand affinity or direct sales, only when you’re clear on what you’re trying to achieve can you set up the right kind of trackable measurements.

“Without these it will be hard to gain traction for a content strategy from your wider business,” he says.

Track and test

The next step, says Kameleon’s CEO Richard Armstrong, is to measure customers’ interactions with your brand – something that marketers often struggle with.

“In an age where data is so readily available it can be difficult to know how, or what to measure.”

Richard Armstrong, Kameleon’s CEO

“Start with the basics – ‘the customer journey’. If you can clearly define where content sits at each at point in this journey you will be well on your way to understanding the impact it is having for your business.”

In addition, an attribution modelling system can indicate what works and what doesn’t.

“Attribution allows you to know precisely which touchpoints are delivering the highest return,” Armstrong adds.

“However it’s not always that simple, with it being more difficult to track activity outside a brand’s owned channels.”

Once in place, brands should introduce “test and learn” programmes that allow them to trial different types of creative in a controlled way and measure their impact, says Townsend.

“Then, use those insights to refine and scale your content to ensure sustained engagement,” he says.

Rally support

But attribution and measurement don’t come easy – the whole business needs to be on board for it to succeed, says The CMO Council’s SVP Liz Miller. “Marketers aren’t struggling because we don’t know what should or must be done,” she says.

“But gaining the support across the organisation and budget to power many of these platforms and data-fuelled campaigns, can feel like a Herculean task.”

It isn’t just internal changes that are needed. Brands can also look to outside sources for help.

“Let’s not forget brands need to shake up their roster and bring in the right sort of expertise that understands how to tell stories built for digital, social and new age media. It’s not just change needed internally but also externally,” Kameleon’s Armstrong says.

You can learn more about content and ecommerce from some of the world’s biggest brands at the Festival of Marketing’s content and ecommerce stages. You can get tickets here.

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