Commerce needs curated content — and a content platform

The concept of customer satisfaction has been around since the 40s, where car dealerships launched progressive marketing efforts by sending out customer surveys in the 60s.

Fast-forward to the influx of Amazon reviews in the 90s, and the proliferation of customer engagement on social media and other digital channels, all of which has made the opinions of consumers difficult to ignore and impossible to hide.

Successful companies know that the key to longevity is adopting business strategies and technologies that prioritize and extend customer satisfaction. A key to doing this is through curated content and a content platform. 

Leading ecommerce brands go beyond adopting digital retail tools that address product inventory management, order management, and payment gateways.

They understand that making customers happy (and encouraging repeat purchases) has a lot to do with providing the right content at the right time on the most appropriate channel — which is where a content management solution comes in.

While some ecommerce platforms offer content management features, they rarely support the consistency, flexibility, and experimentation that brands need to address ever-changing desires. 

What’s a better ecommerce content management solution? We’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s dive deeper into the content. 

The buyer’s journey: How content carries customers from one stage to the next

If you aren’t convinced that content plays a major role in ecommerce, perhaps getting more granular will help. We’ll look at how content weaves through each stage of the buyer’s journey — awareness, consideration, decision — and ultimately helps customers progress.

Awareness

During this stage of the buyer’s journey, customers notice a problem that becomes so annoying, frustrating and possibly painful that it can no longer be ignored. They’re pulled into a rabbit hole of Google searches and conversations with friends to figure out the “why” behind their problem. They’ll consult blogs and social media posts that inform them about their concern or provide comfort. Brands with well-optimized, SEO-friendly content are more likely to reach customers at this stage, as search engines will rank their content higher, increasing its visibility. 

Consideration

Once customers understand the “why” of their problem and can see a future free of it, they begin considering viable solutions. At this point, they dive into how to solve their problem. They survey products and services and consult FAQ pages, knowledge bases, and customer reviews to narrow the options. Information that is self-serve and easily discoverable via search or site navigation is most attractive to customers as it speeds up their research process and communicates that a brand is both supportive and transparent. 

Decision

When consumers have narrowed down their options to such a degree where only the frontrunners remain, it’s time to make the final decision — which also means making a purchase. At this stage, consumers might be deciding between two competitors or similar offerings by a single brand. Before moving to the checkout page, they might revisit online store product pages to double-check pricing and product details. Brands that err on the side of offering too much information in these areas have the best chance of addressing lingering concerns. 

At every stage of the buyer's journey, content must support, inform and advise customers as they make their way to their final destination — the checkout page.

Common customer complaints and content platform-driven solutions

When done properly, content drives conversion in commerce. The opposite can be said for improper content management, delivery and optimization, which bugs rather than beguiles online shoppers.

The findings of Contentful’s “Ecommerce insight 2021” survey, which features 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 18–64, confirms this and offers a look at common shopping practices and preferences. 

After crunching the numbers, we noticed those existing disappointments centered around confusing, inconsistent, and stale content — symptoms of all-in-one ecommerce solutions, which aren’t built to support the content ecosystem customers crave and expect.

Ecommerce platforms on their own are great for beginners, small businesses, and startups which lack the resources and finances to build out and support a full content ecosystem. Enterprises with more resources and team members would do well to introduce a content solution, like a content management system or content platform, to unify, organize, and deliver content that brings value to customers and motivates them to fill their shopping carts.

Here’s a rundown of common customer complaints from our survey and how replacing your ecommerce platform with a content platform, or even just adding one to your stack, addresses them.

Customer complaint #1: Confusing mobile and web apps

Although the popularity of ecommerce has grown in recent years, some shoppers still prefer to make purchases in-store. While there are many reasons such preferences exist, for 17% of survey respondents, it boils down to this: online shopping is confusing or complicated.

Site navigation might be difficult and unintuitive, important information might be missing from the menu, product details might be buried under more editorial and supporting content or the cart-to-checkout process could feel convoluted. 

Ecommerce is supposed to be convenient, not complicated. If a customer at any stage of the buyer journey can’t easily get what they need out of your ecommerce store, they’ll swiftly exit and move on to a more competent competitor — an ecommerce business that makes the browsing to buying experience easy.

After all, 44% of survey respondents — some of which rarely or never ship online — shared that an easy-to-use mobile app or website could compel them to make a purchase. 

Content platform solution: Modular architecture

When added to an ecommerce technology stack, content platforms introduce a modern, modular architecture that supports clear navigation, paving the way for more satisfactory user experiences.

An API-first content platform like Contentful offers an added advantage. It speeds up and simplifies how online businesses introduce integrations, add-ons and plugins that promote straightforward, user-friendly shopping experiences.

Examples include personalization tools, which leverage user data to serve product recommendations and tailored content so customers don’t have to search for it, and A/B testing so retailers can understand what’s working and what isn’t as they restructure and reformat the layout of their ecommerce website.

Customer complaint #2: Inconsistent information

With so many devices and channels to shop from, many consumers are accustomed to jumping from one to the next as they progress on the buyer's journey.

They might discover a product on Instagram, visit the retailer’s mobile site for detailed specifications and make their final purchase on a larger device like a laptop, where it’s easier to input shipping and billing information.

Shopping this way is fine as long as brands keep things consistent — which can be difficult to achieve as some 50% of survey respondents reported feeling frustrated or confused with inconsistent shopping experiences across channels. 

Consistency is king. For proof, 80% of respondents divulged that a consistent look, feel and experience from brands is important. Consistency demonstrates authenticity and promotes trust, whereas inconsistency makes customers question these things, which drives them away or introduces more work.

Content platform solution: Scalability

Such inconsistencies are side effects of channel-specific ecommerce software and ecommerce CMS platforms built without scalability in mind. A headless CMS or a content platform can remedy these.

Content platforms collect and store assets in one location and, with content models that separate content from context, anything stored can be reused, edited and published anywhere — no copying and pasting required. When an update is made to product details, pricing or another piece of content, it populates universally, creating a single source of truth.

By eliminating the redundant task of carrying content across channel-specific technology solutions, brands, even those with lean teams, become more mobile. They’re able to refocus their time to creating content that users really want — which we’ll get into next. 

Customer complaint #3: Dull experiences

A final tipping point that deters customers from online shopping is boring experiences. We’ve become chronic multitaskers and for brands to gain the customer’s attention, they have to be different by inspiring and engaging customers.

Online shopping experiences that do so have the power to convert traditional in-store shoppers to online shoppers. From our survey respondents, 26% who prefer to shop in brick and mortar stores said they’d consider shopping online if it was fun or interesting.

Content platform solution: Agility

Content platforms are built for agility, meaning creating, editing, and publishing new content or exciting online shopping experiences can be done in minutes.

These solutions support continuous delivery and integration, meaning updates aren’t tied to drawn-out predetermined release cycles or limited by the number of times changes can be pushed to the site daily.

Part of this agility comes from Contentful’s content models and editorial interface — which offers customization options — enabling marketers, content creators, product team members and anyone else to manage content with confidence on the backend. 

With the agility of a content platform, teams can respond to customer feedback and changing marketplace trends the moment they take note of them — think AR/VR and digital signage.

If a more experimental update or piece of content is published and not well received, cloud-native storage and daily backups — which Contentful uses Amazon’s redundant S3 service to store — provide businesses with the functionality to roll back to a previous state.

Although informative, this list of what breaks online shopping experiences isn’t exhaustive. For additional data points on what customers love (and love less) when it comes to ecommerce, download our “Ecommerce insights 2021” survey findings.

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