Take a deep breath.. it’s a long one …. Here goes…According to the report, “U.S. Online Retail Forecast, 2011 to 2016,”by Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, E-retail spending is forecast to increase 62% by 2016. In 2016, it is projected that e-retail will account for 9% of total retail sales, up from 7% in both 2012 and 2011. That represents a compound annual growth rate of 10.1% over the five-year forecast period. The report says that much of the growth in E-commerce comes from online retailers improving their web sites and services. “This is particularly true of categories such as fashion and jewellery, which have integrated rich selling tools”. U.S. consumers in 2016 will each spend an average of $1,738 online, up 44% from $1,207 in 2012. Other factors contributing to the growth of e-commerce include the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers among consumers, which leads them to spend more time online, including for shopping. “The tablet shopping experience is also likely encourages shoppers to purchase more products in an impulse fashion,” Mulpuru writes. Within this virtual reality, Ecommerce retailers are under pressure to keep up to date within an extremely fast moving and competitive industry. This blog aims to explore the value of content strategies to optimise an Ecommerce marketer’s sales.

“If content is king, then conversion is queen.” – John Munsell, CEO of Bizzuka.

This old marketing adage has been discussed and dissected at great length, and still holds true. Content without conversion is redundant. For an Ecommerce store the sales of products must be the focus of the end-result of a targeted content strategy that speaks to your demographic to ensure that the site pays for itself and is deemed successful. Content can be aesthetic and glossy, but without a complete focus on uniformity with brand and captivating your target audience then the net result can be a question of style over substance. The purpose of this blog is to explore content strategies and in order do this thoroughly we look at three market leaders within the Ecommerce fashion industry:

The multi-award winning designer clothing store Jules B is a market leader within its industry and is an excellent example for discussion. Since its inception in 1984, Jules B have won the Drapers Record coveted title of ‘Best Independent Fashion Store’ an impressive four times. The Husband and wife team Julian and Rhona Blades invested early in the Jules B website, when most fashion independents were still unconvinced of the internet’s potential. They opened their first Jules B store in leafy suburb of Jesmond just outside the city centre of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1984 and now have stores in the North East as well as Yarm, Kendal in the Lake District. Their highly evolved Ecommerce store provides the complete range of global, designer clothing and accessories brands under one virtual roof. We love this store for its product listings, they are truly, exemplary.

Established in 2007 with the opening of the first store in Wood Green, North London, J-Bees’ passion for providing a ‘total head-to-toe solution’ in Urban and Street fashion pervades their Ecommerce Store. J-Bees’ site is as edgy as the urban culture and stylish innovative products it promotes. The site is a great example of the web design and tone of the content speaking to a target audience.

With over ten years of experience in online retailing, situated on the edge of the Peak District National Park, Country Attire really do live and breathe the products they sell. Country Attire succeeds in its mission to offer the best quality ranges in contemporary outdoor clothing, footwear and accessories. The store carries the largest combined stock of Barbour and Hunter products in the world. All stock shows ‘live’ availability on this website; with updates every few minutes and they are masters of stock control, inventory and dispatch and a fine example of constant virtual communication to provide a seemless, virtual transaction. The content of site has a inclusive, friendly tone despite the high end brands it provides. Country Attire invites its loyal customers to become part of the ‘Country Attire family’ and it speaks directly to country lovers and their commitment to outdoor pursuits and the culture.

We use these three Ecommerce stores to illustrate the different content areas of discussion:

1. Home Page Content
2. Product Listing Pages
3. Customer Reviews e.g Ekomi, Trustpilot & Feefo
4. Blogs

5. Social Media

1. Home Page Content
Rotating Banners
Each of the three Ecommerce fashion retailers that we have selected all subscribe to a prominent rotating banner in a prime location on their homepage. The essence of a dynamic Ecommerce store is to create a showcase for your products that is neither stagnant of two dimensional. Lets look at some visuals.

2. Product Listing Pages
In a highly competitive eCommerce market what is it about your product listing page that separates you out from your competitors who are selling very similar products at a similar price? What makes an excellent product listing page that is user friendly and incites your potential customer to go through, click the ‘add to shopping cart button’ and go through and make purchase? Online consumers are more and more impatient and more and more discerning, the content of page needs to provide all of the necessary product features, great visuals and more. Lets look at Jules B, they are good case study of a store that have got it right. The attention to detail is superb.

“WOMEN’S JULIAN HAKES MOJITO BRIGHT SHOES”

Categorisation & Product Reference Codes

At the top, the product is listed in the right category and is easy to navigate too. At the right there is a reference number which provides a potential customer with peace of mind that should any communication be required in respect of questions about product features, then it be relatively hassle free.

Brand Title & Product Heading

Designer brand Julian Hakes’ signature font is utilised above the main product heading with ‘London’ written beneath.

The capitalised product heading stands out urgently and confidently with a fantastic concise heading that does not exceed one line. The product name ‘Mojito’ is a big selling point alongside the brand and product itself and has not been neglected.

Calls To Action, for example the price is immediately clear and stands out in a bold font and the colour is conveniently juxtaposed allowing no scope for ambiguity in the consumer’s mind.

Directly below we have the Size Guide, Quantity and more colour options. These are all calls to action that enforce the notion of buying.

A fantastic black bold bar background with white text, this immediately Stands Out and is located beneath the main title. The shopper doesn’t have to hunt around to find out how to go through and buy the item which can encourage accelerated drop out rates.

Once again, in a prime location this is another call to action, allowing the prospective shopper to be organised and enjoy a seemless shopping experience it also encourages a return visit, if the shopper doesn’t want to purchase the item at that moment.

Of all industry verticals, the fashion industry is unquestionably the most social. Here we have the option to not only recommend it on facebook, add to Google +, to Pin it on Pinterest, but the option to Bookmark the product listing page and share it over the leading social platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Stumble Upon, Favourites, Blogger, Tumblr, Pinterest and an option of 326 share options for various us social media platforms.

What’s difficult about writing a product description you may ask. Bullet point a few features and – job done. Not the case Ecommerce store owner, it’s not quite so simple. The text in our case study product listing is impeccable. The sections are neatly divided into the following subsections:
 Style notes
 Details
 Size and Fit
 Delivery
 B Rewarded

The most important thing about product listing text is that it is bespoke to the product and not just the generic template that a supplier may have provided you with. There needs to be some real passion and great attention detail with the listing with great marketing language, tailored to the merits of each individual good.

A range of high quality images have been provided for this product, leaving no question mark in the prospective buyer’s mind as to the suitability of the product for his or her requirements. Images need to clear, the right pixel size, distortion free and high resolution and easy to hoover over with a mouse click. This is about making the buying process as simple and direct as possible.

3. Customer Reviews
Trustpilot, Ekomi & Feefo

Customer reviews have become an integral part of the content on product listing pages. Each of our three selected Ecommerce stores achieve a top listing within their relevant category within Trust Pilot. Lets explore these testimonials further.

At the bottom of the home page there is a trustpilot review tab for consumers to click on for peace of mind as to the level of customer service exhibited by the Ecommerce store.

This leads onto the Trustpilot page with some great content from Jules’ B very own customers! This is a fantastic example of direct engagement with your customers and demonstrating that you are putting them first. A great strategy.

4. Blogs
A blog can serve as your online home base or hub for content, including post you write, curated content you pull together, press mentions, and content created about your Ecommerce store that you want to share with your audience. The lynchpin to blogging is variety and it’s important to blend short and long posts with more authoritative and less serious tones. Readers enjoy a mix. You can include images, text, charts, infographics and YouTube videos and even add widgets or tools that your audience can interact with.

J-Bees have some great content for their WordPress blog and is a good example of variety. “Dizzee Rascal wears LDN Hat at Olympics opening” is not only a great celebrity endorsement of a product, but provides newsworthy content, relevant to J-Bee’s audience.

5. Social Media

Facebook’s phenomenal growth continues, currently boasting nearly 1 billion active users of which 50% log on in any given day. Country Attire’s carefully selected cover image depicting an idyllic country, setting is clear, undistorted and epitomises the essence of their brand.

The development of bespoke apps, linking off to trustpilot reviews, pinterests and allowing the customer to travel throughout all of your commercial platforms.

“You can’t have a social media strategy without a content strategy.” (Susan Cato, Senior Director of Web and New Media Strategies at CompTIA)

Content is vital for all Ecommerce sectors, but in arguably one of the most fickle, fast-moving and self-conscious markets, within the Fashion market it’s beyond a necessity. Of all industry verticals, the fashion industry is unquestionably the most social. Fashion is defined socially and spreads socially, through a process of social diffusion. Fashion accessories sell best with social media – these fast-moving, low-risk and low-cost purchases fit the real-time mindset of social media. Country attires content is frequent and varied with a combination of some great text, visuals and calls to actions, truly engaged with it’s customers.

With the development of Facebook Shopping, social media commerce as a growing commerce channel that cannot be ignored. According to Ovum, social commerce is set to be retail’s biggest story in 2013. Social media as a commerce channel is emerging as a sales channel alongside retail and more traditional web channels. It has been estimated that the volume of goods sold through social media will grow sixfold in the next five years, reaching £30 billion globally. Shopping in the real world has always been a social activity. Going clothes shopping to stores with friends and asking for opinions before making a purchase is a commonplace activity. However, now people can almost entirely replicate this experience through social media. Companies are no longer using social networks solely for marketing purposes e.g. to generate awareness, influence consumers and cultivate their loyalty (i.e. using Twitter Feeds and Facebook Fan Pages) – they are also beginning to use them as an integrated channel where consumers can purchase products too.

We are going to use the ASOS shop on Facebook which was launched in January 2011 to illustrate this experience. Within the shop, consumers are able to browse the range of store items, ‘share’ them with friends, ‘like’ them, post an opinion to feature on their profile and add items to their shopping basket. Customers can also make transactions directly from the company without even leaving the Facebook environment. In the past, many companies have used Facebook as a shop-front, directing shoppers to their own website to complete the transaction. There is now a drive for companies to sell their products directly on social media sites.
Just like physical shopping, social commerce has the potential to provide a compelling customer experience by integrating the social aspect with the transaction. After search engines, Facebook is reportedly the single biggest referrer of traffic to ASOS’s site. Companies are keen to harness the power of social media and leverage these online relationships for commercial gain. It gives them an additional channel for letting their customers spread the word about the products they are interested in purchasing and encouraging them to transact, leading to a potential increase in sales. There is growing evidence that more and more companies are already looking
at social commerce as part of their multi-channel strategy.

Pinterest, the popular online bulletin board, has a predominantly female audience (circa 80%). Pinterest is aspirational and like a fast-moving virtual magazine, advertising desirable aesthetically pleasing products to be pinned, repined and generally adored. Pinterest is the perfect platform of the fashionsector which is defined by appearance and one of the most glossy and visually pleasing social media platforms. The key to Pinterest success is to clearly define what your ideal client wants. Your pins and boards will be much more appealing to your target audience if you focus on your ideal client while you’re pinning. What does your company stand for? What kind of lifestyle does it try to promote, and why does that lifestyle appeal to your ideal client? If you pin things that you feel passionate about and showcase your personality, you will create compelling content that your followers will love. To take advantage of the exploding interest and growing community on Pinterest, you’ll most likely need to motivate people to share your content. That should, in turn, drive traffic to your website.

Country Attire have 14 boards and have completely managed to tap into the lifestyle of their idea customer. For content to be repined and shared, it’s about creating a complete culture and community for your archetypal customer to subscribe.

The first board isn’t a direct sell, but is a showcase for what ‘Country Attire Loves’. This translates as ‘what its customer loves’. What does their average customer read, what do they do it their freetime, what motivates them and what are they passionate about?

Build content people naturally want to share. Because Pinterest is a visually oriented social network, you should focus on images and graphics that people will naturally want to share by re-pinning them to their personal pin boards. The ideal content for Pinterest boards is aesthetically pleasing, for example, glossy images and infographics rather than plain text articles. Never assume that users will automatically share content. Give them a prompt, after you’ve created a pin-worthy post, why not add a call to action at the end “Like this image, please take a second to share it on Pinterest”.
Here’s an interesting chart comparing the shopping engagement between Pinterest and Facebook.

On a final note, here’s a quote from the Golden Arches of marketing, this marketing magnate stated the following and it just about sums it all up. “Our head of social media is the customer.” – McDonald’s. Thank you for reading. What do you think is the most important content feature for a fashion ecommerce retailer? Get in touch and discuss.

Alex Dunton