12 companies that do ecommerce content marketing right

Great content marketing can impact online sales, but it's not easy to create. These dozen companies understand ecommerce content marketing, and their successes offer valuable lessons.

01 e commerce thinkstock
Thinkstock

The RIGHT way to do ecommerce content marketing

Few topics are more boring than sleep … except maybe duct tape. Yet, you might think differently about both topics if you visited Van Winkle's, a site about sleep that's produced by mattress startup and industry disruptor Casper, or the website of Duck Brand, which sells, yep … duct tape.

Casper and Duck Brand are examples of two ecommerce organizations that genuinely understand the power and potential of content marketing. As a follow-up to our recent "10 content marketing tips for ecommerce success," we've featured 12 brands that deserve high-fives for their creative, funny and useful content marketing.

02 van winkles

Van Winkle's sleep site

Mattress startup Casper launched Van Winkle's as "an autonomous editorial site dedicated to all aspects of sleep." The site publishes investigative reports, opinion pieces, trend stories and product recommendations. A few recent examples include, "4 light bulbs designed to help you sleep better at night," and a Rio Olympics-related piece that wondered whether Michael Phelps' "cupping" helps sleep.

"Van Winkle's is one of the best examples of a content marketing site," says Len Kendall, vice president of communications for creative digital agency Carrot Creative. "The Van Winkle's editorial team studies top search terms and then generates content that addresses what people are already looking for. By doing so, Casper is more easily able to convert researchers to buyers."

03 best buy

Best Buy's PC buying guide

Best Buy's website features a consumer buying guide for desktop and all-in-one computers. The retailer "recognizes that a PC purchase is a large transaction for most people, and less tech-savvy consumers will have questions about which specs they'll needs," says Marc Nashaat, digital PR manager for digital marketing agency Powered by Search. The online guide helps consumers make informed buying decisions. The guide "captures them at the top of the sales funnel, while they're in the research stage, and it drives them straight to product category pages with a nice, big call to action," Nashaat says. "It's not content for the sake of content, and that's what successful ecommerce content marketing looks like."

04 famous smoke shop

Famous Smoke Shop's cigar pairings

Online cigar retailer Famous Smoke Shop created "a humorous and informative guide" to cigar and spirit pairings, according to Nashaat. Site visitors select a spirit, such as rum or tequila, and specify whether the spirit is affordable, moderately priced or expensive. They then choose an activity, such as "working up the courage for a wedding speech," and the site presents a cigar to fit the situation. On the recommended cigar pages, visitors "not only get reviews and information about the pairings, but a nice big call to action to purchase specific cigars from the site," Nashaat says. The guide works because Famous Smoke Shop "found a way to make the pairings fun and, of course, conversion oriented."

05 modcloth

ModCloth online style galleries

ModCloth is primarily an ecommerce business, so the company needs to show that its products are reliable and trustworthy, according to Heather Ferguson, content marketer for digital-marketing and SEO agency Main Path Marketing. The site does so by "featuring images of real people wearing its products in a Style Gallery and through social media, product reviews and blog posts." For example, it's often a "risky proposition" to buy a wedding dress online, but a ModCloth blog post shows potential buyers how its Gilded Grace dress could work for them. The site shows the dress "in action," she says, and provides suggestions for how to style it. It's smart content marketing, according to Ferguson, because ModCloth uses its content "to address customer concerns and act as an expert in its industry." 

06 rei

REI's ecommerce content marketing

Outdoor gear retailer REI gets high marks for its online content marketing. "A successful content marketing campaign for an ecommerce site helps drive success with the products they're selling, and REI.com does this brilliantly," says Patrick Rice, CEO of data science platform provider Lumidatum. The website "is completely centered around the activities its products enable, not the products themselves," he says. "[T]he navigation bar is even centered around verbs like climb." REI's Basecamping page, for example, is aimed at helping customers achieve objectives such as climbing or mountain biking, and it includes a nudge to purchase the gear they need for those sports.

07 herschel supply

Herschel Supply makes ecommerce stylish

Herschel Supply has a devoted following for its stylish backpacks and bags. The company updates its blog several times weekly with design spotlights and partnership information, along with "gorgeous full-size imagery and compelling prose," says Brock Murray, COO of seoplus+, an SEO firm. Also, twice yearly the company publishes The Journal, a curated collection of stories and images that "aligns perfectly with the adventurous ethos of the Hershel audience," he says. The brand's strong social media presence helps bring in new and returning customers, and though Herschel is active on Instagram, the brand does not follow any other Instagram users, "which takes some swagger," according to Murray.

08 nordstrom

Nordstrom men's suit guide

Seattle-based retailer Nordstrom developed an online"How to buy a suit" guide that is featured front and center on its men's suit page. "The guide is excellent, helping a man pick the perfect cut to fit his style and then presenting him with personalized shopping recommendations," says Jason Seeba, CMO of ecommerce technology company BloomReach.

Nordstrom also isn't the only retailer to build content around the keyword phrase "how to buy a suit." Jos A. Bank and Men's Wearhouse both have landing pages on the topic, and all three retailers rank highly for the phrase in organic search, according to Seeba. However, Nordstrom offers product recommendations at the bottom of its page, which helps turn visitors into customers, he says.

09 amazon echo

Amazon Echo info page

Amazon's Echo landing page "features all the logical, rational content an aware consumer needs to decide to make a purchase," says Joe McCambley, senior vice president of content marketing at digital agency POP. The page explains the types of voice commands Alexa, Echo's virtual assistant, can accept, such as "Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes." It also details Echo's technical features, including voice recognition; highlights other technologies that integrate with Echo, including smart home gadgets; offers links to Alexa mobile apps; includes setup instructions and technical details; provides brief review excerpts from pro reviewers, as well as full user reviews; shows reassurances via Amazon's return policies; and offers a list of customer questions and the answers.

10 club w

Club W, an online wine destination

Online wine club Club W "does an incredible job with content marketing," according to Courtney Herda, CEO of digital marketing firm Smarter Searches. Its various products are well explained and include food-pairing and tasting notes. The sales funnel process starts with an interactive quiz to match customers with the right wines. The blog uses topical events, such as the Rio Olympics, and provides content that answers user questions, such as "Screw caps or corks?"

Herda says Club W uses infographics and video to explain the wine club process, as well. It also encourages user ratings and reviews, and uses social engagement to stimulate user-generated content. Club W "makes its customers smarter, more informed, and more educated about wine, so they can make better decisions in the purchase process," she says.

11 duck brand

Duck Brand makes duct tape exciting

Duct tape virtually defines the boring-but-useful product category, but you'd never know it from the company's website. Along with a home DIY section that offers video tutorials, projects and how-to articles, Duck Brand's site emphasizes "creativity, adventure, and tape," says Michelle Burtchell, vice president of marketing for Salsify, a product content management platform. For example, Duck Brand recently sent two friends to six destinations in a Volkswagen bus, and it is posting video chronicles from their adventures at locations such as Mount Baker, Wash., and Portland, Ore. Duck Brand "knows how to turn an everyday product into stories … and they use content to create emotional connections to their brand," Burtchell says.

12 madewell

Madewell's subtle, effective content marketing

Madewell is a women's clothing retailer with a blog called Madewell Musing that's optimized for search, to help its content rank highly for related products, according to Molly Phillips, senior account manager for PR and digital-marketing agency Greenroom. The content, while clearly designed for an ecommerce site, "isn't pushy," with "subtle links" to products sprinkled throughout posts and simple, text-only calls to action, such as "shop our denim bar and get all the details on denim monogramming." The site also works with contributors, who in turn share their content with social media followers, which helps drive additional traffic to Madewell's blog and its products.

13 chubbies

Humor elevates Chubbies

Shorts and swimwear retailer Chubbies produces entertaining, educational and helpful content across multiple channels, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, according to Mark Healy, director of SEO for digital marketing agency ZOG Digital. The brand built a loyal following on its cheeky, frat-boy humor, which is on display in its "Friday at Five" blog. Recent posts include a story on an office chair "grand prix" and "Everything you need to know about inflatable trampoline volleyball." A video from the San Francisco-based company spoofed male synchronized swimmers during the Rio Olympics and was the subject of articles in the U.K.'s Daily Mail, as well as other outlets. Chubbies "creates shareable and entertaining content for millennials that doesn't come across as 'spammy' or 'salesy,'" Healy says.