March 1, 2016
3 Ways to Accelerate Digital Commerce with Content Management

Savvy retailers understand that content sells. It's not enough to just have a catalog; consumers spend a lot of time researching and learning about products long before they make an actual purchase. Brands need to figure out how to integrate content into their ecommerce strategy. The key is to create a voice for the brand and tell a story, strategically using content to drive purchases.  

Unfortunately most ecommerce platforms do not provide the content management capabilities needed to manage content-driven commerce experiences. Content-based promotions, expert articles, media, community, and other digital content play an important role in the modern commerce experience. By intelligently aligning your content management system with your ecommerce platform you can elevate your customer experience, increasing check-outs and conversions, ultimately growing your business. 

Let's look at three ways you can integrate your web content management platform with your ecommerce system to drive better digital commerce experiences.

Manage Promotions 

Promotions are activities that encourage consumers to buy a product or service. They could be discounts, special offers such as two-for-one, BOGO (buy one get one free), recommended additional products, and so on. When a consumer comes to your website or looks at a product or category of products on your website, you can show specific promotions.  

You show promotions through widgets, sliders or special content blocks managed in your web content management system and connected to the ecommerce website using CMS taxonomy and metadata. By tracking the performance of these promotions using analytics you can update content in the CMS if a promotion isn't performing as expected.  

You can also personalize promotions based on the visitor. Tracking the visitor's activity on your site enables you to determine programmatically the best promotions and deliver them using predefined content blocks created and managed through your CMS.  

For example, you create a promotion for a new pair of sneakers that offers a 20% discount on athletic apparel if you purchase the sneakers. Throughout the promotion period, you track the sales on your sneakers and related apparel and notice sales are not increasing. You can now easily go into the CMS and adjust the promotion to be 30% off apparel and have the change reflected in real-time on the ecommerce site. 

Content Marketing and Native Ads

Studies show that consumers prefer content-based advertising to traditional ads. Content-based advertising includes things like blog posts, articles, research and so on that may or may not be directly related to the product being sold. This content can be linked to products using taxonomy and metadata. It's  often shown alongside the product or in a blog on the ecommerce site.

For example, someone is looking at skis for their son for Christmas. You might place a widget next to the product list linking to an article on how to select the best pair of skis or an article on safe skiing tips for teenagers.  This type of content demonstrates to the buyer that you not only sell the product, but you know about proper selection and usage. Expert content translates in many consumers' minds to your skis being the best made encouraging conversion.  

Native advertising is another form of content marketing that is gaining traction. Native Ads, or sponsored content, are articles, blog posts or something similar that tell a story that indirectly relates to a product you sell. 

Native advertising involves creating content for other sites, apart from your ecommerce site that demonstrates your knowledge of a specific topic related to your product or service. Consumers researching products may see your content and read it. Although this content does not mention your product directly, the consumer sees may attempt to find more information from you about the topic and click through to your website now or later on.   

All of the content created in content marketing activities is created and managed within your CMS. From there it is promoted through various channels - website, social, search, and distributed to non-owned channels. 

Unified Search 

Search is an essential strategy for commerce. But your search does not need to be limited to your product catalog. You should align the search experience with your customer personas and buying stages to help move buyers through the customer journey.

There are two key search strategies that support commerce: faceted search and federated search. Faceted, or "guided" search provides the ability to narrow or expand search results by a set of categories or content types. When developing a faceted search experience, include narrative content and media results along with products, and clearly merchandise the content, so it's relevant to the buyer.   

In the example below you can see how Home Hardware shows both Product results and Expert Advice (content results) in a search for fences. The "how to" articles help buyers understand the products need, and also encourages cross-selling by promoting a project. This idea of using content to drive bundle purchases, such as kits and assays in scientific catalogs; outfits, and accessories in clothing, increases average order size and better serves customers.  

The second strategy is federated search. Federated simply means that you are searching across multiple systems or applications. Assuming your content and catalog are managed in different applications, you use federation to create a seamless customer experience and make content and products discoverable in a single search experience. 

Open Your Borders

Today too many commerce sites use hard borders between the catalog and content. You need to "go" to the commerce site. But consumers often want to view product information in the context of the overall website and view premium content in the catalog.  

The best approach to creating an ecommerce site today is to build your site on a modern web framework that shares templates and technology across CMS and commerce platforms. This enables you to align your technology across all your web-based systems. Aligning on a specific technology enables you to co-mingle your content and commerce elements into a single web experience, yet keep them separate so you can easily reuse your content in different ways.   

Microsoft ASP.NET MVC or similar frameworks provide the ability to manage templates that share the same view, but interweave product catalog information with web content, delivering a seamless customer experience.  

Bringing content and commerce under a single roof also gives the content manager more visibility into the customer experience. They can see what products are most popular and develop content and promotions around those products. They can see the products that aren't selling as well, or what promotions and content marketing aren't converting.  

In addition, integrating your CMS with your ecommerce system provides you with a customer experience editor or presentation view so you can easily change the look and feel of the shopping experience.  

The combination of content and commerce is critical to success.  It can be achieved through a well planned integration of your web content management and ecommerce platforms. When planning your commerce strategy and technology stack, look for an agile CMS that aligns with your commerce application, and think about how a Web CMS can help you deliver a more successful customer experience. 

A version of this article originally appeared in CMS Wire

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