In the old days, brands fought for dominion on retail shelves. The ones that had relationships with people before they shopped won on perception, loyalty, and trust. The brands that didn’t either lost, or they fought by lowering their prices.
Sure, shelf space has shifted to search engine result pages, social media feeds, and marketplaces like Amazon. But as an ecommerce brand, you’re still left with two options: create a relationship with your audience, or end up in a margin-crushing price fight.
Luckily for us, we live in pretty good times, my friend. The direct-to-consumer (DTC or D2C) revolution has left even the smallest ecommerce businesses with the power to create, and own, those relationships on a large scale.
The question is, are you using that power to grow?
The best DTC businesses on the planet are. And many of them are doing it with their blog.
“Attention has become the currency of the digital, social, and mobile web. And the only way to attract a customer’s attention today is through the production of high-quality content that is relevant and personalized to the reader.”– Marketing Insider Group
Why Every Ecommerce Business Needs a Blog
Over the past several years, hundreds of small DTC and ecommerce businesses have used Matcha to build a blog that’s helped them build their business. Through that experience, we’ve found 12 ways their blogs are helping them grow.
Benefits of Blogging for Ecommerce Businesses
A blog will help you…
- Market to a valuable audience, even when they’re not ready to buy from you yet
- Build an owned audience vs. “renting” one from channels like Amazon and Google
- Learn more about your customers
- Personalize the customer experience
- Drive affordable, highly qualified traffic from social media
- Grow your email subscriber list
- Retain email subscribers
- Maintain marketing momentum with a ready-to-buy audience
- Build trust
- Price proof your products
- Build compounding value that’s unachievable with product ads alone
- Improve SEO and rank higher on Google
Before we dive into these 12 ways a blog will help your ecommerce store grow, let’s take a second to understand what a blog really is.
An Ecommerce Blog Is More Than You Think
Let’s set the record straight. A blog is way more than a collection of articles on your website.
For an ecommerce business, a blog is how you invite new audiences to your website by means other than discounts and product promotions. It’s a way to turn quick sales into long-term relationships. And it’s a lower-cost method of acquiring and keeping customers.
Tactically, a blog strategy has four components.
When you follow this four-step formula, your blog will become one of the most versatile and valuable marketing tools you have.
So, let’s get to it. Here are 12 proven ways a blog will help you grow your ecommerce business.
1. Market to a valuable audience that isn’t ready to buy (yet)
Direct response product ads are an important part of winning the ecommerce battle. But that type of transactional marketing only serves a small portion of your audience: those with the intent to buy soon.
The majority of your audience isn’t in that boat.
For example, let’s say you sell yoga mats. Some people in your audience love yoga but already have a mat. They’re good people to keep around because they’ll need another mat some day. Plus, they can be your best brand advocate with other yogis.
Then there are people who love to run, or lift weights, or play rugby but don’t know the specific benefits yoga can offer them. They have a latent need. A product ad featuring a yoga mat is unlikely to catch their attention.
For these large segments of your audience, constantly posting the same product ads in the same places until they buy is like poking your big sister in the head until she drives you to the mall. Or locks you in your bedroom (a situation with which I may have some personal experience).
Here’s a better option.
Post content to your blog that connects your audience’s interests to your topic. Then promote it through interest-targeted Facebook ads.
“If you don’t have a blog and you don’t have content, then the only thing you have to say to your customer is, ‘here’s another widget. Come buy it,’”Amanda Scheirer, Sea to Summit
So for our current yogis, you could promote an article about the most amazing yoga retreats in the world. They’ll read and share it, introducing your brand to their network.
For our runners, publish a piece called “The 10 Long Run Recovery Tactics That Will Keep You Injury-Free.” You can add some details about yoga’s benefit to runners and even include a link to a yoga-specific article.
In both cases, these readers — and the people they’ve shared your content with — are now in your marketing funnel. You can retarget them, promote content to lookalike audiences, or even get them to subscribe to your email newsletter.
Which, funny enough, is a brilliant segue into the next way a blog will help you grow your ecommerce business.
2. Blog readers offer more marketing opportunities than Amazon shoppers
The beauty of selling on Amazon is that you have access to their enormous audience. The negative is that it’s their audience. And their platform. So you have to play by their rules.
Rules that sometimes don’t favor small brands and retailers.
A blog gives you the method and means to create your own audience. And unlike with Amazon shoppers, you have control over the relationship. This means you have plenty of opportunities to connect with them again.
Not only can you market to them in the ways I mentioned above (retargeting, email, etc.), but you can also gather lots of actionable data about their behavior from those touchpoints — something you don’t get from Amazon.
3. Blogs reveal customer behavior
Marketing is a tough task any day. But without customer data, it’s darn near impossible.
And if you don’t understand your audience, you can’t give shoppers a good experience with your brand.
But as a small ecommerce company, how do you learn about customer behavior?
You can get some of the answers from purchase patterns, but they don’t tell the whole story. Let’s say you sell healthy drink mixes, like Matcha customer Everly. Did your last customer buy because your product helps them lose weight? Or maybe they were a parent who wants their kids to drink more water.
Everly wanted to know, too. So, they published several articles covering a variety of health topics. Then they promoted those articles through content ads on Facebook.
The result surprised even them. One particular ad featuring an article about the keto diet outperformed all other topics by a wide margin.
Keto dieters were just one of many target audiences on Everly’s list. But now, they’re one of Everly’s most valuable segments. And the keto niche is a big part of how the brand reduced their lead cost by 91% and increase revenue by more than 20%.
Not only does a blog help you know your audience better, but it also provides the fuel you need to personalize your marketing.
4. Blogs fuel marketing personalization
Small brick-and-mortar businesses have one huge advantage over big-box retailers: personalized service.
If you own a running store, for example, you know which regular customers run trails and not roads. So, you can tell them about a new trail race in the area and offer suggestions on how to climb big hills better. That’s good customer service.
But that’s much harder to do when you sell your products online. When online relationships remain transactional, big businesses win the personalization game. Online stores like Amazon have recommendation engines that suggest products based on previous purchases, and just about every company addresses us by our first name in emails these days.
Your blog is how you take back this advantage.
“80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.”Epsilon
Let’s say you own that running store, but now it’s online. Someone reads an article you published about the best big mountain trail races in the U.S. Then, you retarget them with an ad that features an article about training for big mountain races. All the while, the big box store is still serving up the same shoe ad.
Of course, it’s awfully tough to personalize your marketing if you don’t have traffic to your website in the first place.
5. Drive highly qualified traffic from social media to your website (and spend less to do it)
There’s no doubt, it still pays to land a top spot on a Google search result page. But overall, organic clicks are declining sharply.
In one estimate, total clicks from organic searches have fallen 20% since 2016. That’s roughly 14 billion fewer opportunities to get traffic from Googlers!
One culprit is Google itself. An increasing number of search clicks are being gobbled up by websites owned by the search engine giant. An even bigger factor, though, is the number of searches that don’t result in a click at all.
So while SEO is still important (and you’ll soon see how a blog can help with it), savvy ecommerce businesses won’t put all their traffic eggs in the search basket.
“Our blog content has been one of the biggest traffic drivers to our website”Jessica Spencer, Superfeet
We’ve already talked about how content can engage people on social media when they aren’t ready to buy yet. But those content-powered ads have two other really useful tricks up their sleeves.
Clicks from content-powered Facebook ads cost 90% less than average Facebook ad clicks.
According to a study by Wordstream, the average cost for a click from Facebook ads is $1.72.
For Matcha customers, where ads always feature helpful or entertaining content, the average cost per click is just 18 cents! That means the average click from a content ad costs 90% less than the average Facebook ad.
Put another way, you can get 9x the traffic for the same ad investment.
Content ads will naturally qualify visitors
Even less expensive traffic still costs money. And small ecommerce businesses have little of that to waste.
When you pay for a click, you want to know the new website visitor is your kind of people. Highly targeted content makes that happen.
Say someone clicks on your ad featuring the article “5 Natural Ways to Help Your Newborn Sleep Through the Night.” You can rest easy knowing the ad has delivered someone that’s likely to be interested in your all-natural baby linens.
Once you have a new website visitor, your blog content can help encourage them to stay involved with your brand.
6. Acquire more email subscribers at a lower cost
When someone clicks on one of your content ads on Facebook, they’re saying, “You’ve offered something of specific value to me, and I’m willing to trade you my attention for it.”
You can use the same content-pro-quo concept when asking them to give up their email address.
“Eighty-seven percent of online shoppers are okay with companies knowing more about them if a brand personalizes its experiences to their interests.”Target Marketing
There are a couple of ways you can do it. You can lock, or gate, a piece of high-performing content behind a form, or you can add a website popup that offers more content. In either case, your visitor is getting something valuable in exchange for their email address.
What’s great about this tactic is that it works for people who are coming to your site organically, through a cost-per-lead (CPL) campaign, or through a cost-per-click (CPC) campaign.
At Matcha, we’ve found popups are great at converting visitors to subscribers, but locked content is an even more effective way to capture email addresses. But keep in mind that you should pair locked content with a CPL ad campaign to reap the rewards.
In general, we see cost per lead drop dramatically when ecommerce businesses use content to capture shoppers’ email addresses. It’s common for Matcha users to see CPLs under $2!
Now that you have these subscribers on your email list, your blog content can help keep them coming back.
7. Improve email list retention and clickthrough rates
Every time you send an email, approximately two out of every 1,000 people will unsubscribe from your list.
It’s normal for some people to unsubscribe from your email list. Not everyone who joins is your ideal customer. But if your unsubscribe rate is climbing, you may be asking yourself, “What did I do wrong?”
Several studies on the topic say that people most often unsubscribe if they think the emails they’re getting are repetitive, irrelevant, and boring.
So if, for example, you’re sending product promotion after product promotion, you might be poking your best customers in the head.
“I want to send emails I’d actually like to read. Content gives us the breadth we need to do that.”Chris Holt, Campman.com
We’ve already talked about how to use content to personalize your marketing. This is the time to do it.
Start by segmenting your email list by demographic data, purchase behavior, or the type of content subscribers consume. Then, include relevant content along with your deals of the day and new product announcements.
Outdoor gear retailer Campman.com has mastered this art.
Every week, Campman subscribers are treated to a new themed email that speaks to their interests. Blog content is paired with product offers to create a compelling story customers and prospects want to read.
Since adding helpful blog content, Campman has increased revenue from emails by 10x.
And if you’re one of the many ecommerce businesses that either sell seasonal products, or you live or die by holiday revenue, keeping that audience engaged all year long will be a huge benefit.
8. Maintain marketing momentum with a ready-to-buy audience
If you’re building a DTC business, you’ve likely heard the Glossier story. It goes something like this.
In 2010, Emily Weiss started a blog exposing the secret beauty regimens of celebrities. By 2014, the blog, called Into the Gloss, had a huge readership and following on social media that was ready to be monetized. Weiss launched just four products and marketed them to her ready-made army of followers.
Today, Glossier is valued at $1.2 billion.
The takeaway here is pretty simple. Weiss used her blog to build an audience. When it was time to sell products, she didn’t need to run a bunch of awareness and pay-per-click campaigns; she already had people’s attention.
In other words, Weiss had generated a great deal of marketing momentum with her blog.
Marketing momentum is extremely valuable for all ecommerce brands.
For instance, maybe you sell swimwear. If your marketing tends to hibernate in the winter, you’ll have to climb the hill of attention again each spring.
Or if your brand lives or dies on holiday sales, you’ll have a tough time fighting for customers if few people have heard of you before November.
Like Weiss, you can use your blog to maintain marketing momentum with your audience. Your swimwear customers may not be thinking about fun in the sun in early November, but they would appreciate a list of delicious but low-calorie appetizers to make for holiday parties. Come spring, you’ll have a ready-made army of people paying attention to you.
Through her blog, Weiss provided a lot of value to her audience before ever asking them to buy something. The result was a ton of brand trust.
9. Blogs build trust
For 81% of shoppers, lack of brand trust is a dealbreaker. That’s according to a report from global communications firm Edelman.
Sadly, that same report found that only 34% of people trust most of the brands they buy from.
A sharp-eyed marketer sees the opportunity here. If you can build trust with your audience, you’ll beat out the majority of brands that haven’t.
Of course, you need to make good on your promise of a great product at a fair price delivered on time. In our ultra-competitive world though, that’s table stakes for generating trust. How can you make sure you stand out?
A blog helps you build trust in two ways.
First, when you provide real value to your audience before asking for a sale, they’re more likely to see you as a partner. Not a salesperson.
“Educational content makes people 131% more likely to buy.”Conductor
Second, a blog is your chance to express your brand values.
“Our blog plays a huge part in who we are. Not just getting the Ogden Made name out there, but in sharing what we stand behind.”Josh Stuart, Owner, Ogden Made
Guess what happens when people know your brand values and trust you as a partner? You exit the price war.
10. Blogs help price proof your products (with psychology!)
If you create a relationship with your audience that is only transactional, their interaction with you will be, well, only transactional.
The result, according to a recent survey of ecommerce marketers, is downward price pressure. That’s a game few small ecommerce businesses can afford to play, especially against big-name competitors.
On the flipside, if you offer a great experience your customers will judge you on more than just price.
“When customers feel connected to brands, more than half of consumers (57%) will increase their spending with that brand, and 76% will buy from them over a competitor.”Social Sprout
So how do you provide the kind of experience that makes people love your brand so much they stop comparing you on price alone?
Well, your blog, of course!
“88% of people say that personally relevant content improves how they feel about a brand. 78% say it increases their purchase intent.”Marketing Insider Group
And there’s some psychology behind it.
Contrary to what many of us like to think, emotions are far more powerful than logic in our decision-making process.
An article in Psychology Today notes that:
“Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).”
A blog gives you the opportunity to create emotion on a level that product ads rarely can.
High-end watchmaker DuFrane is brilliant at this. Their products aren’t the cheapest on the market. And while there’s a lot of quality that goes into each timepiece, they know that’s not the message that will resonate with their audience.
“The real differentiation is what someone thinks about when they imagine putting on a DuFrane watch. I want my brand to be an energy, a vibe. And the way I capture that is with creative content.”Steven Lee, DuFrane Watches
It’s this philosophy that has helped DuFrane grow their website visitation by 190%!
11. The value of blog content compounds over time, unlike product ads
When you turn on a product ad, its effect is immediate and measurable. How many people clicked the ad? How many people made a purchase?
No wonder product ads are so appealing for small ecommerce businesses.
But leave that same ad in the same place, and over time, its results fade as that channel becomes saturated. Turn off the ad, and results stop completely.
A piece of blog content is different. It can generate immediate results when used in ads, as we mentioned already. But its value doesn’t stop there.
A single blog post that’s promoted to one audience on Facebook may be shared with their network of like-minded friends, for example. That same post can also be promoted through your newsletter and forwarded from there. And it can be found in search engine results and organically on your website.
The compounding results are significant.
Remember the keto article from drink mix brand Everly? (See #3 above.) It was only published to their blog once. But look at how the readers and leads continued to pile up even after four months.
But the party doesn’t stop after you’ve used a piece of content in Facebook ads and newsletters. It continues to help you climb to the top of search engine pages.
12. A blog improves SEO
The impact of organic search may have taken a ding of late, but it still provides a significant source of traffic for ecommerce brands. And blog content is still an SEO powerhouse.
“Adding a blog to your website can increase its chance of ranking in search engines by 434%”Blue Corona
Google considers over 200 factors when deciding where to rank its results. A blog can help with many of them, but for now, let’s take a look at two of the most important.
First, a blog gives you the opportunity to organically use keywords and key phrases on your website.
Keywords and key phrases are the terms people enter into search engines to find what they’re looking for.
Generally speaking, the more often your website uses these words and phrases, the higher it will rank on search engine results pages.
But gone are the days of “black hat” search engine optimization (SEO) techniques like keyword stuffing. If you want Google to send you traffic, your keywords need to be used organically in ways that help Google users answer their questions.
Blog posts are an organic way to add keywords and phrases to your website. And bonus, those articles will actually help Google users, something that will always help you rank better.
Second, a blog gives you more opportunities to get backlinks.
Backlinks are links to your website from an external website. Having more backlinks, particularly from relevant and trusted sources, tells Google that your website is also relevant and trusted.
Your helpful, entertaining blog content is a backlink magnet.
Pretend you run a website that sells super tough dog toys. You publish a series of photos showing dogs before and after being adopted.
That article can be referenced by dog-focused non-profits or even digital media outlets wanting to share uplifting content. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see that post?
And while you’re building your Google clout, you can also promote content using Google Adwords.
When small ecommerce businesses and DTC brands have only transactional relationships with their audience, they’re left to compete on price. That’s a losing proposition when companies like Amazon are your competitors.
A blog is a powerful and versatile tool to build relationships that go beyond the transaction. It’s how a small online business can build an audience that’s always paying attention. An audience that’s in it for the long haul.
But building a blog can seem overwhelming. Especially when you already have a bunch of plates spinning. That’s why it’s been off-limits to small businesses for so long, leaving them at a disadvantage when competing against the big guys.
This is where hundreds of small ecommerce businesses and DTC brands were before they started using Matcha. Now they’re publishing, promoting, and converting like crazy. Matcha’s content library offers 10,000 instantly publishable articles that you can use to create a world-class blog. Pair that with Matcha’s email capture tools and powerful analytics, and you’ve got a significant weapon in your ecommerce battle.
Here’s the best part! You could sign up for a 14-day free trial right now and start seeing real results before you finish looking at adorable rescue dog photos.
Start your 14-day free trial and begin publishing today!
Featured image provided by John Schnobrich