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Ecommerce Content Marketing: How to Create Influential Content for Your Store

Ecommerce content marketing

Published by

January 3, 2018

Why is ecommerce content marketing so popular?

The rise of the Internet and increasing popularity of its new, lucrative ecommerce channel drove the competition for customers attention to ever higher levels. And traditional marketing approaches became less and less effective.

It was no longer enough to just flaunt great images of products on your web page, or write a few lines of cursory product descriptions. Customers, able to access hundreds of different sources of information in short time and with minimum effort, started to demand more from sellers.

This gave rise to a form of indirect marketing that tried to engage the customers in a learning process. Instead of providing only product promotion, marketing started to tackle education through helpful content.

The idea was that by providing useful information to prospects, you can create that coveted “know, like, trust” relationship between you and your prospects. This is high time to introduce a scientific approach to that concept.

Cialdini’s principles of persuasion and how they apply to content creation & marketing

Robert Cialdini, an eminent professor of psychology and marketing, formulated basic principles of influence in his seminal work Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Since its publication in 1984., it’s become a basic textbook for marketing and has found special use in online marketing.

Cialdini’s six basic principles are Reciprocity, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Authority, Liking, and Scarcity.

We have a great article on our blog covering conversion psychology and elsewhere to help you get started with Cialdini, so be sure to read them. Understanding the basic principles of persuasion is necessary to create high-converting content.

So how can you apply Cialdini’s principles to enhance the effects of your content marketing for your ecommerce store? Let’s first briefly examine the types of content.

Common forms of content marketing


There’s no shortage of guides for how to write blogs on the Internet, so I’ll include just a few of the most important points for novice blog-writers:

  • Keep blog topics practical and useful
  • Identify your audience and address them in the tone and language they use and like
  • Format the article so it’s easy to read, and use imagery to break up the article flow

Blog posts are one of the primary tactics of inbound marketing, as a device to draw attention of people who never heard of your or your company. Practical and informative topics along with a well written blog can create reciprocity, liking and authority.


Making videos may be more technically demanding, but videos are becoming an obligatory element of content marketing. According to a recent study, over 70% of marketers say that video improved conversion rates better than any other content marketing effort.

Video content can be placed on your website, video sharing services like Wistia or Vimeo, and increasingly on social or specialized channels like Snapchat.

Videos can be educational, inspirational, entertaining, or even raise a question. If they are fun, the videos can generate liking.

Community participation (Social Publishing)

The existence of numerous social networking platforms has given rise to a huge number of communities related to all sorts of fields and interests.

By constructively participating in communities related to your niche, you can increase the recognition of your brand and drive users to visit your site. Do this by giving out some relatively valuable information for free, and answering other users’ questions. Valuable communities for this sort of activity can be focused question-and-answer forums like Quora, or social networks, like Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

This is another way to draw attention of new prospects, as by providing useful information and help on topics close to your field of business can help create authority, as well as liking.


E-books complement blogging, and in fact, a successful series of blog articles can be turned into an e-book with comparatively low effort.

Like blogs, the contents of an e-book should share your knowledge of your field, help your prospects realize that there are solutions to their problems, and show them that you are qualified and able to solve those problems. E-Books can be seen as a way to delight your users and visitors with some smart content.

E-Mail content

Using email to get into contact with prospects is a good method of content marketing. By sending out newsletters, drip campaigns or surveys, you can establish a personal contact with prospect to increase liking and if you provide valuable content, you will have used reciprocity successfully as well. Before you do attempt it, make sure you personalize your email campaigns. Studies, such as this one, show that personalized email messages have 10% more conversions, 6X higher transaction values, and segmented and personalized email campaigns created 58% of revenue.

Emails are best used a mean to close the deals and turn your prospects into visitors.


As a special type of content, there are podcasts – podcasts represent audio content you broadcast on a regular basis. Audio content puts your prospects in direct contact with you and creates a link between you and them. Podcasts help build authority and reach, with the additional possibility of generating liking for you.

Other forms of content marketing

Other forms of content marketing are mostly tied into e-books or blog posts in the form of various content upgrades such as checklists, guides and infographics. These forms help further build up authority, and may even invite commitment if you require your prospect to turn up or a call or a webinar, for example.

Now that we summarized common types of content marketing, let’s look at a few examples, analyze which principle is at work, and dig into the tactics being used.

1. Reciprocity

Successful use of the reciprocity principle in content marketing depends on two things:

  • Your content must be genuinely useful to your audience
  • You must offer it for free

If your content provides something valuable, your audience will naturally want to return the favor. Virtually every company blog worth its salt uses this approach to inform its blogging strategy.

Some of the best examples come from SaaS companies, simply because it is very easy to link their products to content.

For example, Formisimo, a company that created a form analytics service, offers a free guide on how to make your forms more accessible, based on experiences of their subscribers. This content perfectly complements their own software solution for tracking forms. Thus by providing a free and valuable resource, they get prospects interested in how Formisimo solution can help them.

Of course, in order to get your whitepaper, you need to provide Formisimo with a lead in the form of e-mail address. Formisimo counts on the fact that prospects will be grateful for a great and actionable content provided for free and get them to subscribe to their service.

Here’s Formisimo landing page for their whitepaper.
Here’s Formisimo landing page for their whitepaper.

Crazy Egg maintains an extensive blog that not only promotes their service, but educates and informs readers on many topics related to online marketing.

As one of the leading CRO agencies puts it:

“Let’s say that you’re running a popular blog that offers its readers highly actionable and practical information that makes their lives better. Of course, all of this information is offered for free; they just have to visit your site and absorb all of the details. Based on the idea of reciprocity, your site visitors would be more likely to feel obligated to buy something from your website, providing you with an eventual conversion.” – Marc Schenker for ConversionXL

Symantec, a computer and network security company, also focuses on content marketing.

Their blog, Security Response, offers alerts and descriptions of the latest malware, spyware, and viruses, often including instructions on how to avoid being affected and even occasionally offering tools to remove serious threats.

Symantec, a computer and network security company, also focuses on content marketing.

Their blog, Security Response, offers alerts and descriptions of the latest malware, spyware, and viruses, often including instructions on how to avoid being affected and even occasionally offering tools to remove serious threats.

Symantec’s blog, where its targets find useful information.
Symantec’s blog, where its targets find useful information.

Symantec’s objective is to provide their prospects with valuable information or tools for free; their expectation is that a grateful reader will eventually return to buy one of their products.

By providing free tools, they foster trust in their audience — and make sure that they’re the first company that audience remembers when they need computer security.

2. Commitment and consistency

Commitment and consistency means to try to get prospects to commit to a course of action. People generally like to be consistent and if they make a commitment, they will likely to follow through. This tendency can be used by presenting aspirational image of your target audience predisposition so they will want to commit to it and follow through to conversion. To make this possible, you need to research your target audience and discover which “personas” identify with which content.

(We should note that, while “marketing persona” is a common buzzword, your personas should be based on real audience research, not imaginary.)

By being consistent with the prospect’s frame of mind, you will invite commitment. This is how Anthropologie, a clothing retailer, approaches content marketing. They created a blog that presents the base values of their brand and stays consistent with the aspirational self-image of their ideal customers.

Anthropologie’s style blog, which appeals to its target market.
Anthropologie’s style blog, which appeals to its target market.

Another good example is General Assembly, a website that provides online education in programming languages and digital marketing. Their blog and other content usually contains phrases like “become a better programmer” or “make yourself into a scarce resource,” and this theme persists throughout all of their content — course descriptions, blog posts, and email newsletters.

General Assembly’s self-reflective blog.
General Assembly’s self-reflective blog.

Like Anthropologie, General Assembly presents an aspirational image that its readers can identify with. They invite prospects to commit to this higher self-ideal, then invite them to subscribe to the GA email list, which fosters consistency with that self-image.

3. Social Proof

“Social proof” in marketing refers to showing the universal or near-universal popularity of your products or services, and the beneficial results previous customers have obtained from using those products or services.

It’s one of the strongest possible forms of persuasion, especially if it comes from a peer group of customers. To implement social proof effectively, it must be authentic and provide useful and detailed feedback to visitors.

Amazon offers an excellent example of social proof done right. They have an extensive review system, and even the reviews themselves are graded by other users for their value. That way, users don’t even need to sift through many reviews to find the ones that will provide them with the most information and help them make a purchase decision.

Amazon’s review system prioritizes the most helpful positive and negative reviews.
Amazon’s review system prioritizes the most helpful positive and negative reviews.

The reviews can be sorted by rating, or by whether they are positive or negative. This type of social proof is very effective and represents additional content and in of itself, volunteered by customers.

Another company that uses social proof to its benefit is Sony. Here is how they organize and sort reviews of their products:

Sony’s feature-comparison review system.
Sony’s feature-comparison review system.

Their system is very similar to Amazon’s, but they also support grades for specific features of each product, so you can compare which features are more important.

4. Authority

Content marketing also helps establish your website’s authority to your prospects. I’m not talking about “authority” in the SEO sense, but rather showing them that you’re a trustworthy expert in your niche.

If your website is a valuable source of new information that readers can trust and rely upon, they’ll visit more frequently. And if they become frequent visitors because your content provides something of value, they will be more likely to convert.

Consider Symantec’s content marketing again. By providing accurate and useful security information, Symantec establishes the impression that they know what they are doing in the field of digital security — so readers will turn to them when they encounter a security issue.

Another good example is Philip Patek, a Swiss watch company. Their website content is created around the importance of handcrafted items and a detail-oriented production process. By describing the process, they show their expertise and underscore the value of their product.

Ecommerce content marketing - Philip Patek
Ecommerce content marketing – Philip Patek

5. Liking

The principle of liking is simple: if your visitors like you, they will be more likely to convert.

So, if you provide interesting and entertaining content that people like, they’ll like you — and you increase the probability that many of them will eventually convert.

For example, Patagonia, an outdoor gear and sportswear seller, has a blog where they post many stories about the environment, preservation, and similar topics. They want their target audience, mostly people who enjoy nature, to like them for their environmentalist stance. That way, Patagonia will be the first brand those readers think of when deciding to purchase a new backpack for their next outdoor adventure.

Ecommerce content marketing - Patagonia
Ecommerce content marketing – Patagonia

6. Scarcity

The concept of scarcity is usually implemented in content marketing as imposing some sort of limitation on a product or service’s availability.

When you introduce scarcity, the prospect will perceive the offer as limited. You’re introducing the fear of missing out. If employed correctly, scarcity (and its sister concept, urgency) can push a prospect to “ACT NOW!” — namely convert.

Of course, scarcity must be authentic, otherwise it will backfire badly.

“Content supply is nearly ubiquitous, but time remains in constant scarcity for the consumer. Those who can attract engagement, particularly on a per-category and per-asset basis, are onto something powerful. – Josh Rucci, General Manager and Global Head of Bloomberg Content Service

An example of the scarcity principle in use is how Business Insider markets their exhaustive industry wide studies. By using an email campaign, they reach out to their leads and offer premium content for extremely low price for a limited time.

Ecommerce content marketing - Business Insider
Business insider intelligence uses scarcity to and FOMO to get leads to convert in their email content marketing campaign.

How to link content marketing to conversions

The hardest part of content marketing is actually getting readers to convert after reading your blogs or viewing your videos. The first thing you need to achieve through your content is to get people to like you. As I said in the beginning, people are more likely to do business with someone they like.

To that purpose, make your content as entertaining as possible! Insert witty jokes, use funny images to link the meaning of your article to something your audience can relate, like movies, books, or other popular culture.

Plus, by offering your prospects and readers useful information, you have created a bond between them and you. If they can immediately make use of this information to help them in some way, later on, they will want to return the favor in some way. This is why it’s a good practice to ask your audience to provide their contact information or register for your email list.

The most common way to get visitors to provide you with personal information is to offer additional content that’s related or relevant to the content they were just engaged with. You can offer a follow up article on a similar subject when they reach the end of a blog, for example.

This extra content can also take the form of an “offer” or “upgrade” (like an ebook, checklist, email series, etc.) that builds on or goes into deeper detail about the given topic.

Getting visitors’ contact information will enable you to remarket to them with additional content and calls to action to purchase your actual product or service.

Even if they only provide contact information and one small piece of personal information (such as country or gender), this info can be very useful for learning more about your audience, establishing personas, targeting more effectively, and coming up with new content ideas. By personalizing your content in this way, you will naturally encourage your audience to like you even more.

Getting to know your audience and target market is by far the greatest value of content marketing. By increasing your prospects’ awareness of your brand and your expertise, and fostering knowledge of your products and services, you ensure that people will remember you at the moment they need what you offer.

The best use of content marketing

The basic idea of content marketing is to help you identify your customers and initiate their buying cycle with your content. The typical buying cycle consists of the following steps:

Ecommerce content marketing - typical buying cycle
Image source: iFormat digital strategy agency

Buying Cycle Step 1: Awareness

As you have seen, a well-formed content marketing strategy can have the direct result of increasing your prospect’s awareness of your brand, your product, and problems your product solves. This provides the initial nudge to start moving your customer through the cycle.

Awareness-stage prospects are best addressed with content built around authority, commitment and consistency.

Buying Cycle Step 2: Research

Your content must provide the prospect with relevant, authentic, and clear information so they can confirm that what you’re offering actually solves their problem and that you know what you are talking about. When a prospect is in the research phase, serve them content that increases authority, creates liking, and builds reciprocity.

Buying Cycle Step 3: Comparison

While you cannot offer direct comparison between your products and your competition, using content marketing you can establish a baseline and ease your customers ability to compare different products. Social proof and liking is essential in this phase of customer journey. When prospects want to compare your offer to your competitors, social proof and liking of your company and brand will sway them to your camp.

Buying Cycle Step 4: Purchase

Proper implementation of the previous steps will result in your prospect purchasing your product, and becoming a customer. Once this happens, it is time for content marketing to take over again. The purchase phase is mostly influenced by scarcity and authority. Scarcity convinces prospects that they shouldn’t miss your offer, and authority helps convince them that they’ve made the right choice and will not suffer buyer’s remorse.

Buying Cycle Step 5: Retention

When a customer purchases your product, the relationship between you and that customer is far from over (unless you sell coffins).

In fact, the buyer relationship can last for a long time. Business Insider shows that returning customers are both more likely to convert again and more likely to spend even more money.

Retention is best achieved by continuing your efforts to build authority, encourage liking, and appealing to customers’ desire for commitment and consistency.

These three elements will make prospects come back again and again because they like you, trust you, and identify with your brand and products. (For example, think of all the die-hard Apple users you know.)

That means you need to do everything you can to retain your existing customers — and content marketing plays a big part. Provide customers with support in the form of content that explains how your product works, how to fix common errors, or how to customize it so it can do something desirable.

Avoid these common content marketing mistakes

There are a few mistakes you can make in content marketing that can severely hamper the chances of this considerable effort being beneficial to your company.

The first mistake is going into it without any strategy. Before you start creating content, create a detailed blueprint of what you want to achieve, who you want to address, what channels to use, and a brand story.

A second common mistake is focusing on yourself. Successful content marketing focuses on solving customers’ problems and providing customers with additional value. Failing to do that relegates content marketing to just another form of product or brand promotion.

As Phil Laboon, CEO of Eyeflow, eloquently puts it:

“Everyone likes to think they know what’s best for their audience, but too many companies write content that sounds good to them. They focus only on topics that cover their own interests. If you want your content to be successful, you have to write with your audience in mind. Craft your content so it speaks to them about the issues they are actually facing.”

Pitching your products all over your content marketing is a common symptom of the second error and only compounds the problem. Refrain from pitching the product until your prospect has reached the third stage in the buying cycle and is actually considering a purchase.

Finally, your content must be informative, useful, and substantial. Failing to create content that hits all three points is another fatal error. Empty content that conveys no useful or valuable information is just noise.

Consider Cialdini before you create content, and you’ll convert

Properly conducted, your content marketing efforts can create vocal advocates for your brand out of your customers.

By relying on Cialdini’s principles of persuasion while you create your content, you’ll avoid the pitfalls of many content publishers, and win the appreciation, trust, respect, and reciprocity of your target customers.

You can use many different types of media to create your content. Whether you choose to write blog posts, film and post video content on your site, build communities on social networks, or write e-books, remember to highlight the problems that your target audience faces and show how to solve them.

To avoid making mistakes, always keep in mind that your prospects come first. Try to offer a view from their perspective and help them fulfill their goals. And don’t forget that many typical content marketing implementation mistakes can be avoided by creating a strategy before you start.

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Edin is a Senior CRO Consultant. Edin is into Google Analytics and testing (any A/B testing tool really) and likes to write about it. You can follow Edin on Twitter.