Content and commerce: How to leverage hype to boost sales
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DTC brands now face an uncomfortable truth—you can only do so much with paid advertising. Moving forward, the key to success will be building a self-sustainable strategy centered around content, commerce, and community.
The reason? In a world where customers are overwhelmed with information, being recognized and remembered is a competitive advantage. The easiest way to brand awareness is by creating valuable content that will help you build a community around your brand. When you have an engaging community of raving fans, you will see products flying off your digital shelf.
While content and commerce strategy is nothing new to forward-thinking brands, it could require a mindset shift for some businesses who’ve long had a mentality that’s anchored in paid ads. However, making the step towards content and commerce strategy will help you generate hype, and boost sales.
Sounds good, right? Let’s see why the combination of content and commerce is a marriage made in heaven.
What is content and commerce?
Content and commerce refers to the creation and promotion of valuable content to generate sales. Also known as content-led commerce or ecommerce content marketing, this concept helps brands reap the rewards of the hype centered around the content, ultimately increasing the bottom line.
Selling a product has always been about storytelling. The most successful salespeople were the best storytellers.
Customers have created a sense of aversion towards aggressive selling throughout the years. Instead, they want to learn, explore, and engage with a brand before making a purchase.
Here’s where content marketing comes into the picture.
Brands realized that creating a story through their content strategy can help them build brand awareness. Fast forward to today, content marketing is the cornerstone of every successful business. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of marketers view content as a core business strategy.
This begs the question: What makes the combination of content and commerce so successful?
It’s all about creating content that builds a community and empowering customers to engage with your brand in a meaningful way. The result: more sales.
The essence of the content and commerce strategy can be summed up in a sentence:
“Content builds community; community fuels commerce (and high conversion rates).”— Paul Jauregui, Co-Founder of BK Beauty
Content and commerce: Then and now
Some of the pioneers in the space are brands like Michelin and Procter & Gamble (P&G) that started using content to boost sales back in the 1900s. Michelin promoted free travel guides with maps, restaurants, and instructions about changing tires.
There were 35,000 copies of the first edition, even though there were only about 3,000 cars in France at the time. As a result, the guide helped Michelin spark interest in cars and tires.
In 1933, P&G launched its first soap opera on the radio. Promoting the product during the daytime program proved to be an effective technique that helped the brand reach its target audience: homemakers. After the initial success, content became one of the key pillars for P&G, and the brand even started its own production company.
There’s a saying that today every company is a media company—and that’s true. Just think of Coca-Cola, Nike, Amazon, and Walmart. Besides their core business, they have well-oiled content machines to help them stay top of mind.
One of the best examples of unparalleled content and commerce strategy is Red Bull. The energy drink giant not only invented a new product category but has also rewritten the marketing playbook.
Aside from the Red Bull Content Pool, where journalists can find news, exclusive interviews, more than 300,000 high-quality photos, and over 22,000 HD videos, Red Bull is hosting its own events to raise brand awareness and generate hype. The brand became recognized by focusing on extreme sports packed with action and excitement.
The best thing about the content and commerce strategy is that it’s not just for giant retail players. DTC brands such as Dollar Shave Club, Glossier, and Peloton have grown into billion-dollar companies off the back of content.
From a small ecommerce brand that couldn’t afford expensive TV ads or celebrity endorsers, the Dollar Shave Club managed to disrupt the shaving industry with its customer-centric approach. The razor DTC startup also started publishing a men’s interest publication—MEL Magazine. MEL wasn’t like regular branded content publications. It became popular because of its witty and sharp culture coverage, filling a void among lifestyle publications aimed at men. Dollar Shave Club members were receiving a physical copy of the magazine as part of their subscription. The magazine helped DSC with brand building while maintaining editorial independence.
Another great example of the convergence of content and commerce as a success formula is the skincare and beauty brand, Glossier. Emily Weiss has turned her blog Into The Gloss into one of the most successful beauty brands, using the power of content-led commerce. The beauty blog started with tips, makeup tutorials, and product reviews and later launched its own beauty products.
“Content commerce is booming at this point, considering GOOP and Glossier pioneered it successfully enough that it led them to create their own products; Glossier is worth almost $2B now.” — Andrea Hernández, Snaxshot
Forward-thinking brands have disrupted traditional retail incumbents using content and commerce strategy. Peloton has completely changed the fitness and apparel industry with a platform model.
According to founder and CEO John Foley, Peloton is a software, hardware, and content company. The revolutionary approach of a fitness bike with live-stream fitness classes has helped Peloton create a strong community and mind-blowing social media following. The company extended to selling connected treadmills, weights, and co-branded apparel as a logical next step.
Benefits of content and commerce
Content marketing isn't a sprint—it’s a marathon. To get results, you have to be consistent—and to be consistent, you have to understand the benefits it holds. Let’s look at a few ways you can use content and commerce to support the growth of your business.
- Generate brand awareness—Brand awareness is crucial in the decision-making process, and it’s one of the main goals for running marketing campaigns according to HubSpot. Content-led commerce can help brands stay top of mind, a critical first step in building brand equity.
- Attract organic traffic—Customer acquisition is getting more costly by the day, and there’s so much you can achieve with paid advertising. Including content marketing in the mix leads to increased organic traffic. According to SEMrush, organic traffic is the number one metric that marketers use to measure content success (83%), followed by page views and sessions (70%) and leads (66%).
- Increase customer engagement—The first step towards a purchase is the power to encourage your target audience to engage with your brand. As reported by Optimonster, according to 72% of marketers, content marketing increases engagement.
- Build a community—DTC brands that want to future-proof their business have to focus on creating a community. The good news is DTC brands are uniquely positioned because they own the overall customer experience, which makes it easier for them to build a community around the brand.
- Boost conversions—The convergence of content and commerce leads to a higher conversion rate. Content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
“If you build your community, content, and commerce pillars together, you will see higher retention, faster brand awareness, organic UGC, and products people actually want and are excited to talk about.” — Amanda Goetz, Founder of House of Wise
Retail brands leverage the hype of TV shows and movies
Competing with huge legacy brands can seem like a David versus Goliath battle. However, innovative DTC brands have found a way to change the marketing playbook with out-of-the-box thinking. Ecommerce merchants use content-led commerce strategies to ride the popularity wave of famous TV shows and movies and boost sales.
Here are a few examples of DTC brands that centered their ecommerce content marketing strategy around some of the most popular series and movies.
- Madhappy x Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Los Angeles streetwear brand Madhappy launched a collection to celebrate Larry David, and the epic TV show Curb Your Enthusiasm. The capsule collection consists of hoodies, crewneck sweatshirts, T-shirts, and accessories such as dad caps, socks, and mugs.
Madhappy wanted to thank Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm for more than 20 years of consistency and for bringing self-awareness to humanity. The collection is a real treat for the TV show fans that now get to own Curb Your Enthusiasm-related merchandise.
- The Hundreds x The Dark Knight
The Hundreds is a community-based streetwear brand that emphasizes People Over Product and reminds us of ‘90s workwear and Californian subculture tribes. Harry Potter, The Bored Ape Yacht Club, and Jurassic Park are just a few of the brand’s well-known collaborative collections that became a hallmark of The Hundreds.
In 2021 they launched The Hundreds X The Dark Knight collection in partnership with Warner Bros. The Joker fans can buy graphic T-shirts, long sleeves, hoodies, coaches jackets, and chino pants, as well as timeless accessories like snapbacks, trucker hats, playing cards, and coffee mugs. The collection was designed by Shane Gonzales, who considers The Dark Knight as one of the greatest superhero films ever made.
- MeUndies x Game of Thrones
The underwear and loungewear company, MeUndies, has launched a Game of Thrones-inspired collection, including T-shirts, lounge pants, hoodies, shorts, socks, and underwear.
One of the fastest-growing online apparel retailers has released three different patterns to get the attention of Game of Thrones raving fans. Besides this collection, MeUndies has other popular collaborations like The Simpsons and Disney Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
- Rowing Blazers x Warm & Wonderful
If you are one of the fans of Netflix-original drama, The Crown, you’ve probably noticed the black sheep jumper that Princess Diana wore at a series of polo matches during the 1980s. And while the piece has been replicated many times since then, the Rowing Blazers release is the first official collaboration with the original designers, Joanna Osborne and Sally Muir.
The DTC brand made the most out of the hype around the TV show by launching the original black sheep jumper by Warm & Wonderful. This move didn’t go unnoticed. Rowing Blazers was splashed in headlines across newspapers and earned its well-deserved attention.
These examples are proof of concept of the content and commerce strategy. The brands found a great opportunity to leverage the hype of a TV show or a movie, to raise brand awareness and boost sales. The good news: More retail brands are jumping on the content and commerce bandwagon, and customers are here for it.
Streaming services dipping their toes into commerce
Content and commerce isn't a one-way street. Many companies that started by creating and streaming content have moved into commerce.
It’s simple—streaming services such as Spotify, Netflix, and Disney leverage the hype to commercialize media content by making it shoppable. The result? A completely new income stream. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The music streaming service Spotify has wrapped the year sharing personalized listening data with its customers that they could easily reshare on their social media profiles. But the brand has been sharing personal data for five years now. So, what’s the catch? This time, besides sharing top songs and other stats, Spotify has integrated with the ecommerce platform Shopify to empower customers to buy merchandise from their favorite artists.
Netflix is now leaning into linear commerce by creating an audience first and leveraging the hype to sell a physical product later. Fans can browse the online shop where they can find products related to their favorite shows and brands.
One of the collaborations of this kind was the ten-piece capsule collection Halston x Netflix that brought back the 70s. The collaboration was inspired by the Netflix TV show Halston, which followed the life of the legendary fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick.
The results were mind-blowing: Sales were up 631% YoY, and traffic to Halston.com was up 3,200%, mostly from organic search. The success of this collaboration is proof of concept of the content and commerce strategy.
Disney is one of the pioneers of the content and commerce strategy. The first Disney store was opened back in 1987. Today customers can visit shops and the ecommerce store to find Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel products across categories that include fashion, accessories, toys, and home.
Disney has always been committed to creating an unparalleled experience, which is true for its content-led commerce strategy. Customers can find products tailored for different audience demographics, making Disney a one-stop shop for everyone.
Content and commerce: The road to brand awareness and high conversion rates
DTC brands that can find the way to interweave content and commerce are the ones that will set the foundation for the years to come. Instead of focusing too much on paid advertising, use your creativity to pave the way to brand awareness and high conversion rates.
Thinking out of the box is at the core of a good content and commerce strategy. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to create authentic content and generate hype before trying to sell your products. Ready to unlock the potential of content and commerce? Learn how to execute merch drops creatively.