What is Content Commerce?


Content commerce, in its most fundamental form, refers to leveraging digital content to generate revenue. This might be through subscriptions, advertisement, product placement, and various other methods. 

At face value, content commerce is a simple proposition. But despite its apparent simplicity, it has transformed the way customers purchase products and shaped our modern world in profound ways.

The brands that have taken advantage of content commerce in the last decade have risen to the top in every vertical, from Slim Jim to The New York Times. And the brands that haven’t? Well, they’d be wise to take note. In the rapidly shifting business environment of 2020, content commerce is one of the clearest ways to gain market share and grow your brand.

Content Commerce Examples

Case Study #1: National Life and Accident Insurance Company 

Content commerce dates back to the very beginning of mass communication. In 1925, the National Life and Accident Insurance Company had a crazy idea—build an entire radio station. Despite protests from upper management, they turned an entire floor of their office building into a recording studio.

Now, you probably don’t recognize the National Life and Accident Insurance Company—but you’ll likely recognize what they created: The Grand Ole Opry.

The radio station became one of the most popular in the country, which enabled an unorthodox sales strategy. On Saturday night, when The Grand Ole Opry aired, sales reps would walk their territories and mark down any houses that were listening to the show. Then, Sunday afternoon, the sales reps could ensure that every house they went to was a “warm lead”.

It was an ingenious content commerce strategy that was decades ahead of its time. But today, technology has changed the way we do business—we know who’s listening. And we don’t need to wait until Sunday to sell to them.

Case Study #2: Slim Jim

Slim Jim is growing at its fastest rate in five years. And the reason why isn’t because of a new product or a massive digital advertising campaign.

The reason why is Andy Hines. Andy Hines was a Slim Jim superfan who started a fan account making irreverent jokes and memes about Slim Jim. Rather than try to shut him down, as many brands would do, they instead hired him.

Within a year, Slim Jim’s Instagram account grew from 5,000 followers to 500,000. Six months later, it hit one million. Slim Jim accomplished this not with polished digital marketing materials and copyrighting, but rather, with sardonic and esoteric memes; jokes that would get most content marketers fired.

Andy Hines had no experience in marketing before leading the team at Slim Jim—and perhaps that’s why his content works so well. Slim Jim’s commerce content resonates with its audience because it built a community around authentically engaging with the brand. Their content is raw, entertaining, and refreshing—but most importantly, it gets customers to purchase the product. It’s helped Slim Jim deploy an ecommerce strategy selling merchandise, limited edition products, and even involving customers in the new product creation process.

Case Study #3: The Strategist

A stellar example of content commerce today is The New York Times subsidiary brand The Strategist. The Strategist provides in-depth reviews for a wide variety of consumer products.

If the New York Times had tried to do this without spinning the brand out into a subsidiary company, this sort of content commerce may have compromised the brand’s journalistic integrity. 

However, by applying the editorial rigor of its parent company, The Strategist is able to leverage its audience’s trust and create a natural environment for content commerce to occur. Readers are satisfied to receive such high quality recommendations, and when they purchase products with affiliate links, both brands profit.

Case Study #4: Giorgio Maldini

Increasingly, consumers are turning to video, rather than the written word for learning about and discovering new products. 

An excellent example of this is Giorgio Maldini’s 2020 Collection’s ecommerce strategy. Rather than follow the traditional model of fashion brand consumer interaction, where digital content is largely controlled by gatekeeper fashion publications, Giorgio Maldini is leveraging content commerce to content in a more immediate and emotional way with consumers.

They created a piece of engaging commerce content for their customers, and then used AiBUY technology to allow customers to directly purchase these products from within the content itself. By creating a seamless experience for the viewer, they are able to erase the line between commerce and content and provide more value to their customers.

How to Get Started With Content Commerce

When trying to deploy a content commerce strategy, there are three critical components to keep in mind:

1. Understand your audience

Content commerce works so well because it matches an emotional experience (viewing content) to purchasing a product. The only way to create this match is by truly understanding the end-customer. Slim Jim is an excellent example of this— go to their Instagram page and it’s very likely you won’t find it funny—it will seem bizarre and esoteric. But one million Slim Jim fans love it, and that’s all that matters for content commerce.

2. Use the right tools

Content commerce has never been easier to execute on. It’s critical you have the right ecommerce strategy and technologies to make your process as streamlined as possible. For example, to keep things streamlined, you might use AiBUY to link your videos to your Shopify Store, and process transactions with Stripe. All three platforms integrate seamlessly for an easy setup on your end and a smooth experience for your customer.

You might also consider platforms like Salesforce Commerce Cloud or Magento from Adobe. Both platforms also integrate seamlessly with AiBUY.

3. Speak authentically to your audience  

Trust is a critical component of content commerce. Brands like The Strategist have been so successful because as consumers go through the process of discovering new products, they know that they can trust its content is well-researched and unbiased. Review channels, unboxing creators, and bloggers should obviously take note.

But even larger product brands need to learn this lesson. The act of buying is always an act of trust. It is saying: “I trust that you will deliver more value than the money I am spending purchasing this product.”

Therefore, cultivate trust by providing authenticity in all communications and content. Because when goodwill is created with the consumer, you can always capitalize on it—and fortunately, with modern technology, we don’t have to wait until Sunday to do so.


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