ROI and Belief in E-Commerce Content: Meetup Summary

September 29th Content Strategy gathering at content26

In honor of Summit 2014 (theme: retail’s digital rush) in late September, content26 hosted a Content Strategy Seattle meetup with a focus on e-commerce content. Our four panelists and attentive audience had a lively discussion about adapting content for mobile, measuring success and user satisfaction of e-commerce content, and related issues of content ROI and governance.

The panel included Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing groupJames Callan, digital content strategist at Sur La Table; Isaac Pattis, taxonomist on REI’s digital retail team; and our own Tony Martinelli, CEO of content26. The panelists got on so well with each other they would have spurred the conversation forward even without the insightful questions from the audience and from our moderator, content26 CCO Trinity Hartman.

Our edited transcript of the panel discussion highlights major themes e-commerce content professionals are dealing with: how to prepare content for multiplying platforms and how to think about the ROI of content.

Moderator: How is mobile changing e-commerce content?

Lauren: Nobody reads on mobile, so images need to do the work. Smarter retailers are starting with imagery. And copy has unique requirements–how many items can a person process? Mobile is forcing retailers to make more choices.

Isaac: We think about the researcher while they’re encountering the site digitally. REI tries to be the expert as well as the seller.

Lauren: But REI did it differently by integrating guides instead of stripping out content.

[Tweet “Mobile is forcing retailers to make more choices.”]

Tony: Our clients are trying to navigate how they build content for all these different touchpoints. They’re already required to build so many pieces of content, and mobile is just another one of those. We try to help retailers streamline content builds. Maybe that means figuring out what the main thing on mobile is. Is it images? Build the mobile experience around the most important piece.

Moderator: How do you measure success when it comes to content? What are your metrics? What do your bosses want to see?

James: Conversion is the biggest single metric that matters. Time on site and pageview count are sort of important, but they aren’t key indicators. The other one that’s big, and harder to measure, is how is what we’re doing on the site impacting traffic to stores? We have a lot of people who are coming to the site to research before going to the store and deciding if they want to buy it. Sur La Table is currently working on a store inventory measure to drive people to stores explicitly.

Lauren: Engagement is interesting, time spent on page is interesting, but purchasing rules. We do have to focus on the ROI, not the REI.

Audience question: Do you make any effort to quantify the value of being a go-to informational resource?

Isaac: Yes. When people take a class, we can see how much they shop in store. People who come in through our travel program are heavy spenders in the store.

James: We don’t have a concrete way of measuring that at the moment. We do know some things, such as recipes in emails, draw a lot more attention. Giving people informational content not designed to sell right this minute helps.

Lauren: We have to think about the role of the store with quantifying this type of content, too. It’s valuable for sales associates to have informational content. Brands need to leverage that content to educate store employees as well as customers.

Moderator: Can you speak to disagreements you’ve had over best practices for online content, either internally or with clients?

James: For lack of a better distinction, sometimes people get caught up in delivering content when people want information. People who are looking for information don’t care about the brand story. Not that they never care, but when you’re on the product page, what you want to know is: What size is it? Will it work on my induction stove?

There can be a reluctance to let the web be the web.

[Tweet “Content is really resource intensive.”]

Lauren: I think most people want to do this right. The problem is a resource and systems issue. They want to do it right, but don’t have the money or the systems and are trying to back into it with these older systems and figure everything out.

Isaac: REI has a portal for gathering content. My fight is with vendors who don’t provide assets in proper format.

Audience question: There’s a lot of talk on the ROI of content. Are any of you trying to quantify upstream value of content short of someone converting and buying online?

Isaac: Unfortunately, that’s marketing territory. I’d love to be able to answer that question.

Lauren: I think at the end of the day people are either believers in content or they’re not.

Want more? Read our interview with information architect Cassandra Moore or our discussion with Lauren Freedman about e-tailing group’s annual Customer Experience Index

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