The best ecommerce content marketing examples you’ve never heard of (and 1 you have that we can’t leave out)

29 September, 2014

Ecommerce Content Marketing ProsWe Gorillas want to help you learn from experience to dominate your own patch of online jungle, so the tribe at The Ecommerce Jungle Gym have pulled together 4 of our favourite ecommerce content marketing success stories to create an online repeat-customer-generating machine.

The content marketing programs of each of these four online retailers have been consistently delighting audiences for years.

Don’t expect Amazon, Asos, Net-a-Porter and the rest.

We all know how these ecommerce giants are ruling online retail with their multi million dollar marketing budgets. Instead, I want to show you how a trio of small ecommerce startups are using cost effective content marketing, not advertising, to dominate their niche.

These brands have decided against interrupting potential customers with isolated advertising campaigns.

Instead, their marketing is about trying to change their customer’s world for the better.

The online store of these brands is so much more than just a virtual online catalogue.

It’s not all product pages, filter options and shipping details.

These brands add laughter, education and inspiration to their customer’s shopping experience. Loyalty and repeat sales are the reward for this content marketing helpfulness.

Each of these brands manage to develop online content assets to help their customers in a different way. You’ll be able to customise one of these methods to suit your target audience and help you develop a loyal tribe of repeat customers.

#1. Build excitement with a regular content series – Field Notes

Content marketing shouldn’t be a collection of campaigns cobbled together. It’s not a sprint. It’s a never-ending marathon of continual customer entertainment.

The content marketing series is your community builder. Blog category, print mag, video series, monthly meetup, no matter the medium, just find your story and keep on sharing it.

Your bounty?

Visitors, who become regular visitors, who become subscribers, who become customers, who become loyal brand fans prepared to go into a virtual boxing ring and fight for your company and its beliefs.

Field Notes understand the importance of standing for something – and communicating this brand belief with a regular content series. They don’t just sell notebooks. It’s about so much more than notebooks.

It’s about the beauty of writing stuff down.

It’s about remembering great ideas.

It’s about the inspiration of creativity.

Think I’m drawing a long bow? Well, I’ll let Field Notes themselves explain.

First, in text:

“Inspired by the vanishing subgenre of agricultural memo books, ornate pocket ledgers and the simple, unassuming beauty of a well-crafted grocery list, we bring you “FIELD NOTES” in hopes of offering, “An honest memo book, worth fillin’ up with GOOD INFORMATION.”

Next, in video:

Each letter, each page, each and every idea within Field Notes’ content sprinkles the brand’s magical nostalgia. The breathtaking design and visual aesthetics of their content resonate deeply with their target audience.

Share your story, consistently

The Filed Notes Colours series is a repetitive representation of their belief that writing, and the notebook is a thing of beauty. All of their content sings with this belief. (Watch this one right to the end. This is notebook brand storytelling as you’ve never seen it before!)

If you want to see the magic in action, check out the Night Sky edition. You’ll notice their explainer video is product-free. There’s not a notebook to be found. Just stunning storytelling about the brand’s commitment to making notetaking pleasurable.

Field Notes know their consistently breathtaking content is enough to earn the trust of their target buyers. No interruptive advertising, no irritating email sales sprays, no huge red ‘buy now’ buttons.

No, that wouldn’t suit the Field Notes customer.

Instead, the marketing team uses respect to develop long term relationships:

Field Notes Ecommerce Content Marketing

Converted? Want to get involved to make your writing beautiful again? Wondering what the next edition of Field Notes Colours has to give?

You’ll have to watch the video to find out.

Therein lies the beauty of Field Notes’ ecommerce content marketing. You’re excited to find out what a notebook company is going to do next. Outrageous.

The secret isn’t quantity. Each Colours edition is released by season. That’s quarterly content publishing. Field Notes only release their beautiful videos once every three months (with a couple of welcome exceptions). Throw in a blog post and a couple of emails and you have a content development schedule any resource-strapped marketing team can handle.

But you know once you buy a Field Notes book, you’re hanging out for the next season’s edition.

This excitement means that every customer becomes a repeat customer.

Potential customers are desperate to become a part of it.

Quality over quantity.

Field Notes Brand is about so much more than selling a product. Without beautiful content marketing, it wouldn’t be possible.

#2. Encourage user generated content to involve your audience – Lifx

What’s Lifx?

It’s a lightbulb that lasts 27 years, changes into a bunch of different fun colours and operates off your mobile phone.

Lucky I’m not managing their content marketing. I’ll let some of their best work explain – this clip does a much better job:

‘Yeah right’ you’re thinking,

‘This is just another tech startup telling us how some incrementally improved version of a perfectly working product is going to change our lives.’

Sure, Lifx has the slick scrolling website with lots of clear space and a gorgeous sans serif font. There’s a fresh photo of some nerd-gone-heartthrob wearing a t-shirt that looks so normal you start lambasting yourself as to why you couldn’t come up with some simple idea that could earn you enough money to wake up at 11am everyday (bitter much).

But Lifx are a little bit different to the rest of the ‘next Google’ crop.

How Lifx use content to make their audience care

Somehow, Lifx found a way to make people care about a lightbulb company.

Not exactly through light-related excitement.

Instead, this startup focused on using content to develop a genuine emotional connection with interested potential customers.

For starters, they have a whole swathe of helpful how to content, with educational information in easy-to-understand language.

Lifx Ecommerce How To Content

But this isn’t the groundbreaking, envy-inspiring aspect of their content.

To find the Lifx secret, you need to explore the Lifx blog.

(For the most part) It’s about Phil, Ben, Nathan, Mike, Guy, Jake and the rest of the team.

People care more about other people than lightbulbs.

Why is the blog about the life and times of the Lifx employees?

After a successful Kickstarter campaign earning them $1.3m funding in 6 days, Lifx wanted to share their journey of dream realisation with the people who had made it possible.

Lifx understood the power of story:

“The most common misconception I see in crowdfunding projects is that a video with high production value will get you funded. This is simply not true. The reason people fund campaigns is because of the product and the story behind why you want to make it.”

So Lifx had a huge captive audience who cared about their product. They cared enough to pledge their own money for it.

One problem.

They had no product just yet. It still hadn’t been commercialised.

So to keep everyone engaged and excited, the only thing left to do to keep their audience engaged – content marketing.

Lifx had a story to tell.

The story of the pain, elation, setbacks and lightbulb moments (of course, we meant it) before a product is commercialised.

The team chronicled their journey in a series of journal-style blog updates, giving their subscribers a real insight into the personalities of the team members and the emotional rollercoaster of the business.

This content makes Lifx’s audience feel special.

The voice used by each team member’s is so authentic, you feel like you’re having a chat over a beer.

Invite your audience on your ecommerce growth journey

Lifx’s behind-the-scenes insights create a community feel that is almost impossible to generate without love, passion and care.

A snippet from the post accompanying this vid helps you understand the power of Lifx’s content marketing (check out the last sentence).

Lifx Personalised Ecommerce Content

The guys share personal anecdotes, jokes and thoughts to make the reader feel like a part of the team. You can’t help but want them to succeed.

By the time Lifx finally overcome their mountain of obstacles and deliver their product to market, each reader is virtually throwing money at their computer screen to get their hands on a dream realised in lightbulb form.

Apart from sharing the Lifx journey with their audience, the team encourage their subscribers to help – creating an unpaid team of brand ambassadors.

Lifx’s blog content asks for opinions and advice on new designs and product ideas. The guys even released their production schedule to build up the excitement for launch date and share their biggest milestones with their followers.

All of a sudden your emotions are involved. Your cheering a team on. If they succeed, you actually care.

You genuinely feel the warm and fuzzies for the rags to riches story of a crew of guys you’ve come to know and love. They’re like the Mighty Ducks of lightbulbs, just without the hopeless fat kid.

Just to top off the audience engagement, an API for their lightbulb has been sent to subscribers along with an app development competition to allow developers in their audience to play around and make their product even better. Cue slow clap content marketing fans…

Lifx Interactive Ecommerce Content

The Lifx content marketing lesson

No product is too boring. Everyone has a story to share.

When people care about your brand, when you strike a chord with your audience, when your content sparks real emotion – you build genuine relationships with your customers.

This is how ecommerce content marketing can work without advertising. You don’t need a huge budget. You don’t need the biggest product range. You don’t need a conversion rate expert.

Find a way to make your audience genuinely care and you’ll find a way to turn content into repeat sales.

#3. Create helpful content to solve your audience’s problems – Cheng

You probably don’t know it, but in concrete design, Fu-Tung Cheng is the man.

He’s written the book on concrete countertops. And concrete at home. Yeah, that’s right, real books.

Cheng Authority Content Marketing

Fu-Tung is recognised as the world’s leading concrete design expert. He started experimenting with concrete after watching a couple of contractors pour a slab for the footpath outside his house. He thought ‘how hard can this be?’

Today, Fu-Tung and his team are internationally known for their innovative concrete forms produced in his Berkeley workshop. But Cheng Concrete is not just about million dollar industrial contracts and prestigious design awards.

It’s about helping people understand and use the knowledge Fu-Tung has developed over decades of refining his craft.

Use helpful content to inform, educate and entertain, everywhere

Fu-tung wanted to help people live out his passion.

He knew it wasn’t hard to create your own concrete design masterpiece.

He knew he could help people save thousands of dollars and create an individual feature for their home.

He knew he wanted to help, not sell.

“I’ve always liked to share with others what I have learned. That’s why I wrote my first book, to correct what I saw as an incomplete understanding of what was possible with concrete as a design element. Everything I’ve done has been a product of not trying to start a business, but just trying to improve the design environment. The whole motivation was not to make money. Just the opposite.”

Unbeknownst to Fu-tung, he has stumbled upon content marketing genius.

The Cheng philosophy is straight out of the content marketing bible:

  • Believe in something.
  • Use this belief to make stuff better.
  • Help others who share this belief.
  • Earn trust.
  • Establish authority.
  • Develop a genuine relationship with your audience.
  • Then make the sale. Again. And again. And again.

The CHENG Concrete Exchange was created with this belief at its heart. The concrete exchange is a haven of ecommerce content marketing craftsmanship. The online resource features detailed how-to information, a gallery, a Find a Contractor tool, oh, and a store offering Fu-tung’s complete line of build-your-own concrete materials.

Cheng Concrete How To Content

Cheng’s how-to training exchange delivers on Fu-tung’s passion to share his knowledge to help others. The concrete content HQ includes tips, techniques, videos, and step-by-step directions to help Cheng’s potential customers complete their projects. Cheng’s content mission? “To provide information and design inspiration for building and making your own concrete projects.”

CHENG Concrete Training Academy takes helpfulness to a new level. Hands-on training workshops at Fu-Tung’s fabrication studio in Berkeley, CA cater to both professionals and do-it-yourselfers, training over 2500 trainees to date and inspiring an industry of talented craftsmen and women.

Cheng In Person Content Marketing

Sure, the workshops cost money, but this is content so good you’d pay for it. Compared to paying tens of thousands of dollars for contractors, a $600 DIY training course is pretty cheap. Cheng can teach professionals and potential customers.

This offering is the most effective mechanism we have seen to develop authority and thought leadership. Apart from writing the book on it, Cheng operates a course on it – to educate the experts.

If you can’t afford a course, or you’re still not sure you want to commit to concrete DIY, Cheng offers a series of amazing online training courses. These guides have everything you could ever want to know about concrete design, making and installation.

The sheer wealth of information, the quality of Cheng’s advice and the willingness of the brand to help leave the potential customer with no option.

They aren’t about to buy their concrete and supplies from anywhere else.

Cheng Educational Ecommerce Content Marketing

Tailor you content to your customer’s purchase journey

Cheng isn’t all about detailed, ‘end of the funnel’ content. He doesn’t just rely on his in depth guides and premium workshops. The brand has a content marketing program designed to pull their audience from stranger to happy customer.

We haven’t even mentioned Cheng’s famous Youtube channel yet. These incredibly helpful how-to videos are often the first contact people have with concrete design and Cheng.

As a result, the content is simple, informative and promotion free, so far removed from the dreaded informercial we’ve all come to know and hate.

This clip alone has over 300,000 views. Yet, the Cheng brand is not mentioned.

No pitch to introduce Fu-Tung’s products. Just helpfulness.

Cheng understands this content is at the top of their sales funnel.

People watching these clips are interested in learning about concreting. They aren’t ready to buy. So the aim of the content is not to sell.

The aim is to help. It is also to establish Fu-Tung as an expert and encourage viewers to watch other Cheng videos.

Other more advanced clips start to introduce Cheng’s products in the context of the video tutorial, with a link off to Cheng’s site for users to learn more. The call to action copy explains the approach:

Cheng Concrete Content Marketing Call To Action

This content is designed to push viewers to the website for more advanced info. It’s not about selling products.

Even product pages are endlessly helpful. Cheng leads their customers through progressively more advanced content until this point. Ready to buy, the customer is given a detailed rundown of the specifics of the product, an outline of the best usage occasions and an explanation of it’s quality.

True to form, Cheng includes relevant how-to information and a specific DIY video. There’s even a recommendation to buy a specific mix from a competitor. They just can’t help but help.

Cheng Product Pages Ecommerce Content

Any ecommerce marketer can learn from Fu-Tung and the Cheng Concrete Exchange.

Work out why you’re in business. What is your brand passionate about? How can you help your customers?

Once you have that down, go mad creating content to help your customers solve the problems that trigger their purchase decisions.

Create a journey with your content to educate your customers and help them into a sale.

Ecommerce content marketing is about so much more than your company blog.

Educate, inform and entertain everywhere.

Help first, sell later.

#4. Use content to delight your customers into a sale – KLM

Lastly, the company you probably have heard of, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

When you’re talking ecommerce companies, airlines don’t readily spring to mind. But of course, these guys are selling online.

When’s the last time you’ve bought a plane ticket from the airport or over the phone. We barely even buy from a travel agent anymore.

The online airfare market is a hot one and airlines are competing against a whole bunch of other travel sites and agents for your precious (and fickle) dollars.

For decades the airline industry has been super competitive. Brands like KLM know the value of a repeat customer and their marketing budgets reflect it. Loyalty programs and advertising spends are plentiful.

But as the battle moves online, there is an opportunity to provide more helpful, educational and entertaining content through owned media platforms.

Airlines are starting to understand the value of content marketing. Brands like Air New Zealand, Southwest Airlines and WestJet have begun using their blog, website and YouTube channels to tell stories that resonate with customers and differentiate them from competitors.

This famous WestJet campaign is a good example, delighting over 36 million viewers on behalf of the brand.

Even though it is an isolated campaign (we content marketing folk prefer an ongoing series), the company’s YouTube channel is first class, with 35 different clips giving their guests an insight into the fun that can be had at WestJet’s destinations.

A brand that proves how much it truly cares about its customers will convince more flyers than a free 5kg extra luggage allowance (although my girlfriend would furiously argue this point with me).

Amongst the flashes of these excellent campaigns, KLM has the most content marketing frequent flyer miles. For years the Dutch airline has been serving up helpful, educational and entertaining content to prove how much it cares.

Use your content to prove you’ll go the extra mile

This month, KLM’s content marketing program reached new heights. This video, showcasing the skills of their adorable customer service pooch ‘Sherlock’ has reached over 8 million YouTube views.

Try watching this and not falling in love, I dare you…

So 8 million people know how KLM are trying to go the extra mile to help their customers.

Look a little closer, and you’ll see how KLM has been trying to go that extra mile to help for years.

There’s the 197 travel guides that KLM have developed to help their customers experience the hidden treasures of their destination.

Klm Travel Guide Ecommerce Content

There’s the @KLM_LocalEyes Twitter account that sees a different KLM employee from around the world to post their insider tips on the best experiences in their city.

Klm Employee Content Marketing

There’s KLM’s incredible travel blog, with travel, lifestyle, music, sports and behind the scenes information about the cities and people around the world related to the airline.

Klm Content Marketing Blog

But it one of the tiniest components of KLM’s content marketing program that sums up their strategy.

The ‘Citizens of the airport series’ is a little 10 part series focussed on KLM’s customers. The brand intermittently interviews travellers in Amsterdam airport to share their story. Sure, these tidbits aren’t especially useful, and they won’t attract millions of views, but to a few select people, the content proves that KLM cares. This determination to truly understand and care for their customers is the reasons why people will start to pay more to fly with the Royal Dutch airline.

Klm Stroytelling Content

Never stop improving your best content

The most famous example (within nerdy content marketing circles) of KLM’s superior content marketing program is the iFly magazine.

Originating as an inflight magazine, iFly has been transformed into an online tourism information extravaganza. Now into its 38th edition, this breathtaking mixture of photography, video, journalism and design showcases the most interesting stories of KLM’s travel destinations. It has never been better over years of production.

Klm Ifly Content Marketing Magazine

Just one experience of this captivating online journey makes you want to experience the real thing. And you need an aeroplane flight for that.

But even if you don’t buy a ticket, you’ll find it’s difficult to stop yourself from signing up for more issues of iFly.

Now KLM has the opportunity to prove to you how much they care over and over again.

They might even slip in a few flight deals related to the beautiful stories in their online magazine.

You might not be able to resist.

Klm Ecommerce Content Marketing

KLM’s content gives the brand a personality that potential flyers can relate to.

Those 8 million viewers who saw Sherlock working his customer service magic have just embarked on the first stage of the KLM content journey. Unlike the isolated viral content campaigns that have hit the airline marketing headlines, KLM has a bunch of content stop overs after takeoff.

Chances are, if you take the flight and follow the journey to purchase, you’ll be buying a whole lot more KLM trips in the future.

Takeaways from the best of the bunch this month

  • It’s about so much more than selling a product, it’s about a shared belief with your audience
  • Find a way to make your audience care and you’ve found a way to turn content into repeat sales
  • Ecommerce content marketing is not just a company blog. Educate, inform and entertain everywhere
  • Tell stories that resonate with customers and differentiate your brand to develop genuine relationships

So off you go, on your way now. Start telling amazing stories and delighting your customers into sales.

No, of course it’s not that easy.

Fret less, there’s plenty more ecommerce online marketing helpfulness we gorillas have to give.

If you’ve been jotting down some lightbulb moments in your notebook for later, you might want to take a longer journey to explore content marketing and make things a little more concrete.

We’ve got over 30 pages of more advanced tips, tactics and techniques to have you meeting more customers online in no time. Be sure to check out our free guide to building an eCommerce audience you can bank on.

In the meantime, good luck online – and if you haven’t already, sign up for our regular email updates to make sure you learn from the best of the bunch next month!

By James Dillon
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