Good Content Merchandising is Like Your Favorite Teacher

Remember those high school days? The hallways, the lockers, the gym, the cliques, the prom. At times it felt like combat: Extended periods of boredom punctuated by brief moments of pure terror.

But if you were lucky, there was that one teacher who actually taught you something. Chances are, if that teacher was also popular among your peers, he or she probably kept your and most of your classmates’ attention by using theories from Harvard Psychologist Howard Gardener’s Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice.

In a nutshell, Gardener asserts that everyone is smart in different ways and believes that an educator can approach a topic from multiple angles. This methodology helps students to think about a problem in a variety of ways, triggering the thought process across the board and reaching the widest range of “learning styles.”

Robin Williams says it best in Dead Poet’s Society, offering this bit of wisdom that should not be lost as you build online merchandising content: “Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way.”

Your Approach to Content Merchandising Should Appeal to All Learning Styles

Understanding the theory of differentiated instruction is one of the keys to using content to increase online conversions. When you educate potential customers about your product, you are, in essence, appealing to their learning abilities. And if you want to sell products, you must figure out how to get the widest possible audience to understand your content.

Watch the Robin Williams clip again, and listen to what he says at the 50-second mark: “… We must constantly look at things in a different way.” (Didn’t we just quote him? Repetition: a hallmark of our educational system.)

In terms of content merchandising, you must constantly present your product information in diverse ways. Here’s a lesson on how to do it.

The Product Description: The Foundation of Your Content

Despite all the prognostications about the rise of video and multimedia, content merchandising demands detailed, factual, accurate, and engaging written content. The product description is the foundation upon which all other forms of content is created.

Here’s a pretty good example from Amazon about the Bumbleride Indie baby stroller.

For some students (and consumers), basic sentences and paragraphs are exactly what they need. These people have what’s known as “Linguistic Intelligence”–they learn through words and language structure. (And who among us doesn’t benefit from a good xkcd example of just about anything?) From a pedagogical perspective, notice how the content relies on a two-part “feature-benefit” structure. The resulting copy is detailed, thorough, accurate, and germane to your readers.

Now consider this relevant statistic from Brandbank‘s 2010 Retail Media Report:

  • 61 percent of those polled would abandon a sale if there was only a limited amount of product information available.

In other words, if you can’t engage the students with linguistic intelligence, they’ll drop out.

A Picture Sells a Thousand Strollers

Like a good teacher, you should add some visuals to the mix of your content. For many, illustrative and lifestyle pictures are the text. These potential customers have a high “Spatial Intelligence.”

Consumers with spatial intelligence, when given sufficient visuals, can easily imagine what it’s like to use that product. (Can that be taken too far? Not in our world, but we don’t make video games.) Show them a picture and they can make it their own in a way that’s all but tactile. Add individuals and settings to these images and they become lifestyle shots.

According to brandbank.com:

  • Over two thirds (67 percent) of consumers claim they are put off buying a product online when there is no picture to accompany the product.
  • Almost a third (30 percent) are put off when only one image is displayed for a product when other products have more than one.
  • Having a lifestyle image to accompany a pack-shot is also important, with almost one in two consumers saying that they would not buy a product without seeing images of it being used in a real-life setting.

Simply put, your page needs pictures, and pictures of your merchandise in action if at all possible. If your content lacks quality visuals, expect some of your students to start sneaking out for “bathroom” breaks.

Bullets: Keep it Short. Real Short.

Other people respond best to numbers and pithy facts (in the form of  a few well-targeted bullet points, or maybe a complicated circuit diagram). They want the information, and want to piece it together themselves. This is “Logical-Mathematical Intelligence.” As M- and T-commerce continue to gain momentum, this aspect of your content will inevitably become more necessary than ever.

See the example to the left, again from the Bumbleride.

Increase Sales with Rich Media such as Video

While some music aficionados contest that MTV killed the radio star, video should have long since earned your trust as a content merchandising tool that, when used properly, can turn shoppers into buyers.

In a study by Gerrard Dennis of retail group The Simply Group, product videos “led to a 20 percent rise in conversion rates for these product pages, and also led to a drop in returns rates.”

Study after study points to this conclusion: Wise use of video and product demos increases conversion.

In future posts we’ll explore the many forms video can take and attempt to figure out which types work best for conversion. But for now, keep the spatial style of learner in mind as you build out your content merchandising strategies. Video taps right into their ability to picture objects in three dimensions.

The Takeaway

  • The more individuals your page truly speaks to, the greater your chance of conversion. We each have more than one type of intelligence. The more intelligences you cater to, the greater your chance of convincing any one person. Conversely, the narrower your presentation, the more “drop-outs” you’ll have.