When it comes to content, it's all about monetization. Content commerce is a big deal with not only new devices, but also with new payment modalities that are emerging to make the process simple and seamless. When just a single click can complete the transaction, both consumers and marketers benefit.
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
"The new developments in the past year all started with connected consumers," says Bob Egner, VP of product management at EPiServer, a digital marketing and ecommerce firm. "Consumers today now have quicker and easier access to information online, all over the place, at any time, and in any situation they happen to be in," he says. "As a result, they are constantly looking for more information to help them make decisions over the course of their ecommerce experience." Those decisions lead to action if the process is clear, convenient, and intuitive.
A combination of connected consumers, a proliferation and growing reliance on mobile devices, and changing search algorithms, says Egner, "has set the stage for a completely different shopping experience." The mobile experience rules here, he says. "It's shocking to me how many companies still offer a very poor mobile experience."
In addition to the visual experience, marketers need to carefully consider the type of content they will provide to engage consumers and, ultimately, generate desired action. "You have to think about a different sort of content that's interesting to the consumer and not just about the product," says Egner. "Things like style guides, fashion guides, trends. What expertise can you bring into the equation to create content that's really compelling and brings traffic into the site?"
Delivering the content, of course, is just the price of entry when it comes to content commerce. Ultimately, what marketers want is for consumers to show them the money. Cause marketing has made some inroads here, finding that mobile can be a great platform for turning even small donations into major contributions.
The ALS Association announced that it raised more than $100 million in donations from contributors around the world in August 2014. The key for cause-related and other marketers is to find ways to ensure that consumers' desire to give-or buy-can be immediately met through technology that makes the process simple and safe.
Jeremy Koenig is the director of marketing at MobileCause, a cloud-based platform that allows nonprofits and other organizations to collect mobile and online donations. "From the convenience of a smartphone, individuals can make donations of any amount in less than 30 seconds," he says. Convenience drives contributions.
Syd Dufton, president and CEO of New York-based WeWIN, a company that connects retailers and nonprofits with consumers for mobile cause-related campaigns, agrees and adds that this is especially true for the Millennial generation. "Cause marketing will grow at an even greater rate and tap mobile technology like never before," he says. "Consumers want an emotional connection to a brand."
Finding ways to deliver that connection in an environment that links seamlessly to purchase decisions will continue to be the goal for marketers in 2015. And then there's the privacy factor. Marketers that win in this environment, say the experts, are those who will be focused on permission-based transactions and who have already earned the trust of the markets they're attempting to conduct business with.
A LOOK AHEAD
"Native commerce" is a term that Josh Payne (founder and CEO of StackCommerce, a platform for online publishers, communities, and brands) uses to refer to "the integration of e-commerce into the user experience of content sites or other non-commerce properties." The forms may vary, but the idea is the same: Make it easy and painless for consumers to buy. Twitter and Facebook have both announced their intent to offer Buy buttons to simplify the purchase process and even, says Twitter in its blog, to make buying "fun."
The purchase process will be shortened, and content will too, says Egner. "Cranking out a lot of content is where most people's mindset is, but they need to think about it in a different way," he says. "Instead of giving someone a 12-page white paper to download that describes why this sweater is really great, what you want to do is give the key points from the white paper in six, successive small content blocks that are individually managed and presented to the visitor-possibly in different channels."
"Marketers will have a field day with direct sales once Apple Pay is widely adopted," says Chris Belew, CEO of Apptive, a mobile commerce firm. "Where it used to be annoying to pull out your credit card and enter information in tiny fields on mobile, people will be able to buy with one click," he says. "The potential for impulse purchases will skyrocket. Aside from that, mobile coupons will continue to rise in importance as more people establish a mobile presence."
Mark Challinor, CEO of Media Futures Ltd. and a digital media consultant and ad media professional based in London, says that a closely related trend is the selling of content in smaller chunks at equally small prices. He points to apps and the gaming world as examples of how this is already being done effectively in the mobile and online environments. "The growing market for digital gaming is just huge," he says, noting that the gaming world seems to have found a winning formula for upselling based on delivering small chunks of add-ons at similarly small price points.
"They're doing a very good job of monetizing this space, and I think there are lessons to be learned by media companies," says Challinor. Content marketers can learn from their experiences, he says, and for those who already have well-established and trusted brands, the transition can occur quickly.
Near field communication (NFC) is something to watch, according to Challinor, who notes that the recent introduction of the iPhone 6 is likely to drive adoption. NFC allows information to be shared between devices through small bits of embedded data. It is technology that is likely to have a significant impact on mobile payments.
Challinor adds, "There's an old adage in advertising that says, ‘Advertising is the method of actually arresting someone's intelligence long enough to get them to buy something they never even needed.' When consumers are in an environment they trust and offered an opportunity to purchase something of value at a very low price point, the chances of them clicking a button to close the sale is high."