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Build Top-of-Funnel Content That Boosts Your Ecommerce Conversions

Ecommerce top of funnel content

Published by

March 1, 2018

Content marketing has become a vital part of every ecommerce website. But what exactly does “content marketing” include?

Content marketing is an information delivery system that serves three main functions:

  1. To grow your prospects’ knowledge of your product
  2. To increase their engagement with your website
  3. To boost your store’s SEO rank

At its most basic, content marketing means providing prospects with more than just the basic information on your products (AKA what’s typically found on product pages).

Your prospects need — nay, want! — more information. They want to know everything there is to know about your product.

Your aim in creating content should be to provide visitors with a reason to frequently visit your website, where they’ll find new and exciting blogs, videos, podcasts, products, you name it. The best way to bring users back is to identify their interests and create content that speaks to them.

However, not all content is equal — and not all of it serves the same purpose.

So how can you differentiate your content from competitors’ and make sure that each piece of content is doing its best work? Start by dividing your content by its location (or stage) in the purchase process.

Reassure & encourage prospects at the top of the funnel

On a typical ecommerce site, the purchase process is usually visualized and analyzed as a “funnel” of customer behavior. All prospects enter the purchase process at the top of the funnel.

The funnel’s purpose is to guide prospects through the purchase process by logically, sequentially presenting the steps necessary to buy. The prospect moves from adding a product to the cart, to customizing the product, to providing shipping and billing information, and finally to confirming the purchase.

To facilitate and encourage this process — and decrease the likelihood of the prospect abandoning their purchase halfway through — you need to provide constant reassurance.

Funnel entry is always marked by an event that constitutes a “macro conversion” (for example, adding a product to the cart). Not all prospects, and likely not even a majority, will proceed to the interim stages. Your funnel content should therefore aim to increase the number of prospects who reach the entry point of the funnel, AND who proceed to the next stage.

Ecommerce top of funnel content
Content at the top of the purchase funnel should aim to increase the percentage of visitors who enter and remain in the funnel

So what content will make visitors more likely to enter the funnel and move from the top to the middle? Generally speaking, most prospects at the top of the funnel are motivated to buy your product, and they’ve searched the web to find it (or a similar product).

Translating their existing motivation into a purchase depends on your ability to identify prospects’ needs, fears, and problems. By addressing these issues at the outset, you can significantly increase the likelihood that prospects will convert. You’ll also increase their engagement and persuade them to take micro-converting actions, such as subscribing to your newsletter, enabling notifications for your website, or even registering as members.

Understand your buyers’ mindset

Neuromarketing researchers have identified three basic types of buyer behavior, and categorized them by the propensity to spend money:

  1. Tightwads
  2. Spendthrifts
  3. Average spenders

Tightwads are extremely careful with their money to the point of not spending it at all. Spendthrifts are profligate buyers, best described as a store owner’s dream. And average spenders are just that: buyers who spend a moderate amount.

3 types of buyers
Source: Tightwads and Spendthrifts

These different types of buyers behave differently, which greatly influences the type of content they require to convert. The content you serve each buyer type needs to be tailor-made for them. It should alleviate their specific worries and prove that the product you offer is actually worth their money.

According to the aforementioned study, average buyers comprise 61% of all buyer types. Prior to purchasing an item, those buyers do a significant amount of research, and try to justify spending the money. While they are not burdened by the fear of “buyers remorse,” they still require sufficient reasons to spend their cash.

For most customers, the purchase process starts when they type a term in a search engine. Depending on your marketing spend, the uniqueness of your product or offer, and how well-known your website is, your store will hopefully display high enough on the search results pages to get customers to notice you. (For ecommerce websites, the search term will often be the name of a product or a product category.)

This makes your product and category pages prime landing page real estate, and the first contact point with the customer. As you’ll recall, product pages live at the very top of the purchase funnel. Usually, the prospect will add a product to the cart through a product page.

Having said this, your prospects may use a few other types of search terms to get to your website. They might state their problems, seek solutions, or look for answers to their questions. Each of these searches is an opportunity for your well-targeted SEO and ad campaigns to increase the likelihood that those prospects will end up on your website.

To illustrate what we mean, take a look at this search query. “How to set up a tent” gets us to a sporting goods ecommerce website:

Ecommerce top of funnel content-google - Google ad
A sporting goods website offers good advice on how to set up a tent… and sells tents, too

When we click through, we land on a page that offers more information directly related to our search query — AND a call to action that will bring us to a related product category page. Boom. There’s the purchase funnel entry.

Ecommerce top of funnel content - example shop with related gear CTA
Notice the “Shop related gear” CTA on the right sidebar

Here’s another example: a query about freeze motion photography brings up a number of results. One of these results is B&H Photo Video, which has a podcast about making freeze motion photography (using one of the products they sell).

Ecommerce top of funnel content - a search result for “freeze motion photography
A search result for “freeze motion photography”

Here’s the landing page to which that search result connects. Notice the emphasis on the Profoto D2, a product that B&H Photo Video sells.

Ecommerce top of funnel content - In addition to listening to the educational podcast, you can buy the equipment
In addition to listening to the educational podcast, you can buy the equipment.

These examples illustrate just two of the numerous ways you can get your products on the map — even without customers searching for the products directly.

In fact, by positioning your products as a solution to your prospects’ problems, you increase the likelihood that they’ll actually convert. This is especially true if you offer relevant, helpful advice on how exactly to use the product.

So it stands to reason that one of the best ways to engage customers at the top of the funnel is to publish a blog or video post, like we saw in the ads above. Content like this immediately links the product to either 1) a customer’s problems, 2) a customer’s life situation, or 3) a customer’s needs.

When prospects are researching products prior to buying, this type of content can greatly help them to compare your product to your competition’s and decide which is right for them.

Informative, educational content may be exactly the type of content that the “tightwad” buyer archetype needs to justify spending money. They’re likely searching for solutions to the problems, and their main aim is to reassure themselves that your product will address their needs.

Types of content that support conversion

Research

Usually, prospects do research prior to purchasing. In fact, studies show that 82% of all customers do online research prior to purchase. This number corresponds with the proportion of “tightwads,” “spendthrifts,” and “average spender” figures.

If we take it that “spendthrifts” comprise 15% of all customers, that means that roughly two percent of other buyers don’t do any research prior to purchase (most likely, these customers belong to the “average” group).

Spendthrifts will buy whatever they find given the slightest nudge — and their research, if any, will mostly concern actually locating the product. That means that when you create content for shoppers who do research, you should mostly be concentrating on average shoppers and tightwads. Given that tightwads are most concerned and research-oriented group, obviously, they will be the toughest sell.

According to research conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group, 60% of customers shopping for consumer electronics searched for more information on the product. Fifty-two percent compared prices and 34% sought for deals and coupons.

In the category of beauty and cosmetics products, 54% were looking for more product info, 44% compared prices, and 35% looked for coupons, promotions, or deals.

The content you create for the research phase of the purchase process should familiarize prospects with your brand, your products, and the problems you solve.

Let’s talk about what types of content serve this purpose, and examine how to create research-friendly content for ecommerce stores. If you provide adequate content for this stage in purchase process, it will increase the chances that your prospects advance to conversion.

The best types of content for this research-intensive stage are:

Blogs

The amount of product information that can fit into a blog post is huge. A blog post can be structured to provide not only basic information and product specifications, but to…

  • Present use cases
  • Provide detailed information on product development (when applicable)
  • Point out less obvious functions of the product

If your store sells a limited number of products, or limits itself to several distinct product categories, writing blog posts makes perfect sense.

Along with providing information on your products, blog posts can foster a connection between the prospect and your brand or site.

For example, Patagonia’s blog posts do not directly promote their products. Instead, they provide stories about things their target audience cares about.

Ecommerce top of funnel content - Patagonia
Patagonia’s blog The Cleanest Line usually presents subjects their audience cares about

Tightwads can find this type of content sufficiently incentivizing to tip them over to your side and convert them. If you write relevant blogs that show them you care about the same things they do, and your product really solves their problem or helps them in some way, you’ll go a long way toward alleviating their fears and worries.

“Purchase pain” or “pain of buying” is a psychological phenomenon that causes a consumer to stop and abandon the process of purchase in anticipation of possible buyer’s remorse. Tightwads experience an extreme variant of the pain of buying, and are thus very reluctant to part with their money.

Cost isn’t the only variable that causes “pain” — it’s really the perceived fairness or unfairness of the deal that creates the reaction. Other parts of an offer that caused it to appear unfair would presumably cause a similar reaction as a too-high price. – Neuromarketing Science

Plus, good blog posts can serve as a traffic acquisition tool and improve the SEO ranking of your ecommerce site.

“About” pages

For most ecommerce stores, About pages are usually viewed as a necessary evil. They serve a perfunctory role, giving the company name, address, and support info.

But if you approach your About page this way, you’ll miss an excellent opportunity to influence your customers and improve conversions. Your About page should convey the story of your company and set the tone for other interactions between prospects and your store.

Your About page should highlight the people who work with or for your store. It should include graphics or photos to help connect visitors with your brand, and provide up-to-date information that you feel your customers should know. Here’s what else a well-rounded ecommerce About page should include.

Product videos, how-to guides, FAQ pages

Need to promote a specific product or product feature? Blog posts can feel a bit too generic and unfocused.

Instead of writing a blog, prove to your prospects that your product solves their issues and then some by creating product videos, how-to guides, and FAQs.

The point is to tell a story, be honest and transparent, and entice prospects to buy the product. How-to guides can be useful to explain the process of using the product, especially if it’s complicated or involves multiple steps. A good example of this type of content is the “How to set up a tent” article example from earlier.

FAQ pages for a product can help customers solve common issues. However, if there are many FAQs about a product or feature that should be easy to use, you should consider updating your manual to make it more clear.

An FAQ section done right can be an effective addition to your website that serves several functions, from:

  • Alleviating purchasing anxieties that your product page copy doesn’t directly address.
  • Relieving some of the burden on customer support by publicly answering common questions.
  • Improving SEO and site navigation.
  • Earning trust by demonstrating product expertise and explaining your business model.
  • Delighting customers by creatively answering their questions.

Customer testimonials or case studies (if applicable)

If the product(s) you sell can be showcased by your customers in an honest and spontaneous setting, you can use testimonials or user reviews to your advantage.

When customers enter the top of the funnel, they’ll seek confirmation that the product they’re researching will actually work for them (solving their issue or benefiting them in some way). The best way to demonstrate or prove it is to present a peer opinion, review, or showcase by people similar to those customers.

Compare your product with others

Comparison is one of the inevitable phases of research. As we’ve seen, over 40% of customers compare products during their research.

The best way to improve their chances of conversion is to help customers compare your products.

Make it easy to access product specs, shipping information, price calculation, and answers to any other questions your customer may have. Try to be proactive. Conduct user research using surveys to find out the questions that aren’t being answered by your existing content.

Both tightwads and average customer groups will appreciate the effort you expend to be transparent and honest.

So unless you have a monopoly, and most likely you don’t, your customers are faced with a tremendously difficult choice.

Many customers don’t care too much about getting the perfect product and simply roll with the first one that feels right. But there is a big group of picky customers that will want to make sure they are making the best choice. These are the people that will ask you: “Of all the suppliers out there, why would I choose you?”, or “What are you doing better than X?”, etc.

However, the supplier that this customers finally chooses is not typically the optimal solution. No, it’s the supplier that answered this question clearly. – Userlike

In addition, you might want to check the websites of your direct competitors to devise a marketing pitch that’s clearer and more relevant than theirs. You can also update the format in which you provide your product specifications to make comparison easier (try presenting information in bullet points instead of paragraphs, for example).

Finally, if a customer does not convert, there are two more things you can get from them that don’t require a “macro” conversion. Even if they drop out of the conversion funnel prior to purchase, you can still get a micro-conversion in the form of lead collection.

Collecting leads

As a prospect reaches your website, start tracking their behavior. Observe as they progress through various stages of your conversion funnel. Using tools like Google Analytics or Kissmetrics, you can find out what type(s) of content the prospect consumed and show them a relevant call-to-action to capture their contact information.

This micro-conversion creates a commitment on the prospect’s part, and enables you to enhance your impact through directly sending that prospect content via a newsletter, email series, a call, or another form of direct communication.

Even better than getting a lead and creating that bigger commitment? Getting a prospect to register as a member on the site.

Encouraging registration

If you offer membership on your site, you should try to get prospects to register and create an account. For example, if a prospect shows interest in a particular product (say they frequently view the product, spend a lot of time reading about it, view a video, or download documentation) you can invite them to set up an account and add that product to their wishlist or notifications list.

If a prospect takes this step, they’ll be more likely to purchase that product in the future.

Custom content should inform your buyer personas

Getting customers to proceed from the top to the middle of the funnel is frequently the most challenging obstacle for ecommerce stores. Of all the prospects who abandon the cart or the funnel, nearly 60% of them drop out at the initial step. The reasons for abandonment are various, and the stats show that many prospects were simply not ready to buy yet.

You can leverage different types of content to guide your prospects and help them overcome any reluctance they may have about your products.

Bear in mind that sometimes, all the effort in the world won’t convince some tightwads to open their wallets and spend money. But your content should still aim to give prospects enough information and point out your product’s benefits in order to overcome all but the most extreme pain of buying.

Using buyer traits as a part of your persona models is a smart move, since this enables you to lead customers of a particular group to customized content. The more you customize and add detail (based in real data, of course) to your personas, the more you can personalize your message to each prospect.

Of course, not every ecommerce store can publish product blogs or videos. If you sell thousands of products, you will likely be hard-pressed to choose which products to promote. But you can still make an effort to connect to your prospects and offer them content that allows them to identify with your store.

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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.