Three ecommerce content marketing lessons from Etsy

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Josh Silverman, the new CEO of global craft marketplace Etsy, discussed giving the company a much-needed shake up.

As part of a lean new marketing strategy, Silverman has reportedly scrapped any activities that aren’t likely to immediately grow sales for Etsy’s vendors – including TV advertising – to focus on driving performance instead. These changes are already benefiting the business, with the share price reporting a 50% increase and Q3 earnings increasing by 13%.

Whilst this stripped-back strategy might be too extreme for some businesses, marketers can take some valuable lessons from Etsy’s ‘focus on the fundamentals’ rationale. Many brands still plough the lion’s share of their creative resources and budget into top-of-funnel awareness campaigns, whilst neglecting the hugely important latter stages of the purchase funnel – continuing to drive their customers from expensive advertising campaigns to sub-par online stores with poor quality content.

This leads to those customers being ‘put off’ at the critical pre-purchase stage, and is ultimately a huge lost revenue opportunity for those retailers.

Remembering that these content fundamentals can materially impact ecommerce performance by enhancing the overall user experience, improving SEO and increasing conversion rates – here are the three top tips for online retailers to maximise their performance using high-performing content.

Create product content that is fit for purpose

It’s sadly not uncommon for a consumer to be driven to a brand’s website by an engaging ‘hero’ campaign (e.g. a YouTube pre-roll ad) promoting a flagship product, only to be faced with poor-quality product description content that fails to provide detailed, persuasive information about the product itself in order to convert the browser into a buyer.

informative product descriptions can increase conversion rates by as much as 78%

At Quill, we routinely see brands publishing product descriptions that are not fit for purpose – taking the fashion vertical as an example, product descriptions often consist of a couple of cursory bullet points, lacking useful details around how a garment fits and feels, or the product’s key features and benefits.

In failing to provide this information, retailers are really missing a trick: research has shown that informative product descriptions can increase conversion rates by as much as 78%. Similarly, 75% of consumers say they’d be more likely to make a purchase if there was a video explaining what they are buying, while 31% are more likely to buy if the business offers helpful online buying guides.

Don’t neglect SEO

It’s widely accepted in the digital marketing community that the old, keyword-centric SEO tactics are no longer valid in a post-Panda world. Relevant, high-quality, authoritative content has become one of Google’s key ranking factors. And given that Page 1 results on Google now account for around 95% of all search traffic – while paid ads continue to deliver diminishing returns, in the context of increased ad blocker adoption –  this isn’t something that businesses can afford to ignore.

One of the most effective ways of driving the large volumes of organic search traffic using generic search queries is via category pages.

Despite this, we’ve found that just 15% of online retailers have fully optimised their category pages with informative category description content for SEO, meaning a significant number of retailers are losing out on this highly efficient source of new online customers.

Improve on-site search functionality

Being able to find the right product on a site is a basic, but crucial, customer need. One in eight consumers will abandon a site after a poor search experience – leading to lost conversions for the business, as well as potential reputational damage to the brand, and a decreased likelihood that the consumer will ever return to the site.  

supplement their onsite search with buying and how-to guides or videos

On the one hand, an important part of getting this right is having quality on-site search functionality (fast results, logically structured, with semantic reasoning to recognise natural language variations, like synonyms).

But it’s also about ensuring that searchable content (i.e. product descriptions) contain relevant keywords and phrases to maintain their accuracy and relevancy in onsite search results – so that all of the right products are presented to customers. This means that retailers to need to invest in maintaining the same level of quality and integrity in their online product data and content as they do in-store.

It is also critical for retailers with large product ranges or complex product features to supplement their onsite search with buying and how-to guides or videos, to assist customers who are looking for the information and advice they need to make their purchasing decision, often from an overwhelming choice of options both onsite and from competing sites.

The power of the fundamentals

Whilst these content fundamentals may not be particularly attention-grabbing – or likely to put any CMOs in contention for awards at Cannes – treating them as an afterthought means that brands are losing millions in online sales every year.  At a time when ad blockers and ad blindness are blighting the performance of paid campaigns, strong content and a laser focus on content performance strategies is critical.

And ultimately, getting the fundamentals right will improve the ROI on all marketing activities further up the funnel – including those that might also win you those creative awards.   

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