How quickly the world of retail changes! Only a few years ago the major discussion in the retail community was how to compete with online shopping. But that was then. Today, regardless of who you are or what you sell the question is ‘Are you omni?’ Because, make no mistake, your shoppers are. It is no longer as simple for traditional retailers to just create an online presence to satisfy shoppers’ demands for anytime, anywhere, anyhow. We now must create multiple touchpoints – physical and virtual – that engage shoppers in more customised ways that are calibrated to meet an individual shopper’s needs. How do we do this? Through branded content.
There is a plethora of benefits to branded content for both the consumer and the brand. At the heart of branded content is getting closer to consumers and providing a deeper brand experience. It goes beyond product placement. Consumers can expect to be informed, entertained and get more involved in communication than they could with traditional marketing. Marketers can get excited by extremely sharable content (if it is of an acceptable quality), particularly through social media.
Branded content has evolved significantly in a short space of time, with many in retail scrambling to keep up. For those pushing the potential of branded content, several trends are consistently holding true.
Don’t get lost in the crowd
Quality over quantity. The old adage holds so very true in content marketing. With more and more retailers producing their own branded content, capturing the consumer’s attention is not a matter of spamming them into submission. Consumers will quickly disconnect with a brand if they are consistently exposed to lots of average content. Producing high quality and engaging content is fast-becoming the most effective means to differentiate from the competition, and build consumer loyalty in the process.
Visual = Social
To engage and inspire consumers instantly in the retail space, visual branded content has no equal. On a fundamental level, retail is about the product, and what better way to put the product on the pedestal than with powerful visual content. Further to this though, social media is moving on from simple Facebook ‘likes’. Different platforms are emerging as the most effective for exposing consumers to branded content, such as Pinterest. The common theme? These platforms are primarily a visual medium. And quality visual content gets shared.
Multiscreening is no longer a potential trend, it is a fact of life for many households in 2014. The challenge for retailers in their content marketing is not just producing quality content, but connecting that content through multiple devices. Within multiscreening research, the consumer activity known as ‘meshing’ is where retailers must look enhance the consumer experience. ‘Meshing’ is when a consumer is actively using a second screen to research, talk about and engage with the content on the original screen. Beyond simple direction to websites etc, retailers can use this space to create a content narrative that can grab and hold engagement.
Emotions play an important role in retail choices and purchases for consumers. With the move away from bricks-and-mortar stores to online shopping, the emotional connection with consumers can easily be lost. Branded content is becoming the retailer’s means of keeping that connection with consumers, and in fact represents an opportunity to engage with consumers in ways that aren’t possible in-store. Content that consumers want to interact with and increasing company-consumer transparency are the tip of the iceberg for branded content in retail.
Show your smarts
Branded content is not just about pretty pictures. Retailers can establish and enhance their practical reputation. A industry leader in your field? Show the consumer. The expertise space has been opened up by content marketing, and retailers are seizing the opportunity to display their knowledge and experience. Fashion retailers launching editorial magazines in the style of Vogue are shedding the perception they are simply movers of product; they are putting themselves in the thought leadership conversation.
Satisfying the consumer who demands a more comprehensive retail experience can seem more than a little daunting. Yet the creative possibilities, with multiple touch-points and digital expansion, really are limitless. Branded content is much more than a means of moving product, though it does that very effectively. Quality content marketing can contribute significantly to creating advocates out of your customers, and could become the key driver behind your brand experience.
Authors: Allie Buczkowski (Account Manager) & Lauren Watling (TV Producer) & Will Riley (Clemenger Graduate)