Distribution Tactics in eCommerce

Effective eCommerce Content Distribution – The Roundtable

Jade Rattan 4 months ago

With continuous changes to the way we receive information, content distribution can seem like a daunting task for many. Even those who have been working within the SEO and marketing industry for years can still become stumped by a new campaign, or different way of working… there’s no wonder some ecommerce brands don’t know where to start! And with so many platforms and techniques, we want to hear from those inside the machine to find out the top tips on eCommerce distribution strategies.

We spoke to Alina Ghost at Amara, Jared Gifford of jared_ldn, and Kirsty Merrett of Labels For Lunch, to take a look at how they approach content distribution, what tactics they use, what successes they have seen, and most importantly what they’ve learnt.

Speaking with brands and influencers, we examined the highs and lows of content distribution.

Alina Ghost

SEO manager at Amara, Blogger at fairytaleprettypicture.co.uk and Podcaster at SEO with Mrs Ghost.

With more than six years of search industry knowledge behind her, Alina has worked with the likes of Carpetright, Debenhams and Tesco.

Jared Gifford

London-based menswear and lifestyle content creator. Digital marketer and influencer @jared_ldn. With just under 30K Instagram followers, Jared has been building a name for himself in the London blogger sphere. Focusing on menswear and ‘London life’ Jared has ample experience working on his content, and with other brands.

Kirsty Merrett

Lifestyle blogger with a love of colour and luxury. Usually found smiling, whilst blogging at www.fashionforlunch.net.

Kirsty is a blogger, photographer, and freelance social media specialist. With 20K subscribers to her blog, and a combined 73K followers on her Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube (all at @labelsforlunch), she has plenty of experience in the blogger sphere. Kirsty’s YouTube channel is a new venture for her.

Let’s get started…

1) How do you believe content marketing within the eCommerce industry differs to other sectors?

Alina – The collection of different forms of data makes content marketing much more precise online in my opinion. Unlike traditional forms of marketing, for example, which uses surveys or viewership estimations to get content in front of their audience, the eCommerce industry is able to use granular, albeit aggregated and unidentifiable, information about their customer to surface the right content at the right place at the right time.

Jared – Content within the eCommerce industry has become fiercely competitive in my opinion. With thousands of websites selling a range of products and brands popping up every week, your usual lifestyle image of a product on Facebook just isn’t enough to stand apart from the rest.

Content in the eCommerce industry has, for the successful, developed into more complex media with various distribution channels. From mini documentaries, as seen by Bremont, more community-driven work such as Nike’s ‘Nothing beats a Londoner’, or even outfit hauls.

Kirsty – I think with content marketing there has to be a meeting of minds. Sometimes brands come to me with an idea that I don't think will work with my audience but I know if we change a few things it will. We need to work together to make it fit for my audience and hopefully turn them into a customer.

I think of every partnership as exactly that, I don't feel like I'm a 'cookie cutter' blogger and I don't want my partnerships to feel cookie cutter either. It's important to remember that readers are smart and I want them to have a really positive experience when engaging with my content.

2) Are there any distribution tactics you favour more to others within eCommerce/when working with an eCommerce brand, and why?

Alina – It very much depends on the piece of content but being a true SEO I have to stick with that, because that’s what I know best. I wouldn’t say it’s the fast option but it’s definitely an effective, long-term solution.

Jared – Instagram is my favourite option when it comes to generating content. It is the easiest platform to share videos/images and has the potential to reach a large audience.

Aside from Instagram, I think email is a powerful but neglected channel when it comes to putting out branded content. For both young and older audiences, email is a gateway into your website. It’s a call-to-action that notifies people – ‘Why not have a browse?’ and with plenty of platforms available, designing one that fits around your brand is easy.

Kirsty – Personally, I love to work on projects which have a mix between immediate impact and evergreen content. For instance, I did a project where I made over my front door, the initial impact on Twitter and Instagram was great, but two years on, the blog post and Pinterest pins are still getting a huge amount of traction. For me, that's the best kind of collaboration! I class Twitter, Instagram, Instagram stories and Snapchat as platforms which give immediate impact and YouTube, blog and Pinterest as platforms which give long-term results for evergreen content.

3) What are your most, and least effective distribution channels?

Alina – I was speaking to lecturer and published author Daniel Rowles in a podcast (Episode 11 – May 30, 2018) and he has the right idea when he states that it’s not about doing one or the other. Effective distribution has to be all of the channels working together. Take a step back and think about the bigger picture, then use all of the tools you have available to make the best possible impact.

Jared – Although I favour Instagram and email as distribution channels, I think many of the main distribution channels are effective when practiced right.

I’ve spoken frequently with PR's about Twitter for example. Often seen as a channel that provides no real benefit to eCommerce, yet is a channel thriving with discussion. There’s more than 300 million Twitter users, speaking about what they like and hate.

This is discussion that can be used in the eCommerce industry. Fast fashion industries such as Missguided and PrettyLittleThing use Twitter frequently to give their brand a tone of voice and create discussion that surrounds the brand. Yet it is such a neglected platform when it comes to PR and marketing because people try to use it like they would Facebook or Instagram.

Use Twitter the right way, and it could be a very powerful marketing tool.

Kirsty – I think this really depends on the audience - for instance, my readers are a little older, so Snapchat isn't really the platform for me, plus because I rarely use it, it's even less for me! I generally find my blog and Instagram drive the most sales, but I also have a tiny YouTube channel and amazingly, even though my audience is the smallest on there, it still converts well sales-wise for brands as they are engaged with the content.

4) Do you value video, and other interactive content ideas for eCommerce, and do you think they work?

Jared – I think that video is dominant when it comes to the future of content, but I think that brands focus too heavily on product-focused videos without putting their product into the life of the customer. The role of content creators is to produce photo/video content that applies to the customer, giving a personal touch to the industry.

Alina – There are more people watching video online (such as YouTube) than there are those who watch TV. When it comes to selling products specifically, video is a great tool to increase conversion and help prospective customers decide whether or not they should buy your product. I can say a lot more about video but let me just say this; a well-optimised video has great potential but is hard to get right, so make sure that you have a clear goal and strive towards it.

Kirsty – Video is brilliant, I think you can get the same amount of connection from one video that you get from ten blog posts, however, it's very tricky to get the filming, lighting, lenses and overall voice right on Youtube. It's a really lengthy process which I don't think brands realise. However, the great thing about Youtube is that even if it doesn't have any immediate impact, it can pick up after a few months and then hit a wider audience!

5) What do you believe to be the most successful piece of content you have distributed, and why?

Alina – My team and I at Amara last year announced the winner of our Student Interior Designer competition. We saw monumental engagement with the page, where you could vote for your favourite student moodboard every 24 hours. We saw universities and colleges talk about the competition and had reputable interior design lecturers help with the brief. The competition out-performed its targets and this was due to the extensive collaborations and relationship building with the relevant people, early planning, display and social media advertising and of course, hard work.

Jared – The most successful content that I put out for a brand was a student discount campaign for a footwear brand. The brand chose me because I fit the target audience, we distributed the imagery on my Instagram page, and then it was used on the landing page, website and email campaigns.

It was a really successful campaign because multiple distribution channels were used, with someone in the demographic, to create content that was a lot more personal.

There is zero point in creating one-off content. I cannot stress this enough for brands looking to use content creators/bloggers to promote their brand. If you’re going to pay for content, make sure you have a plan for it and use your platform to boost it. H&M didn’t pay for David Beckham to be the face of its brand for it then not to put his face on billboards. Don’t rely heavily on one channel for your content and re-market. You are wasting your budget if you’re not using the content to its full potential.

Kirsty – I think I would have to split it in to two categories, long-term and short-term performance. I posted a rug on Instagram and the brand saw a spike in sales that weekend and I think sold out within a few days, which was really cool as it's a huge nationwide brand!

One of my favourite long-term successes was a blog post I created for a small business, because I sent hundreds of clicks to its website every month for years afterwards and that felt really good to be a big part of its successful distribution!

6) Have any ideas you’ve had, or content you’ve created not worked due to distribution tactics not being utilised in the right way?

Alina – To find content that works you must test new things. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes a method that worked for someone else will not work for you. A piece of content that didn’t do as well as I hoped was seasonal, specifically for Mother’s Day. Due to tight time-limitations we saw that the UK article specifically did not see any traction. Planning and a budget for distribution across channels will ensure that this doesn’t happen to the next one.

Jared – I think video content I’ve created in the past has been less successful than I wished it to be, and this is often due to budgets that restrict the content you can produce. It is a lot easier to take photos, edit them and ensure that everything is as you want it to be. With video it’s a lot more difficult, you can’t as easily edit and cut to show products in the way you want them to be shown.

Kirsty – It's hard to say really because you never know what could have been. The most frustrating thing is when you post a brilliant piece of content on Instagram and because of the algorithm it quickly flops. Using the #AD can often really stunt the natural reach of a post and it's no-ones fault, it's just the way Instagram's algorithm works. If this happens, I often put a little bit of budget behind the post to compensate for the fact that it didn't reach it's organic potential, but it could be great if eCommerce brands started working a little extra budget into boosting each piece of sponsored content.

7) At what stage of the process do you start to plan how your content will be distributed?

Alina – As soon as you have an idea of the form of your content, ie: video, banner or article, that’s when you can start making a list of all the places you can use to push it.

Jared – I tend to focus the distribution channels around the content. I plan out what I want to create, and then ask ‘how can this be used effectively?'. Then I’ll find a way to use content in other channels to its advantage.

8) Have you noticed any major changes in the past 12 months, or any trends for this year?

Jared – There’s been a heavier focus on more unedited content. Many brands and eCommerce industries are favouring content that’s less ‘photoshopped’ and more ‘real’- this ranges from using customer imagery as user generated content, to putting products in selfies and vlogs. It’s great to see content that is a bit more ‘real’ and it’s also a lot more cost effective for start-up brands.

Alina– I think that change is coming, specifically around voice search devices. Predictions are flying around the net suggesting that 50% of searches will be made by voice by 2020. That suggests a very different way of looking for products, places to eat and things to see. Keep this in mind as distribution, and hence the content, changes accordingly!

Kirsty – I've noticed Instagram is getting harder and harder - in short, it's feeling more like Facebook. I've been experimenting with TikTok recently and I have to admit, it's a lot of fun! It's really light-hearted and there are some amazing filters and effects which are super creative and way ahead of Snapchat and Instagram story filters; it's short funny videos, a little line Vine used to be. I'm not sure how it will work with brands and product placement, but I don't think that's important right now - it’s not that long ago that brands didn't value Instagram content because there was no clickable links and look how that changed. If a platform 'speaks' to your audience, then that's the most important thing!

9) Do you have any tips/advice for someone starting their own eCommerce business?

Alina – Be a sponge. We’re living in a great age where we can learn whatever we want to or need to by simply typing things into a computer (or speaking to it!). Start with the basics and make the most of the resources available to you in order to maximise your efforts when it comes to content creation and its distribution.

Jared – Be yourself and use what you’re good at to your advantage. I’ve seen a lot of people try to create content that just isn’t them. You don’t have to jump to creating stunning videography or photoshopped lifestyle images if you’re not feeling it for your brand. Be consistent with your content and don’t let the industry peer-pressure you. All types of content can be valuable if it’s been grown and had work put into it.

Kirsty – Communicate with the brand ambassadors and chat through ideas for collaborations. Also, remember that everyone has a different journey, so try not to compare yourself to others. Focus on the quality of your content and the positive impact you can have on the audience. Positivity is everything for me, I want my readers to leave my blog and platforms feeling great and I want brands I collaborate with to feel really positive about the working relationship and the content produced.

Conclusion

Content marketing is not always easy, and can be a challenge at times. Brands wanting to break into the world of content can have access to a lot more information than other forms of marketing, however, this can be overwhelming. Brands need to learn how to work smarter (not ALWAYS harder...)

Key Takeaways:

  • Both the brands and influencers we spoke to find challenges when working collaboratively, however, these are challenges that can be overcome. In this industry, communication and honest conversations are the key to success. If you think something might work better using a different angle, then say so!
  • Video is, and still will be big in 2019. All of the people we spoke to value video in some form. The key to success is ensuring your video is optimised and well thought out. Take the time to research into your audience, and ensure you’re hitting the right market. (The same can be said for ALL the content you create, too!)
  • Trial and error will always be a stumbling block. Updates, and new algorithms on whatever platform you are working on will make you sit back, and re-think your content strategy. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in content marketing.
  • The most successful pieces of content, are well thought out, collaborative campaigns. While this is no surprise and nothing new, many brands still don’t work in this way. One-off pieces might work well in the short-term, but for true success, you need a well thought out, long-term content strategy with effective distribution to get it in front of your audience of value.
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