Prediction: Content marketing will increasingly become a strategy — perhaps THE strategy — retailers employ to defend against unrelenting price pressure.
If that sounds unlikely, check out the excerpts below (boldface emphasis added by me) from an article by Iain Thomson, writing for technology news website The Register. Thomson reported on a presentation by eBay CEO John Donahoe, who spoke recently at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco.
“…Donahoe said that the increasing use of mobile technology had blurred the barrier between e-commerce and regular retail to such an extent that the former term was essentially meaningless.
“Now consumers are walking into retail stores, and using their phones to identify better prices for goods they like, and will use either online or offline purchasing to get the price they want.”
The Commodity, Low-Price Death Spiral
Pity the bricks-and-mortar retailer. You go to great lengths to create an outstanding and differentiated shopper experience. Choose a unique and high-quality mix of products. Create clean, well-lit store environments. Do attractive merchandising. Hire and train experienced sales staff.
Now imagine that consumer after consumer enters your store to wander the aisles, admire the merchandise and seek advice from your sales staff. Then, just as they’ve finished shopping and are ready to buy, 80 percent of them whip out their mobile phones, do a quick search, and walk out your door to go buy the product elsewhere, or online, at a lower price.
Deadly to your business? Absolutely.
Inevitable? Judging by the comments from eBay’s Donahoe, maybe.
But then again, maybe not. Maybe not if bricks-and-mortar retailers get innovative and committed when it comes to content marketing.
Winning with a “C-commerce” Strategy
Let’s say those same consumers visit your store or your website, but you’ve gone to great lengths to provide value-added content, more so than any other retailer they could shop. Content that will help the consumer make a buying decision, experience the product’s features before they buy, or know how to maximize the benefit and enjoyment they get after they take it home.
You’re setting yourself up to be a sucker, right? Investing in providing great, relevant information, interactions and experiences, only to see consumers go elsewhere to buy products at lower prices.
That might be the case. But what if you didn’t give away the content?
In other words, what if you charged consumers a fee for your content? The terrific in-store experience. The expert guidance. The demos. The careful hand-holding that helps them make a smarter purchase and get maximum value out of the product.
And here’s the trick: You credit them for the content fee when they buy the product from your store or website.
That’s right. You build content into your value proposition as a way to not only attract consumers, but also to close the deal. If they choose to go elsewhere to buy, you’ve still made money on the content and customer care you’re using to set your retail business apart.
Sound crazy? Impractical? Maybe.
But only if there’s another way to keep the majority of consumers from walking down the street or going online to find the products your store offers at a lower price. If there is such a strategy, then bricks-and-mortar retailers should adopt it as soon as they can.
If there isn’t a “secret weapon” to keep a retail store from being price-shopped out of business, maybe there’s an answer to be found in content.
Maybe the era of C-commerce is about to begin.
Most of my experience is in B-to-B marketing, so I’m a bit out of my depth here. What do you think? Are lots of traditional retailers already using content to avoid being price-shopped into extinction? Or is this a pipe dream, and we’re destined to live and shop in a lowest-price-always-wins retail world? Comment and discussion welcome.