Following the release of Liferay Commerce, Matthew Draper wrote an excellent blog on the importance of connecting content and commerce. He made a solid case for building both sides on a single platform so businesses can connect their products and services with the interests of their customers and utilize data to better understand their customers' needs. This, in turn, should lead them to purchases that are supported throughout the customer experience with content that helps evaluation and self-education.
So e-commerce and content are intrinsically related but content in itself is an extensive subject. The purpose of this blog post is to clear up some definitions about content and highlight the relationships that exist between the various content-related terms you might hear in relation to e-commerce.
First, let’s get down to basics by defining content itself. Steven Grindlay, co-founder of the Content Strategy Alliance, came up with a very insightful definition for it:
Where there is communication, there is content... Every organization engages in a wide variety of internal and external communications with consumers and stakeholders. Taken as a whole this communication exerts enormous influence on behalf of the enterprise and its brands.
An aspect of this definition I like is the reference to "internal and external communications." The latter points to another term we will be looking at: content marketing.
Content marketing is the use of content — any of it — to help meet a marketing goal for your organization. In this instance, you produce content which solely focuses on attracting customers, helping them make a purchase decision and hopefully retain them. Those familiar with marketing might be aware of the purchase funnel, a marketing model that illustrates the customer journey toward the purchase of a product or service. It's described as a funnel because the assumption is that only a fraction of potential customers will actually convert, your audience narrowing as they move along the model. These potential customers will go on a journey from initially being aware of your product and considering why they need it before they go and purchase it. There are a few versions out there developed from the original model, which is almost a hundred years old!
The aim of content marketing is to support these stages of the purchasing funnel with content that your customers find useful and informative rather than pushy or irrelevant. Content marketing pieces are often found in the form of blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, testimonials, etc.
Now, what ties everything together in terms of content is content strategy. Content strategy is a more encompassing concept than content marketing. But it is not surprising that organizations might jump straight into producing marketing content that is not aligned to their own content strategy — if there is any in the first place!
Our initial definition of content becomes more significant at this point: content strategy should steer both internal and external communications and it is where key business aspects take shape. Content strategy is the thoughtful approach of presenting the most relevant, appropriate content to the appropriate user for the purpose of achieving the organization’s business objectives. Content marketing supplements the overall content strategy by focusing solely on the creation, publishing and measurement of content pieces for specific marketing-related objectives. Content strategy is the foundation for all content efforts from an organization.
You can certainly start writing content to promote, influence and sell but you would be taking a tactical approach and that never works long term. Instead, consider starting with a content strategy. Set the right foundations by:
- Defining how you will be using content to meet your organization goals and satisfy your users’ needs.
- Guiding decisions about your content with a well-defined lifecycle and governance model.
- Setting benchmarks against which to measure the success of your content efforts.
Building e-commerce and content on a single platform seems like a good plan. But as you plan the details of your contract pricing, order workflows, order forecasting, etc., also pay attention to the content supporting the purchase cycle. A content strategy should be the place to start with before moving into more tactical, marketing-oriented content decisions.
Diego Lago is Head of User Experience at Digirati. Diego works with Digirati's clients to develop content strategies including approaches to information architecture and semantic enrichment. He is particularly focused on the convergence of user experience with information management. Prior to joining Digirati, Diego worked for a number of leading Digital agencies applying a broad range of User Experience practices.