This is a guest post by Anne Cullen, former Editorial & Marketing Manager at Walmart.com. She shares her methods for understanding the customer to create content that helps them make better buying decisions and get more from their purchases. Want to hear more of Anne's insights on content marketing for retailers? Check out this podcast episode:
Customers often perceive retailers as a knowledge base and resource for the products they sell. That subject matter expertise, whether shared through rich content online or via associates, can help customers find greater value in their products as well as building the brand relationship. One way a retailer can provide value through content marketing is by providing resources that address common customer questions and concerns before they even ask. Think beyond the product features and consider what post-purchase content they might want to see to get the most out of their purchase, such as:
If you’re wondering where to start to understand the customer mindset and determine what might be most valuable, begin by looking for frequent questions and comments through UGC (user-generated content), product ratings & reviews, Q&A, social engagement, customer service, and associate feedback.
User-generated content (UGC) in the form of ratings & reviews and product Q&A can be an idea generator for brand and creative content. It’s a rule of thumb that public customer comments are representative of a larger number of people who don’t comment (but are likely thinking and feeling the same thing). If a customer has taken the time to give you feedback, especially if it's critical, listen to it. That feedback could offer a starting point to developing valuable content.
Questions to ask:
Tip: If your website doesn't offer its own ratings and reviews, you’re not out of luck. Research similar products in the broader product category (look at bloggers, YouTube, and other retailers) and think critically about the topics of discussion.
Social media channels like Instagram and Twitter often feel fast-moving and trendy. Sometimes that can make social content feel disposable or lacking in value. But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are great insights tucked inside that post, if you examine it with creative eyes. Look to your social channels as a place to get inspiration for evergreen content types such as articles, how-tos, infographics and buying guides to place on owned channels.
Using social content to discover creative insights for content development is an elegant way to create harmony in the ecosystem.
Start by digging into engaging organic content, looking at social as a testing ground. What posts increased use of a branded hashtag or sparked more followers? Then think critically and thoughtfully about the creative content itself. Ask questions such as:
Use those answers to inform development of longer-lifespan content such as an article, infographic, buying guide — or even new product ideas.
One of the how-to sewing crafts I created for Walmart was a monogrammed faux fur & plaid fleece throw. The tutorial was featured on the Crafting Ideas Content Center, Arts & Crafts Category Page, and also posted as an Instagram story and post. I was thrilled at the exposure of this piece. The photography had a warm but modern look that was still approachable and on brand.
The comments were generally positive, and followers engaged by tagging friends and telling them “this is so you” and “you need this”. But amidst these positive comments were repeated mentions and tear-filled emojis (so dramatic!) from followers indicating that they, in no uncertain terms, didn’t sew and didn’t want to learn. They just wanted to buy that throw. From that feedback, I was able to look into developing an easier no-sew tutorial and I could pass along the idea of monogrammed throws to the housewares merchandising team.
Using social content to discover creative insights that can positively influence new content is an elegant way to create harmony in a company’s content ecosystem.
Whether you’re a small business fielding calls yourself or a large organization with a customer service center, support topics that come up frequently can be a source of customer-facing content. Look to solve for how information or decision-making content can be more prominent to the customer before their purchase and immediately after, which will provide value to customers and reduce operational costs.
If working cross-functionally with customer service is not part of your everyday, it can be overwhelming to begin, so start with specific questions and set shorter term goals to test and learn.
How do we measure content so that we understand its impact on increasing value and return on investment? Asking retailers not to look at sales revenue is naive, so absolutely try to track and attribute conversions and revenue to content. But in addition, look at return rates, exchange rates, customer service volume, customer service call time length, social growth, improved social reach, and review helpfulness as ways to measure content effectiveness. Whether you use a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) or OKR (Objectives & Key Results) model — or both — you can quantify the improvement in these areas of the business, and make a case for the multitude of ways content brings value.
Anne is a content manager, strategist, and writer, formerly at Walmart.com where she led editorial content for food, crafts, and consumables. Her professional “happy place” is where she can combine her analytical and creative sides to develop holistic, results-driven content solutions.