Retailers are increasingly working with content – video, editorial, social media or podcasts – to build their brands and encourage sales. Five experts explain to Drapers how they are leveraging content to drive their businesses forward.
Across the retail landscape, a generation of consumers is emerging that is seeking something “more” from their shopping experience. Millennial and Generation Z shoppers are frequently characterised by their desire to know the stories behind brands, and feel connected to those they interact with.
As a result retailers are focusing on telling the stories of their brands and businesses in new and innovative ways, to give shoppers an insight into the products they purchase. Its power is impressive. Ulric Jerome, CEO of Matchesfashion, told Drapers last year that 40% of online sales now come from content.
Other retailers are also focusing on elevating the content they produce, beyond simply having blog sections on their websites. In May, Net-a-Porter launched a new app that has an increased focus on content – Alison Loehnis, president of the Yoox-Net-a-Porter luxury division, said the app will “elevating our digital content experience to new heights”.
Drapers speaks to industry insiders who are approaching content in diverse and innovative ways.
Matchesfashion: the luxury multichannel expert
Working across numerous platforms, including physical stores, Matchesfashion seeks to create a 360-degree approach to content output – and the results are impressive. Kate Blythe, chief content officer, explains
If we want to connect intimately with our customer, we know that rich, luxurious and intelligent content is the way to do it.
Storytelling is embedded in the fabric of our business and part of our mission is to build the most personal online luxury shopping experience for customers globally. We have always believed in the power of storytelling, and we know that content creates community and boosts loyalty.
Content is the reason people come back time and time again – it creates community, and it can surprise and delight
We continually measure our content performance and we know that it drives KPIs [key performance indicators]. It improves dwell time: visitors who view content spend longer on site. It also drives engagement: around a quarter of orders placed by people who see content are made on the same day. Customers who see our content have a higher average order value than those that don’t.
We create fashion, design, editorial, marketing, social, broadcasting and brand content in house for every platform, whether that’s CRM [customer relationship management], The Style Report [Matchesfashion’s digital magazine], website and app, social channels, brand creative or [the store at] 5 Carlos Place in London’s Mayfair. These platforms are all integral to the 360-degree approach we take as a business to storytelling.
We want each platform to be as rich as the next, and offer the customer the opportunity to engage with us any way that they want. Our best projects are created with all platforms in mind – therefore fully maximising the opportunities that content offers us.
Content is the reason people come back time and time again – it creates community, and it can surprise and delight. Our stories are filtered through our unique perspective on who our customer is and what they want, creating a world that speaks powerfully and inclusively to them.
Retailers need to offer so much more than purely a shopping experience. To seamlessly blend content and commerce will not only build and define your brand, it will entice an even bigger audience into your world.
Our content is a constant evolution. In 2019, we have continued to develop the cultural calendar at 5 Carlos Place, and have a global partnership with [London art fair] Frieze, both of which create broadcasting opportunities for livestream videos, podcasts, social content which amplify panel talks, music performances and key cultural moments.
By doing this we can connect our customers, partners and designers all over the world in one democratic and inspiring place. No longer is that exclusive event only open to those clients who are local, we have now brought everyone into the space through these broadcast channels. Our audience is incredible at interacting with our new technology and content launches – they are truly part of the experience.
All our physical sites and activations are connected to the digital experience. Our cultural calendar at 5 Carlos Place is amplified by using content that is created and distributed on site, whether that is a podcast recording, livestream of an “in conversation” or social franchises [linked content on social media] created in the midst of events.
In short, our business believes in commerce, not just ecommerce. Every single touchpoint should feel connected to the next, whether online or offline.
Highsnobiety: magazine turned retailer
Subverting the traditional model, of a retailer beginning to produce content, Berlin-based magazine and media agency Highsnobiety has launched its own direct-to-consumer platform. Making its debut at the end of May with an exclusive collaboration with Prada, the platform builds up to launches with dedicated content in the run-up to drops. Herbert Hofmann, creative director and head of buying commerce at the media agency, explains
After 14 years of Highsnobiety working as media house, it was a very logical decision to launch an ecommerce platform. We have always covered every point of the customer journey, from the launches to the consumers actually having products in their hands. Affiliate also became part of the business, linking readers to shops and recommendations.
We then reached the point where we decided to offer the product themselves.
The first shop launched in early June 2019, with an exclusive collection from Prada. We have been preparing the site for over a year, creating the back end to give a seamless approach. Every touchpoint is ours. We buy the product – we sell the product. There is no drop/ship model.
We start with a countdown, leaking the idea of what the product is about
The platform works with a drop-based concept. Products are on sale on the site for a week and the plan is to have two drops per month. There is no steady collection of goods and designs – this means we can really focus on telling one story for up to three weeks ahead of launch.
For example: we start with a countdown, leaking the idea of what the product is about. With our first case we worked with Prada, slowly telling the story of how Prada was involved in the whole culture of streetwear, what is so special about Prada, and introducing the product. Having just one week of selling brings a very unique spotlight on to a product or collection.
Brands often ask us why they should work with Highsnobiety and not one of the great existing ecommerce platforms. To them we say that we are not an ecommerce platform that started storytelling, talking about product and creating content – it is the other way around.
That is one of the biggest strengths we have. It means that we have a very strong follower base of people that have a vested interest in products and always want to be the first to know about new product. Now we can also offer it for sale.
We have a lot of traffic and visibility as a brand, but for the wholesale departments – having all that hustle for just one week of sales is something that you have to convince a brand will work. Since the first launch, we have already have had more brands asking to work with us.
Knicker Locker: the social approach
Having relaunched its website in December 2017, online lingerie retailer Knicker Locker is set to launch a new content strategy in the coming months, aimed at engaging and interacting more with their customers, to create a social shopping experience. Gemma Illes, operations director, explains
Content is geared towards building your brand and establishing a relationship with your customers, rather than making money. Having a constant stream of new and exciting content is essential to market your products. It allows your customers to interact with you on a new level, whether they are new or returning customers.
As an online retailer, we offer a lot of content – for example, bra-fitting guides, style advice and promotional pages that help our customers with advice and tips before and after their purchase. This is also highly important for us for page ranking on sites such as Google.
Content is geared towards building your brand and establishing a relationship with your customers, rather than making money
We invest a lot of content strategy on social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram, as it is a great interactive platform for us to connect with new customers. It’s a great business hub for us, where we can upload new events, blog posts and ranges.
We also have our own company blog page, Knicker Blogger, which offers more detailed content of our products, as well as interesting facts, gift guides and interview with other bloggers and brands.
As a fairly new online retailer, we have yet to break into our own online videos. So, our new content strategy, launching next month, will provide short and regular videos of our latest swimwear and underwear on Facebook and Instagram.
A lot of people associate this strategy with bloggers and influencers, but it will be a great way to engage with our followers and associate a face with Knicker Locker.
Thanks to the growth of social media and influencers, content is far more interactive than it ever used to be. We can talk to our customers through videos, competitions, blog posts, online chat [messenger services] and surveys to find out what products they are looking for, as well as the sizes and styles they prefer.
There is a lot more to [content success] than just measurable sales. Content can impact a retailer’s reputation and overall image, as well as their email marketing lists, followers and customer loyalty.
If you focus particular content on particular products, then it does drive more sales. Content can be used to build a lifestyle out of a product with images and videos and can reach thousands of people if marketed correctly. It’s more about selling a lifestyle rather than a product. That’s where content strategy is key.
Sonder & Tell: the agency view
Kate Hamilton is co-founder and content director of content and communications agency Sonder & Tell, which works with brands and retailers on their content output. Recently, the agency produced the book Comfort Zones for womenswear retailer Jigsaw
Ultimately, stories are how humans make sense of the world. By creating content and telling stories through the words you put out, you are giving consumers a chance to “get” you: where you are going, where you’ve come from and what you stand for.
The word “content” is thrown around a lot, but it is essentially any communication that a brand puts out there. It could be an Instagram caption, a blog, magazine, podcast or just the wording on a piece of packaging.
Consumers have become more discerning. People are making choices and buying products based on their own values. People want to make a statement about themselves by the brands they engage with. The rise in content has come as a roundabout way of making sales.
The reason companies are now thinking more innovatively about content is that we’ve reached saturation. There is so much “standard” content out there and the increased competition has forced brands to think more creatively about how they engage with customers and how to educate them and entertain them in ways that cut through the noise.
The point should never be about making the most noise, brands should be making platforms [be it Instagram, magazines or podcasts] work as hard as they can. It is always about finding a platform that works for your brand.
Jigsaw came to us to work on Comfort Zones, as they were looking for new ways to engage their consumer. We have a network of female writers we were engaged with and wanted to do something for the charity Women for Women International. We came up with the idea of a book – Comfort Zones, which featured essays from writers including Pandora Sykes, Lindsey Hilsum and Farah Storr.
The Jigsaw audience is a little bit older and is quite “bookish”, so the project made sense for the brand. Plus, a lot of our women writers were the kind of women that Jigsaw would love to have wearing their product.
With the Jigsaw book we had the goal of raising £25,000 for charity, so it was more about that than sales. Having said that, we printed a bookmark that went inside the books, and when customers handed that in at the till, Jigsaw could use that to track related sales.
There are a lot of ways content like this can drive business. It goes back to the fact that a lot of consumers are looking to align their own values with businesses. The result is that brands have to look at how they can build out their own culture and communities and make a statement about what they as a company believe in.
We often measure success by how you can align a team around a project. With Jigsaw we worked with marketing, PR, in-store teams, in-house creatives. Something that creates amazing stories can be a great way of building a sense of community within a business.
When brands work on storytelling like this, it can also be a way of strengthening internal culture and bringing together team moral. You can use storytelling as a team exercise for a business.
You create meaningful content by making it feel like it comes from the inside out. When we work with brands, we have to be making sure that the process is as collaborative as possible, both with us as an agency and within the team itself.
The Wardrobe Workshop: The new kid on the block
The Wardrobe Workshop was founded by Charlie Bowring in 2018, and sells a mix of unique independent brands, as well as hosting a small resale platform. Bowring explains how creative and engaging content on social media has helped her build her brand’s reputation with an increasingly engaged young consumer audience
Content – and in particular social media – is a huge part of my business. I put a lot of advertising budget behind what I do on social, and most of my sales come via Instagram, so it is very important.
We create content so that people can buy into the story behind the brands and our business and share in their journey. Shoppers are now so obsessed with knowing everything about the brands, the founder and the people.
People are no longer shopping for a generic white T-shirt. They want a little more to it: they want to know the back story of the brand, where it was made and who it was made by.
Most of my sales come via Instagram, so it is very important
We’re bored of fast fashion and we are moving in a different direction. Young shoppers are fascinated by people, so it makes sense that they engage with brands more when they know their stories.
The content we create is very interactive, talking directly to our customers, and linking them directly to products. We use Instagram and Instagram Stories a lot to showcase our products directly to shoppers.
To encourage sales via content, we made the ecommerce site a very user-friendly experience, making sure that the journey from Instagram to the site is slick and that it is quick to purchase. Young shoppers will abandon if the experience isn’t quick and seamless, so that is hugely important.
When people buy the brands, they like to know about what they are purchasing. We publish editorial interviews and profiles of our brands, and as we go this is something that we are looking to increase.
I track where our visitors come from with Google Analytics, and we find that traditional media [such as links on newspaper websites] will bring a more mature customer to the site. With Instagram the demographic is much younger. Millennials and Gen-Z shoppers are so obsessed with Instagram – it’s the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning – so Instagram content that links to our products brings a lot of traffic from those shoppers.
We find that our own campaign imagery and behind-the-scenes videos are often the most and effective. People don’t just want to see one generic post of Kate Moss – they like seeing a bit of behind the scenes action, whether that’s from us or from the brands that we work with.