Oh, the things you can learn online. Photo via Kate Bolin
The constantly changing competitive landscape makes it tough to compete on price, shipping, and even service. What’s a retailer to do?
Enter content strategy
Content is one area in which every retailer can compete. Having a retail niche and a perspective that sets you apart give you a competitive advantage. The next step is to craft a content strategy to help you deliver that perspective to potential customers at the right times, in the right ways.
I’ve noticed one particular content type that many retailers are using to differentiate from the competition: educational content. It encompasses everything from do-it-yourself tutorials to technical primers to video demos. This content teaches the customer to use a product in new or better ways.
And it’s interesting to see how retailers are integrating educational content into the shopping process.
Here are 4 examples of smart ecommerce companies setting themselves apart by providing great educational content.
For over 10 years, this venerable electronics retailer has offered learning articles answering questions like, “what is Wi-Fi?” and “what type of car stereo should I buy?”
Crutchfield’s method of integrating DIY and informative information into its online store (via its Crutchfield Labs microsite) isn’t technologically earth-shattering. But what is impressive is the sheer quantity and quality of the articles they offer. From videos that show you how to set up a whole-house audio system to in-depth technical discussions, Crutchfield’s content helps prepare customers to purchase, and earns their trust and loyalty.
(Disclaimer: I used to work for Crutchfield. But I’m pretty sure their content is objectively awesome.)
2. Wool and the Gang
If you love to knit, Wool and the Gang was made for you. Cleverly combining community with commerce, this site offers video lessons on knitting, and sells its wares in the form of ready-made project kits.
But it’s not exclusively for knitters. Each product offers two options:
- If you’re a knitter, select “Knit your own” to choose the items you need for your project. Already have knitting needles? Just add the wool to your cart.
- Just want a sweater? Select “Made by the Gang” to get your item pre-made by a dyed-in-the-wool artisan.
This unusual approach to selling works to engage everyone from non-knitters who just want to buy beautiful clothes, to knitting beginners looking for instruction, to veterans looking for new inspiration and projects.
The beautiful ultra-hip visuals and passionate vibe differentiate WATG as a unique shopping experience. Its educational videos and do-it-yourself-friendly product listings add even more inspirational flavor to the site.
3. Brit + Co
Speaking of passionate crafters, Brit + Co describes itself as “an online media and e-commerce platform that provides tools to teach, inspire, and enable creativity among women and girls.”
Powered by a strong “maker” ethos, Brit + Co prioritizes learning over selling, even unabashedly linking from its projects to other retailers’ sites. Its own “SHOP” section is the last item in its navigation.
While this may look like a risky move for a retailer, it’s clear that Brit + Co sees itself as more than that. It’s a cause, and one that’s likely to inspire devoted fans who don’t mind hunting for cool treasures in its unique online shop.
While genius ecommerce sites like Dollar Shave Club, Groupon, and Woot! have famously taken retail copywriting to new levels of creativity and humor, Vat19 adds another element: the comic-yet-informative video product demo. For an example, see the Bandit Guns Rubber Band Shotgun description and video.
Not only are Vat19’s videos funny, they actually show you how to get the most out of their unusual products.
Make education part of your strategy
So how can your ecommerce site use educational content to compete? Of course, it depends on your industry.
If you sell a traditional product—thimbles, for example—find new applications for them. An effective tactic could be as simple as creating a photo-heavy blog post series explaining new and exciting ways to integrate thimbles into one’s home décor.
If, on the other hand, you sell a highly technical product, your customers (especially newer ones) probably have questions about how to use it. Listen to them. Create a plan for educating them with concise yet informative content, whether it’s text, audio, or video.
But no matter what you sell, integrating educational content into your ecommerce website differentiates you from your competition, engaging and rewarding loyal customers and attracting new audiences. When you help your fans develop new skills or use your products better, it gives them more to love about your store. And that’s a project that’s well worth your time and effort.