Retail is changing fast, driven by channel convergence and rapidly evolving consumer behaviour, and social and mobile in particular are putting a focus on content. Not catalogue or product content, but engaging content experiences – editorial, user generated, social and so on. This is the content that digitally connected consumers seek out and share – and, as a consequence, it’s also content that can have a dramatic impact on sales and brand engagement.
Indeed, these days, there is no doubt as to the importance of digital content in driving commercial performance. Quite simply, the brands with the best content, convert more – but strong content performance also underpins significant improvement in brand metrics around awareness and engagement.
The benefits of digital content are not confined to digital channels. They also drive in-store interaction and sales – and to a significant degree. According to Deloitte Digital’s Digital Divide report:
- Over 60% of in-store purchases are now influenced at some point by digital content, 84% of in-store shoppers report using digital for shopping related activities before or during their most recent trip to a store
- Consumers who use a device during their shopping journey convert at a 40% higher rate
- 22% of consumers spend more in-store as a result of using digital, just over half spend at least 25% more than they had intended
Taken together these figures leave little room for doubt – digital content is a critical influence on 30-50% of all sales transactions in all channels.
Reach, quality and agility
As a result, those retailers that succeed in improving content performance are likely to drive significant returns in terms of overall business performance – a fact that has not escaped the attention of retailers.
Content marketing is now the dominant form of marketing activity across the spectrum of retailers. It is likely that content marketing now accounts for well over half of the retail marketing mix – having seen its share rise sharply, from 19% of activity in 2012 to 37% in 2013.
However, spending more on content is no guarantee of success. The nature of omnichannel retail means that a smart approach is vital – one based on a real understanding of the issues that drive content performance, and the barriers that stand in the way.
In essence, three factors dictate a retailer’s overall content performance: Reach, quality and agility:
- Reach: Is content being delivered to all markets, via all channels?
- Quality: Is the customer journey fluid and engaging?
- Agility: How quickly can content be refreshed, to adapt to new trends?
What’s clear is that driving improvement across all three of these factors delivers disproportionate upsides in terms of content performance and, in turn, commercial and brand metrics.
It is a unique challenge to deliver all three factors holistically. Retailers are having to strike a balance, and improve one or two aspects at the expense of the others – quality improvements coming at the expense of reach and agility, reach at the expense of quality and so on.
The net result sees benefits accrued from improvements in one area eroded by degraded performance in another – and theses limitations are clearly demonstrated by the first Amplience Big Content Index.
Winners and losers
Based on objective and consistent assessment, the Amplience Big Content Index assesses the UK’s top 79 fashion and apparel retailers. It allots each a content score, which enables direct comparison and benchmarking across five dimensions: editorial content, rich media, social media, UGC and guided selling tools.
The results point to significant opportunity, with the average across all 79 retailers standing at 41%, and the lowest scores at 24%.
Tellingly, the top ten retailers average 55%, so even the highest performers have opportunities to grow their content scores – a proxy for their effectiveness in the use of content to drive brand engagement and commercial performance.
Indeed, the need for retailers to strike a balance, and make compromises was evident. None of the top 10 score consistently well across all five dimensions – a strong editorial score compensating for a low UGC performance, and so on. This lack of consistency, coupled with the relatively low scores overall highlights the Big Content challenges facing all retailers in today’s complex, omnichannel environment.
That is, none of the top fashion and apparel retailers assessed here would deny the importance of editorial content, of rich media, of guided selling tools, social media and UGC. Even so, it would seem that many still need to gain the capacity to deliver them effectively – to leverage them for commercial success by putting them at the heart of the brand experience and, crucially, the journey to checkout.
Big content challenges
The first Big Content Index reveals just how few retailers are successful in embracing the digital content revolution – even in a ‘lifestyle-driven’ sector like fashion & apparel. But these shortcomings are rarely a matter of choice or strategy.
The truth is most retailers are hamstrung by a fragmented array of channel-specific tools and content siloes – a content complexity problem that drives costs up and makes it practically impossible to improve content reach, quality and agility at the same time.
In response, retailers must find ways to consolidate diverse, channel-specific solutions and siloes, to streamline high quality content production, automate channel and locale syndication, and transform the economics of digital content.
Only then will they be able to work all the angles – reach, quality and agility – to acquire the content capabilities that will only become more important to commercial success.