Blurring the Boundaries Between Commerce and Content
Not so long ago, e-commerce and editorial content existed in completely different realms, with many believing the two should remain separate.And, for a while it worked. Retailers’ main concern was to sell as many of their products as possible and didn’t see the need to bother with any compelling content. But nowadays, more and more of us are spending an increasing proportion of our lives doing various things online. We have access to an almost infinite amount of information on the internet, and competition is rife. With so many retailers vying for our attention with their latest deals and low prices, has it all become too much?
95% of us who visit an e-commerce website won’t buy anything the first time1. We want to feel comfortable with a website before parting with our hard-earned cash. This is what an increasing number of online retailers have come to realise. And what seems to be the most effective way of doing this? Content. By providing us with reliable, high quality content, they are drawing us in and creating a bond. When we trust and like a website, we’re much more likely to buy the product and are almost guaranteed to return, even if it is just for the content.
One of the biggest success stories regarding the mixing of commerce and content is Mint.com, an online personal finance tracking service. It has managed to form a substantial community and offers its users reliable financial advice in the form of articles and tips over an extensive range of topics. By doing this, Mint has developed from a small, relatively unknown piece of software, into the USA’s top personal financial tracking service. Since March 2009, the number of users has increased by over 700%, now with over seven million users worldwide.2
Search engines such as Google are becoming wise to this and judge favourably towards websites containing high quality content. This means that all other things being equal, retailers that only publish product information will find themselves slipping further down the rankings.
We can see that content on commerce websites is becoming vitally important. But it’s less about us visiting net-a-porter.com (another successful example, which attracts 2.5 million visitors each month3) and being encouraged to buy something than it is about hanging around and exploring the content. Ultimately, editorial content drives sales through credibility. In the words of Natalie Massenet (founder of net-a-porter), “In the next five years, media companies are going to become retailers and retailers are going to become media companies. It’s inevitable”.