October 21, 2015

5 ways to win with product content

“If you can get the intersection of brand, commerce and content right, you’ve won,” said Matty Wishnow, CEO of Clearhead, during a panel on Capturing the Magic of the Shopping Experience With Engaging Product Content at the Shop.org Digital Summit.

Joined on stage by Meghan Litchfield, GoPro’s head of global ecommerce, and Richard Chapman, senior content development manager at Lowe’s, Wishnow explained the goal is to create a complementary relationship between content and commerce. “You’ve inspired with your brand and created consideration with content and converted with experience. No one factor has unnecessarily outweighed or disrupted the other — that’s the magic.”

The three retail veterans shared stories from the trenches as well as tips on how to create the right retail content in today’s evolving ecommerce landscape. Here are their top five pieces of advice you can leverage win with content.

Listen to the data

Both Wishnow and Litchfield shared stories that highlighted just how easy it is to get fooled by your own instincts when in comes to content.

In the late 90s, when Wishnow launched InSound, the rules of ecommerce were still being written. He had some transformational ideas for his online music store, including long-form editorial pieces and streaming video. His team loved the new features, they got emails for users who loved the new features and traffic to the site did indeed go up. Yet conversions also went down.

“The interplay between content and commerce is a very delicate one,” he said. “As smart as I thought I and my team was, we certainly weren’t smarter than the millions of customers that came to our site every month.”


Litchfield had a similar experience at GoPro when they launched an innovative partnership with the National Hockey League. The rugged cameras were mounted around the rink, inside the goals and even on player’s helmets. Her entire team was blown away by the unique footage they captured and decided to feature it prominently on the homepage.

“Our highest bounce rate ever was on that rad NHL content,” Litchfield admitted.

Relevance is key

The NHL data led Litchfield to a keystone of her content strategy. Her team strives to provide a digital experience that is both cutting edge and completely relevant to each customer. While the NHL content proved their users aren’t big hockey fans, GoPro has doubled down on sports and activities that do resonate with their fan base.

Like much of the content in their animal channel, this video of Kama the surfing pig has millions of views. Plus rugged outdoor activities, like surfing and snowboarding, are a natural fit for the tough cameras. To help users create their own version of the Kama footage, there is a section called Get This Shot that highlights the products used to film each video.

“If you are someone that loves skydiving and kittens, you’ll come to the site and see that,” she added. “We have to drive relevance.”

Consider the source

At Lowe’s, Chapman realized their content strategy was falling short based on customer feedback. The second biggest complaint they received on their site was that users weren’t getting the data needed to make a purchase. Ultimately, he was able to track that down to a content sourcing issue.

“Many of us have it backwards,” said Chapman. “You put all this effort into getting your customer to the product detail page, and then you rely on vendor supplied data.” As a retailer with a massive SKU count, Lowe’s had always leveraged content provided by third-party manufacturers. But Chapman shared several examples of how this content often fell short for consumers, ranging from completely irrelevant bullet points on a concrete birdbath to providing a single product image for a $2,000 refrigerator.

Microsoft PowerPoint - ShopdotorgLowes

His solution was to invest in original content production. Lowe’s brought in a team of copywriters who created engaging descriptions for thousands of SKUs. They also tested multiple approaches to visual content, ranging from multiple stills to spin imagery to full production video.

The data proved his hypothesis was correct for hundreds of items across the site. For example, this Master Forge got a 97% lift in conversion just by adding by adding photos of the grill in action alongside a basic product shot.

Microsoft PowerPoint - ShopdotorgLowes

Support your fans

At GoPro, they’ve invested in another type of production: user generated content. In addition to searching through the thousands of hashtagged photos and videos uploaded to social media every day, the brand runs a variety of contests to get the best UGC. They recently launched the GoPro Awards, a comprehensive program that will distribute up to $5 million annually to content creators. It includes always-on rewards, ranging from $500 for memorable photos to $5000 for edited video, as well as challenges in a variety of genres like Best Trick Shot and Wild Jobs.

Stunning UGC, like this Lion Hug video, has helped elevate GoPro from an electronics company to a lifestyle brand.

While GoPro is in a unique position since they literally sell content creating machines, they also have developed a community that no other camera maker has been able to replicate. Litchfield attributes this to their intense focus on engaging and empowering users.

“There is no such thing as boring products—every product has a fan,” she said. “Find a way to connect with them, even if it’s in a quirky way.”

Solve real problems

Before you a make significant commitment to any content program, it is crucial that you’re grounding each decision data.

“It’s hard to solve problems and move the needle,” said Wishnow. “A lot of what we think is game changing might look great and sound great in our heads, but it doesn’t actually solve customer or business problems in a functionally superior way.”

He explained that smart content strategies don’t start with “we need to personalize” or even “we need to have 360 rotating product views on every page.” Rather they begin with the problems that those ideas might solve, like users not having enough context to make a purchase, and determine if those problems are actually obstacles to a goal, such as increasing product page conversions. This process ensures you invest in only the most impactful content programs.

“I believe you get to continuous improvement not by leading with solutions that are innovative or considered best practices, but by solving the business and customer problems that most impact business goals,” Wishnow concluded.

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