Expertly meshing Content and Commerce may be what separates retail winners from the losers between now and 2020. While many brands have become skilled at creating quality content in recent years, few have addressed the wide gulf between compelling content and efficient e-commerce. These seven digitally adept brands are getting it right.
1. Estée Lauder
The disappearance of “double door” sites, save for a handful of luxury players, has lulled many marketers into believing their brand site seamlessly integrates content and commerce. However, content frequently remains as firmly siloed as ever from transactional pages due to the tendency to house it in a dedicated section separate from e-commerce. While content repositories are not inherently problematic, the tactic becomes limiting if content assets are not syndicated across the site as a way to contextualize the shopping experience.
When Estée Lauder relaunched its brand site last year, the “Style Guide” tab that had previously housed branded content (video tutorials, beauty diagnostics, virtual makeover tools, etc.) was noticeably absent from the new navigation bar. But rather than de-prioritizing content, the brand was actually creating more assets than ever, in part to seed its new on-site editorial destination, The Estée Edit. Additional content – video, product comparison tools, blog posts – is now hosted directly on transactional pages for an experience that consistently blends content and commerce throughout the purchase journey.
A hub for editorial content, The Window both emulates and enhances the Barneys New York in-store experience with a mix of designer interviews, trend highlights and behind-the-scenes stories. Content contextualizes products while providing a path to purchase. Initially housed solely on the Barneys brand site, The Window has now been folded into Barneys’ mobile app and has also become a print publication distributed in-store. Content from The Window is also syndicated across multiple social properties, which in turn directs readers back to full stories on the microsite.
The Window has continued to evolve as an area of focus after Barneys New York launched the concept in 2011. Last year the retailer brought on editorial director Marissa Rosenblum, previously at Refinery 29, to enhance the offering. “When you tell a good story, it’s important to divulge all the details — not just the who, what and where, but the when and how to buy,” she told L2. “Otherwise you create a frustrating shopping experience.”
Vans’ relaunched site seamlessly integrates content and commerce throughout. While more brands are now attempting to connect branded content with product placement and links to product pages, Vans has done a particularly fine job of leveraging its events, athletes and loyal fans to create content that seamlessly integrates commerce across platforms. A “Guest Editor” series profiled stylish female Vans fans and included 10-20 shoppable photos.
4. Michael Kors watches
Michael Kors’ watch arm continues to iterate on #MKTimeless in smart ways. Destination Kors on the brand site functions as the main hub for content, which is subsequently syndicated across platforms. Michael’s Edit recently began posting the series “Girl’s Guide to Watches,” depicting specific timepieces as integral parts of an overall look and ideal for particular occasions. These vignettes are directly shoppable and are integrated into the watches’ e-commerce landing page. On social media, Michael Kors successfully highlights watch content across all owned properties through the #MKTimeless hashtag. (The brand’s success on Instagram is inextricably linked to the growth of #MKTimeless.) To harness the buzz of the hashtag and wealth of watch content, Michael Kors also created a Tumblr that aggregates posts using the hashtag and serves as a platform where users can upload their own #MKTimeless photos.
5. L’Oréal Paris
L’Oréal Paris is unmatched among brands tracked in L2’s Intelligence Report: Content & Commerce for syndication of its content. By consistently using all pages on the site as a repository for branded collateral, L’Oréal Paris ensures that the substantial volume of content it regularly produces makes the maximum impact. Consumers are naturally guided through a site experience that blends content and commerce, with assets strategically placed to ensure that this journey is never fragmented and ultimately leads to product. A content calendar on the homepage displays the freshest videos, blog posts and product stories; grid pages may link to relevant tutorial content or guided selling tools. L’Oréal Paris also knocks the ball out of the park with its commerce-enabled content app Makeup Genius, released with much fanfare last June. The app enables users to test L’Oréal color cosmetic products via augmented reality.
Brands too often position valuable digital content so that only a fraction of site visitors ever see or interact with it — generally brand loyalists, already compelled to actively seek out such content. Blogs exemplify this trend, particularly those created as a microsite with a distinct URL. Brands that publish the majority of their content to secondary destinations do themselves a disservice when it comes to generating ROI. By contrast, brands with superior blog strategies house the blog on-site and actively incorporate content across transactional pages to provide marketing texture and boost visibility.
Storytelling has always been integral for LUSH, a 20-year-old retailer that has long incorporated its stance against animal testing and in favor of natural ingredients into its marketing and traditional advertising. On its brand site, LUSH places blog posts on the main page, treating them as a gateway to products. On the flip side of the coin, the blog gives shoppers more information about products they are considering; each product page includes a feed of relevant blog posts. The LUSH blog has no dead ends, with all posts link back to product pages.
7. Mandarin Oriental
Mandarin Oriental’s “Fans of MO” is a proprietary platform on the brand site that launched in March. A tiled design feed is populated with a mix of images, reviews, memories and recommendations from both celebrity ambassadors and consumers. The platform allows users to share images and reviews on the gallery, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Consumers can also filter for experiences based on specific interests, like Art & Design, or location. Most important, clicking on “Reserve this experience” takes the user to the relevant property page, closing the loop between social discovery and booking.