A marketer’s job is to make it easy for buyers to buy. As a result, marketers know content is the biggest thing representing products in the digital channels and 'Content is King' has been a mantra since the early years of e-commerce. To a large extent, this is still true, and your customer's expectations of product content are higher than ever. Content needs to be engaging, descriptive, accurate and exciting, but without context, it may not be relevant. And relevance is what helps customers make buying decisions.
Chris Anderson, the author of The Long Tail, wrote, "In a world of infinite choice, context—not content—is king," and I have to agree. Even the best content in the world fails if it is created and disseminated without consideration of the context surrounding it and the buyer's situation. If the context is wrong, the content is rarely relevant.
What does context mean for e-commerce and the customer? It depends on the product category and the customer's situation. For a customer who needs to buy a spare part for a car, the context is the make, model, year, and trim of the 'vehicle,' together with the placement of the part. For customers looking for a new sofa, the context is the living room, so 'shop the room' becomes an excellent tool for them in their buying journey. A customer with a new mobile phone that wants to buy an accessory wants to be guided to products that are compatible with their 'device.' Even though you might not be selling 'rooms,' 'vehicles,' and 'devices,' you need to connect these merchandizing objects to your product content to create context and relevancy.
According to an article by McKinsey, making the digital journey relevant is more significant than ever. Context can also vary even when shopping for the same product. Customers may look for backup parts for a product they already own, or others may want to purchase accessories for an existing product. Both sets of customers might end up buying the same product, but they are entering the buying journey differently, and that is impacted by their needs.
However, both want a frictionless, individualized, problem-solving experience. Relevancy is crucial to provide that and to enable them to make a buying decision. This is especially true in the micro-moments where they seek instant gratification or quick solutions to their problems. Product content must be immediately available and suitable for each situation to be relevant to the buyer.
The product experience is all you have in the digital channels, and that experience can never be great without relevance. Merchandizing objects like 'room,' 'look,' 'device,' and 'vehicle' are vital to making it easier for your buyers to buy and for you to sell more products. Don't waste time and resources on e-commerce solutions that aren't designed to make it easy and efficient to create contextual product experiences for your customers.
Otherwise, they won’t be your customers, and you’ve wasted valuable resources.
Learn more about why context matters via the infographic, State of B2B e-commerce.
Erika Goldwater, B2B marketer
Erika Goldwater is a B2B marketer with almost 20 years of experience in demand generation, public relations and global events. She creates marketing that drives revenue. Goldwater is a CIPP/US and has been consulting for leading SaaS organizations including Protagonist, Leadspace, Eloqua and ANNUITAS, a demand generation strategy consulting organization.
I sometimes find that there is some confusion around the definition of product management versus product marketing. So, let’s clarify the difference before we dig into the details. Wikipedia defines it well: "Product marketing is the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience. Product marketing, as opposed to product management, deals with more outbound marketing or customer-facing tasks (in the older sense of the phrase)."
Pretty straightforward, isn't it?
An efficient product marketing process is a foundation for successful product launches, effective SEO, eCommerce, and much more. Without compelling high quality product stories—including descriptions, specifications, how-to videos, images, cross-sells , and so on—it is very hard to provide a great product experience. The product experience is such a vital part of the customer's buying journey that, without a great one, it is almost impossible to convince anyone to buy anything. Unfortunately, despite its importance, product marketing is often not considered as a strategic process.
There is a big difference in how you need to communicate to B2B Buyers versus B2C Shoppers. It is important that you know to whom you are marketing before you start communicating with them, so there is always a need for buyer personas regardless of industry. However, personas are not persons, and persons have different contexts and intents during the buying journey. Most customers will move across touchpoints and devices, creating a need for content to be developed and stored granularly to help the front-end solutions select the right pieces and adapt the product story—in real time.
There seem to be a misconception that micro-moments are only happening within B2C, but B2B buyers are mobile too, and thus are constantly connected. The B2B buying journey is now as fragmented and unpredictable as it is within B2C. According to Google, 89% of B2B buyers use the internet during the B2B research process. Think with Google has written an interesting piece about this. With B2B marketing, also comes the complexity of often having more than one decision-maker, each of whom can have a different persona and be in a different phase of the buying journey.
Digital marketing is extremely competitive. To win, companies need to have the resources, processes, and systems in place to create large volumes of high-quality content, manage knowledge about the customers, communicate effectively in real time, and have ways of analyzing and optimizing it all.
It is time to realize that without this in place, the other strategic processes and systems that are managing transaction and logistics, such as ERP, are going to have less and less to do in the future when sales are going down. That is why you need to make product marketing a strategic process. If it is not considered strategic to your organization already, it is time to make it so.
Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver