Ecommerce Content Marketing: Hyper-Competition, Niches, and COVID-19 | Episode 53

Few industries are more saturated with content marketing than ecommerce.

From juggernauts like Shopify and Bigcommerce, to a growing multitude of scrappy startups, every ecommerce company is hungry for rankings, traffic and mindshare.

In today’s episode, I’m chatting with Laura Moss, Animalz resident ecommerce pro, and the founder of her own ecommerce brand, Adventure Cats.

We chat through:

  • Strategies for turning the saturation and rate of change in ecommerce to your advantage;
  • The power of “niching down” and competing for search volume on your own terms;
  • The short- and long-term impact of COVID on ecommerce marketing;
  • Nascent trends that Laura thinks all ecommerce marketers should pay close attention to.

Show Links

Listen to the episode above, or check it out in your favorite podcast app.

Key Takeaways

3:08 - The challenges of ecommerce content

Ecommerce content marketing is complicated by a particularly rapid rate of technological innovation, and by stark competition from other companies.

"The connection between marketing and tech and direct revenue is so strong. It's not like some industries where the ROI of content is hard to track. They can really look at it immediately and see how that's affecting changes, because you can see your sales and your revenue and even statistics like your abandoned carts."

6:50 - The power of long-tail keyword targeting

Emerging trends and technologies provide low-competition, long-tail keyword opportunities that, in aggregate, prove more lucrative than traditional short-tail keyword targeting.

"Quite often we'd dig into the top keyword rankings of a lot of our customers. . . .and they're quite often based on keywords of existing ecommerce platforms. So things like eBay or Shopify. There's a lot of search volume around existing platforms that you can target with content."

12:42 - Adaptability is crucial

With such high incentives to create content and find an "edge," it's only a matter of time before another company emulates your strategy. The antidote: regular experimentation and willingness to change course.

"You don't want to only maintain the status quo, but be willing to try new things, and look to trends."

15:09 - How to get skin in the game

To write credibly, Laura uses Adventure Cats to seek out firsthand experience of every tool and tactic she wants to cover.

"To be able to talk authoritatively and teach someone, you have to teach yourself first. So. . . . I'm set up to sell on basically every marketplace you can think of."

19:37 - Don't shy away from branded keywords

Many companies shy away from targeting branded keywords, when often, there are great opportunities to add something new and contrarian to the SERP.

"Quite often there is room for other companies to come in, add their own expert take, and share things that a Shopify content marketer can't necessarily say about Shopify. . . . with a bit of diligence and a bit of creativity, a lot of branded keywords are totally available to you as well."

22:16 - The impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has precipitated a step-change in online sales, with the biggest growth driven by small mom-and-pop shops.

"We've found a lot of people who, they're home more, they are maybe out of work or furloughed. And they're looking into how do I become a content creator? How do I launch my own business?"

32:38 - Ecommerce trends to watch

Native social commerce, user-generated content, and diversity, inclusivity and good social practices are Laura's trends to watch.

"If you're certain brands, H&M is one example, you can go and shop entirely on their [Instagram] store, take your credit card information once. Even your tracking information and your updates come through Instagram."

Full Transcript

Ryan: (01:05)
Welcome to another episode of the Animalz podcast. I am here with Laura, who is, as well as being an amazing content manager, probably our resident ecommerce expert. So, hey Laura, nice to meet you. Well, not meet you. Nice to have you on the podcast.

Laura: (01:21)
Thanks Ryan. This is exciting to be here.

Ryan: (01:23)
That was a great start. Today anyway, we are talking about ecommerce content marketing, because it's something you have lots of experience in both, personally and professionally, working at Animalz as well. And before we dig into the challenges of that, I would love to talk a little bit about Adventure Cats. What is Adventure Cats Laura?

Laura: (01:45)
Yeah, Adventure Cats is a website and a brand that my husband and I started, gosh, maybe four years ago now. We teach people safe ways people can take their cats outside and keep them enriched. So we do a lot of leash training, talking about safe ways to take your cat to the backyard or on a hike or a camping trip. And we have an e-com store that goes along with it where we sell cat accessories and leashes and harnesses, as well as different branded tee shirts and gear.

Ryan: (02:11)
And I must say an excellent book as well. I've just plucked it off my bookcase, because as soon as I found out Laura wrote this, I had to buy it because my cat Archie is amazing, and anything I can do to make him more amazing, I'm totally on board.

Laura: (02:26)
Yeah. We have a book called Adventure Cats, aptly named, that teaches people how to train their cats as well as has kind of inspirational stories from people who go outdoors with their cat. So even if you're an armchair traveler you can enjoy it hopefully.

Ryan: (02:38)
I love the subtitle as well, living nine lives to the fullest, I think that's just so clever.

Laura: (02:43)
Thank you. That was the tagline I came up with. And we were like, "We might go with it. We might not." But it stuck.

Ryan: (02:50)
I love it. So I guess in terms of your work at Animalz, you've been working with lots of ecommerce companies, is that right?

Laura: (02:56)
Yeah, I think exclusively e-com in different ways. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ryan: (03:00)
And I guess, how have you found content marketing for ecommerce? How has it been different to other forms of content marketing and other industries?

Laura: (03:08)
I think with ecommerce what's so interesting is it changes very rapidly. I'm sure that anyone writing in tech can understand that. But with e-com there's so many different players involved. There's social media, there's the platforms to sell on, there's different ways to market it. And so there's always something new and there's always new trends to jump on. And you have to keep up or risk being irrelevant.

Ryan: (03:29)
In terms of how that impacts your customers, are you typically trying to stay ahead of new integrations or new companies entering the space?

Laura: (03:37)
Yeah, a little bit of everything. Sometimes with integrations, with certain customers, that's really big because they're adapting to new players in the marketplace. But then other times it's just a matter of what's going on in the market. So one of the companies I work with, Curalate, they make Instagram shoppable and really innovative ways and work with how to find influencers. But things are changing. Instagram's constantly changing its algorithm, it's making it easier to shop. So Curalate is always having to adapt its product, and then you have new players coming in like Tik-Tok and YouTube and Google images who you can shop from. So how can they keep their product relevant? And they do a great job. And they introduce a new product where you can try out there free aspects of the Curalate product to schedule your Instagram posts and to look at analytics. So I feel like they've done a really great job of adapting.

Ryan: (04:22)
Well, there's industries where huge, huge changes can happen very radically. Some of that technology you've talked about there, I imagine that has a potential to totally change how ecommerce companies function, like the very fabric of how they operate, in a way that lots of other industries, they're kind of more gradually incrementally changed by technology.

Laura: (04:42)
Yeah. Ecommerce industry is just very competitive. Companies are constantly looking for an edge. And the connection between marketing and tech and direct revenue is so strong. It's not like some industries where the ROI of content is hard to track. They can really look at it immediately and see how that's affecting changes, because you can see your sales and your revenue and even statistics like your abandoned carts. That's the kind of stuff that we track at Adventure Cats really closely. So if we see big percentages we know it's time to change because it's not working.

Ryan: (05:09)
Yeah. And obviously we create a lot of strategy for all of our customers. And a big part of that is looking at the landscape of content that's out there, and actually asking, "Where do we fit in? How competitive is this? How much of the low hanging fruit of content is already plucked?" And in ecommerce it's always felt like somebody has gotten there first in terms of most of the big high volume keywords. And the kind of potential justification that we were kicking around that you've just alluded to there is that in ecommerce there's a really, really small gap between getting somebody on your website through a blog post and them actually buying something. There's a very direct connection between content marketing and revenue in a way that's lacking in a lot of industries. We also worked with a lot of enterprise companies. And some of their buying cycles can be six months, nine months, a year, and dozens of people are involved. And the actual, tangible impact of content is so hard to tease out from all of that.

Laura: (06:08)
Oh definitely. With Adventure Cats, we can tell when ... I mean, for a long time it was easy for us to rank SEO-wise because not a lot of people were writing about how to hike with cats. And that's definitely changed. There's a lot more competition. But we can tell, we can see a direct correlation when our sales start to drop. We can look at content and say, "Hey, how are we ranking for what kind of harness to buy for your cat or how to train your cat to walk on a leash?" And we see there's that direct correlation where more and more people are coming to those articles directly because we're ranking high, and then they're making a purchase from us because we're a trusted site. We're kind of the authority on it and we have great reviews. And so yeah, you can definitely see how one affects the other really closely.

Ryan: (06:50)
And that segues nicely as well to opportunities within content marketing for ecommerce, because those two, I guess, kind of challenges being really competitive and saturated, and this massive rate of innovation. What we try and do at Animalz is obviously use those to our advantage, create strategies that use those as strengths instead of weaknesses. One thing that comes to mind, you were just saying there, obviously when a new company appears, a new technology, that can be a bit of a scramble for people, trying to adjust their strategy, trying to work out how to adapt to it. But it does create new opportunities, particularly for search and keyword targeting. It sounds like that's what happened with Adventure Cats there. You were kind of the front runner and you probably created a demand that wasn't there previously that led to search volume that then other companies have picked up on and used to their advantage.

Laura: (07:41)
Oh definitely. I have friends send me all the time. Like they'll Google adventure cats because they're trying to find something on that website. And they're like, "Oh, did you know there's all these people running ads to target Adventure Cats?" And I'm like, "That's our trademark term." But yeah, definitely. It's interesting to see them trying to capitalize on that, because a few years ago it didn't exist.

Ryan: (07:58)
That's a strategy, I guess, that's quite commonly used by all manner of ecommerce companies. Like quite often we'd dig into the top keyword rankings of a lot of our customers, or we even come up with new content ideas, and they're quite often based on keywords of existing ecommerce platforms. So things like eBay or Shopify. Quite often you can modulate those. There's a lot of search volume around existing platforms that you can target with content.

Laura: (08:25)
Yeah. I think Sellbrite's a really good example of that. Their product is multichannel selling. So you can kind of use Sellbrite, sell on Shopify or eBay, but then you can also sell on Etsy and Amazon and Jet and Walmart, and kind of manage everything from one place. And so coming into the space there's a lot of opportunities that they could go for, but trying to capitalize on just big e-com search terms, kind of that top of funnel content, is going to be a lot harder for them to rank for, because there's just so much competition. But when I came onto the account were focusing on really niche, specific market places. So how to pay Etsy sales taxes, and how to change this feature on eBay. So really specific stuff for sellers that's really valuable to them. Etsy success stories is a good example. And these are terms people are searching for, maybe not as much as they are like, "How to start an ecommerce store," but it really, really paid off for them.

Laura: (09:16)
But I think something that I'm sure you were going to bring up is that you have to be adaptable. You can't use the same strategy forever. So one thing we started doing this year is looking at other opportunities with all the innovations and new players getting into the ecommerce space. We saw some opportunities around Google Shopping Actions is expanding a lot this year. And so we jumped on that with Sellbrite content because that's something I think that they have an integration for and that their customers are going to be really interested in, as well as just being a really great keyword opportunity for us.

Ryan: (09:46)
I've been so impressed with generally how Sellbrite has responded to competition, to changing market circumstances, because you're exactly right. Like a lot of ecommerce companies start out by saying, "What is the highest volume keyword we can target?" And you end up with an ocean of ecommerce 101 or like how to buy paid advertising type posts, which are already done to death. They are owned by companies that have domain authority an order of magnitude greater than your company. And it's very hard to add anything new or interesting to that. So even though you're striving for the highest volume keywords, the ones that seem most valuable, your likely inability to compete against the incumbents means you're never going to see any of that. You may as well be talking zero a month keywords if you can't actually get on the first or second page for it.

Ryan: (10:39)
I think what Sellbrite did that was really, really smart was just stop competing on that dimension basically. I really like this idea that when a playing field is dominated, just go and find a new playing field. You don't always have to hammer against the wall and try and compete with the big boys or big women. That's also ...

Laura: (10:58)
Yeah I think they did a good job with that. They were bought by GoDaddy in 2019. And then we really looked at like who's using GoDaddy, who's using the Sellbrite? And so often it's really, it's small companies. It could be just one person. It could be like me with Adventure Cats, just my husband and me. And they're not looking to sell or to try to dominate Amazon or any of these huge spaces. But they are using small ... they're doing their own Shopify store, they're may be selling products through the Walmart marketplace or through Etsy. And so looking at ways you can help those customers. And I think it really paid off because that's who's using the product, and so we made content specifically for them by keeping that audience in mind.

Ryan: (11:33)
And even quite often some of those keywords we're targeting that are not obviously the same volume as these huge short tail keywords, but in aggregate, they still represent more than enough traffic for Sellbrite to dramatically grow their blog and their traffic and their business. I know you were telling me that they had near enough a two year traffic plateau where the existing content strategy of going for big top of funnel keywords just kind of panned out, leveled out, didn't do that much for them. But switching to keywords that on the surface are less lucrative, but because they can actually rank for them, it resulted in breaking that traffic plateau by a huge margin and actually ending up with greater traffic than they've ever seen before.

Laura: (12:17)
Yeah, definitely just getting those long tail keywords, getting really specific examples, like how to remove negative feedback on Amazon or everything you need to know about the Amazon affiliate program. Those are just taking off for us. They're performing so well, people are searching for it. If not number one, we're pretty high up there. And so those specific posts have just really had this phenomenal effect on Sellbrite's traffic.

Ryan: (12:42)
You already mentioned as well the importance of being adaptable. Obviously in any industry when you find a strategy that works well, it's kind of a matter of time before another company wants to use it to its advantage and you end up seeing diminishing returns, and it's not quite as lucrative as it once was. Obviously I think that's exacerbated particularly in ecommerce because there's just so much content, there's so much incentive for people to make any kind of edge they can. Even a strategy like that which is working beautifully at the moment is not guaranteed to last forever. So how do you think about that is, do you periodically revisit strategy for ecommerce? How long would you say you stick to a given strategy?

Laura: (13:24)
Yeah I think Sellbrite's the best example because I've been working with them just over a year. And I'd say after about six months we kind of relooked at things and to see what was working. And the strategy was still paying off, but we wanted to see what other opportunities were out there. So we kind of split almost 50/50. We're still targeting these small marketplaces like Etsy and Jet and Amazon. Amazon's not a small marketplace, but like very, very niche. But then we also started looking for new opportunities. And a lot of that is they're a Shopify partner, and it's going to be really difficult for us to rank for Shopify keywords against Shopify. But we found opportunities that worked well specifically for Sellbrite's audience, and then as well as like Google shopping actions.

Laura: (14:05)
So just kind of putting our toe in the water in new opportunities while still keeping one leg in the other pool to make sure that we're maintaining our place there, and see what pays off. So far it takes a few months to see how that strategy is working, but that's where we are now when we're seeing that our Google Shopping Actions content is doing great. And so we're going to keep following that. So yeah, I would say you don't want to only maintain the status quo, but be willing to try new things, and look to trends. And then one thing I often do is look to forums, like Shopify, Reddit, eBay has a lot. And just kind of seeing what questions people have out there. What's coming up really often. And sometimes it's around a new feature that maybe the company hasn't done the greatest job of answering these questions. And we can kind of get ourselves in there and answer that for them.

Laura: (14:48)
But other times it's just a matter of they're common questions, but how are people phrasing them? So, so often the way I might ask a question is not how an actual user of the product would ask it. So looking at that is a great idea, ways that I find [inaudible 00:15:01] for content so that I can kind of meet people where they are. And you're asking this question, here's how you're saying it. And I have the same question and I've answered it for you.

Ryan: (15:09)
Love that. I think one of the, I guess, ever present challenges of content marketing is just most content marketers are inherently not subject matter experts. That's true obviously at an agency because we're right across lots of different industries and different types of customer. But I think it's even true in most in-house content roles, because, I just wrote about this, but you often hire content marketers because of their content experience. Quite often the hiring manager, rightfully so, is industry experience agnostic. You hire somebody that's a great writer, has a good understanding of content, and then you teach them the basics of the industry. So I think almost every content marketer has this big hurdle ahead of them, which is how do you learn how people talk about these things? How do you convincingly speak their language? How do you actually write about things they care about?

Ryan: (16:00)
Because quite often if you limit your horizons to just writing about the existing search content, just doing what other people are doing, you're stuck in this chasing your tail mentality where you're never going to capitalize on any of the new trends, you're never going to say anything that stands out or is particularly interesting or different. Whereas obviously you have firsthand experience. You actually do live this. And digging into forums, seeing how people talk about this outside of a marketing context, where they just want help basically.

Laura: (16:30)
Yeah. I think with Adventure Cats, the ecommerce part of the business was the hardest. What I learned was because I made repeated mistakes, like mistake after mistake after mistake. And then that's how I learned e-com. But I think when it comes to writing about it, I don't sell on eBay, I've never sold an Etsy, I've shopped on them. But what I found to be really helpful with content marketing is to be able to talk about it authoritatively and teach someone, you have to teach yourself first. So what I've found now is I'm set up to sell on basically every marketplace you can think of.

Ryan: (17:02)

Laura: (17:02)
I've gone through the steps to sell on Amazon and Google Shopping Actions and E-bay, all under Adventure Cats names, and set up the taxes and put in our branding. Just because I know that's what users are doing, and if I can't teach them how to use the product, what value does my content have for them? So I just think that's been a really important step. I have no intention to sell in a lot of these marketplaces, but I know what the dashboards look like. I can take screenshots and arrows and show people how they work. And I think that's what you have to do to create content that's going to compete, because it has to actually have value for the customer who's looking for these answers.

Ryan: (17:33)
That's another huge challenge I think a lot of companies have. So much of ecommerce content is writing about specific platforms, showing people how to use them and benefit from them. And the only way you can do that credibly is by actually doing it yourself. When I was a younger and more naive content marketer, the amount of blog posts I tried to write about products I'd never used, platforms I'd never signed into, and the content was bad as a result. As soon as anyone with any measure of experience starts writing properly with that experience, you're going to get blown out of the water in a heartbeat. So that's a great idea.

Laura: (18:09)
Yeah. Like I just started working with a customer called Payhip. They sell digital products and tangible products as well, but a lot of e-books and such. And when I first started writing about it, again, I saw the challenge was I hadn't used it myself. So I set up an account, I put my book up there for sale. So I know what those customers are going through. And I can't imagine trying to write authoritatively without that, because for one thing you might be relying on other people's content that could be outdated, or you're just making guesses. You need to be a self-taught expert, which I know is a challenge, but it's definitely worthwhile.

Ryan: (18:41)
I was actually just looking at Payhip, because I saw their name floating about, and I have my own book on Amazon now as well, self published. Not as legitimate as Adventure Cats by any order of margin. But I was interested in any new platform for selling it, testing it out. So I'll check that out.

Laura: (18:56)
Yeah, what's great with that is like with Amazon, I think they take 30%, but Payhip the rates are much lower, but you do have to market it yourself. But it's a really cool platform where you have all these different marketing tools. I would definitely check it out. It's worth listing your book elsewhere.

Ryan: (19:11)
Yeah, just a total aside, but that is one of the conclusions I've come to from lots of reading and research around this, that it's very, very hard to make headway on these old established platforms like Amazon, because it's just so crowded, so many people there. They do sound increasingly like pay to play basically. Unless you're running paid ads to a lot of the products it's very hard to get traction there. So I'm quite interested in the idea of building my own marketing presence around it.

Ryan: (19:37)
Just one more thing I wanted to touch on based on something you said there was, I quite often talk to content marketers that are a bit shy about targeting branded keywords for companies that aren't their own brand. So you talk there, a lot of content we write about might be related to Shopify or to eBay. And I think there's a bit of a reluctance to write about that because you might think those companies will actually own the SERP for that. If you search for any Shopify keywords, the only thing you want to see is a Shopify page. And while that's true to some extent, I think there's definitely a place for creating something that talks with the language and the knowledge that those companies can't actually share themselves. Obviously if you're Shopify, you're writing a page to target SEO, you have to follow Shopify brand guidelines. You have to use Shopify tone of voice. You have to talk about your product in a certain way.

Ryan: (20:31)
I think quite often there is room around that for other companies to come in, add their own expert take, and share things that a Shopify content marketer can't necessarily say about Shopify. So I think with a bit of diligence and a bit of creativity, a lot of branded keywords are totally available to you as well.

Laura: (20:49)
Yeah. I would say it was a little intimidating at first when we had this idea, but we felt, right, it's owned by GoDaddy. We just looked at opportunities that were relevant to their audience and what would be useful for them. So something like Shopify Capital, it doesn't sound like something you're going to rank for over Shopify, but we found opportunities where we talked about the pros and cons of it and you're not going to go to Shopify and find the downsides of Shopify Capital, which is understandable. But we can talk about it with authority and say, "This is what you want to consider." And it's much more useful to a consumer who doesn't just want to learn about the program, but wonder if it's right for them and what they need to consider.

Ryan: (21:21)
That reminds you of another point as well, which is I'm so frustrated about the amount of companies that refuse to be honest about the limitations of their product. Because every product has some limitation. They're rarely deal breakers, and quite often they are by design in a lot of cases. A product shouldn't do everything, so it's not going to be strong in every single area. That type of keyword, Shopify could and should actually be going after. They should offer a frank, honest discussion about their limitations. But for as long as companies are shy about doing that, well, I guess it's better for us and for some of the scrappier startups to take those keywords instead.

Laura: (21:59)
Yeah. It's a good fit for something like Sellbrite. And it's been interesting. Like I love Shopify. Adventure Cats is based on Shopify, so I speak so highly of it. But there's definitely downsides. And I think, like you said, being upfront about that, being transparent, and you find opportunities there because you can show where your product does shine.

Ryan: (22:16)
One thing obviously we can't go a podcast without talking about is COVID-19 and the impact on ecommerce. How have you seen that playing out? How has it been affecting companies in the short term, in the long term?

Laura: (22:29)
Yeah. I think at first it was kind of a mixed bag. Very early on we wrote a piece for Sellbrite talking about the immediate impacts. And there was an assumption at first that ecommerce was just going to take off because people are shopping online. And in some cases that was true. So if you're buying household items, you're buying toilet paper. Yeah, that was doing really well. But with people were being more mindful of their budget, and so they weren't spending as much buying nonessential items. I know that Amazon had some statistics, it might've been something like 60% of the nonessential items had this big drop. But then if you look at like a more of a longer term impact now that we've been in this pandemic for a few months, more people are shopping online for everything. And it's been really, really huge for a lot of our ecommerce clients at Animalz, because while a lot of industries are suffering, e-com is having a great time. And the pandemic is not quite the right way to phrase it, but their business is booming because it's what people need right now.

Laura: (23:25)
And so it's been really interesting looking at the impacts. And especially on a big player like Amazon, all of a sudden we're so spoiled with this Amazon two day prime shipping, but they couldn't meet that demand. And then companies who, even small sellers, someone like me who it's just out of the home, they use programs like Fulfilled by Amazon. So even if they're not selling on Amazon, Amazon keeps their products in warehouses and ships them for them. And Amazon was just like, "We can't handle it right now." And so it was interesting to see a big player like Amazon, not that they were hurt, Amazon had huge sales. But it was just interesting how much it could affect even small players in the e-com industry.

Ryan: (24:01)
That's interesting as well. Like a lot of the content we create for ecommerce in some way rides upon the coattails of these big established brands, because that's where the search volume, that's where the interest is. In the same way a lot of these companies do, in some measure, work on top of these existing platforms as well. So there's obviously a degree of like platform risk there. Problems that impact Amazon are going to have a knock on effect on companies that use Amazon for their fulfillment and for their marketing and all those. I guess hopefully we don't have too many pandemic level events to cause that sort of impact for companies.

Laura: (24:37)
Yeah. Before, I would say it was probably like November, December, I had been doing a lot of writing about dropshipping and using Shopify specifically for dropshipping. And since I'm a Shopify user and real familiar with it, I started playing around with the idea with a friend of mine about starting a dropshipping store. So we had it all set up. We were going to go live. We were super psyched about it. We've been doing marketing on social media. The pandemic hit. Most of our products were shipping from Asia, and we just had to shut it all down. And it's just something, it seems obvious to state, but we're so connected globally that yeah, it's going to affect even a one person team in Atlanta.

Ryan: (25:10)
How have you thought about actually writing about COVID? Because I know we talked to some content marketers at companies that they really wanted to talk about it and help people, but it didn't want to be seen as profiteering or being insensitive about it. How do you approach content marketing during this kind of situation?

Laura: (25:26)
Yeah. It's something that we talked about a lot with Curalate because they do a lot of social commerce and talking about how brands can sell on social media. But now during COVID it feels wrong to be pushing products on Instagram or Facebook. And so what we talked a lot about was how can you, not even subtly push products, but what do people need right now? And meeting them where they are. So it was more about building these communities among brands, and you'll see certain ones did a phenomenal job with it. Like Glossier did a wonderful job. They actually asked their audience like, "What do you want to see from us?" And it wasn't makeup tutorials. People wanted to see real people using their products. They wanted to see people having fun. They want to content that was distracting or relaxing, because these are not relaxing times.

Laura: (26:08)
And so I think a lot of it is just playing into the community aspects, and while you might not be pushing your products right now, it's going to pay off in the long run because people see you as a company that's not just in it for profit, but there's this level of compassion there. And so I think brands need to think about it from that perspective. And I think that's a lot of the content we did for Curalate was, "Hey, I'm an ecommerce brand. How do I do social media right now when havoc is being wreaked across the globe?" And that kind of content did super well for us. And then with Sellbrite they have a little bit different perspective. So we kind of looked at it for how can you keep your ecommerce safe right now? And what are steps you can take? And one of them is community building, one of them is looking for other ways to source products. If you are sourcing from China, for instance, how can you bring that locally?

Laura: (26:52)
Maybe you adapt your plans to ship only domestically for now, because shipping times are so affected. So we kind of, for each customer, found the way to write about COVID in a way that was relevant to the audience. And then we just didn't overdo it, because I think we've all seen the internet is saturated with COVID content, and that's not going to serve us in the long term.

Ryan: (27:10)
Yeah. It took me about three days to think, "Oh boy, this is another thing that marketers have ruined." Just seeing the amount of COVID survival guides and remote working things. It's a fine line isn't it? You can create lots of very helpful content, but I do totally agree, there is sometimes a time to just be quiet or to ask people what they're actually looking for. Ties back to what you were saying about that adaptability. If we'd been dogmatically pursuing a single strategy at that point, and we've been absolutely fixated on traffic at all costs, it'd be very easy to overlook that and take a very different approach. And probably one that's not going to endear people to your brand during a time like this.

Laura: (27:50)
Oh exactly. I mean, I think we've also seen examples of brands, especially on social media, who made some interesting choices in trying to push products really hard or offering pandemic sales. Like it's not Black Friday. You need to come to it with a certain amount of empathy and compassion, know when it's time to sell.

Ryan: (28:08)
There were a few, yeah, COVID discount codes that those companies were fast tracked to my spam list as a result of that single email.

Laura: (28:17)
Exactly. I mean there were also brands who did a great job with it. Like companies who were, I can't remember the name of one, but they sell custom jigsaw puzzles. And so they had a much more appropriate approach where they're just like, "Hey, it sucks right now. We know you're home, treat yourself." And then beautiful puzzle. So I mean things like that where you can still push your products in a way that's tasteful."

Ryan: (28:38)
I actually buy my wife a custom jigsaw at least once a year. It's a really nice thing to do, yeah.

Laura: (28:46)
See, they were reaching you.

Ryan: (28:47)
Yeah, I was their target audience obviously. What'd you think about the longer term impact of COVID? Obviously in the short term supply chain issues make life a bit harder, but any silver linings for ecommerce companies, do you think?

Laura: (29:01)
Yeah, it's weird to talk about the upside of a pandemic, but for e-com, I was reading that market analysts say that e-com will be the biggest beneficiary of the pandemic. I think really that it's going to take off, more people are shopping online, more people are learning to be confident online. Like anecdotally my mom was finally like, "Maybe I'll set up my own Amazon account instead of having to call you to place orders for me."

Ryan: (29:23)
Oh, that was the impetus. Wow.

Laura: (29:25)
Yes. So now she's learning to shop online. I think we just see so many new people who are going online for the first time to actually buy their products, because that's where they feel safe. So yeah, I think that's going to be a huge boon for the ecommerce industry, and we're going to see long term effects there just in level of comfort in people who come to rely on it. I mean people, I actually do have a friend who's never used Amazon because she's very big on supporting local. And then another friend who tried to give it up. It's actually interesting story. He tried to give up Amazon because he didn't want to support a lot of the policies. So he found the product he wanted on Amazon, went directly to the consumer, to the seller of the site. They could not sell the product directly to him. So he refused to use Amazon still, went to eBay, found it there, bought it. And then it came to him in an Amazon package because someone was just reselling from Amazon.

Ryan: (30:13)
Oh wow. That's hard to work around isn't it? Everything's against you at that point.

Laura: (30:19)
I would say the long term effects is that the ecommerce industry is going to be booming, more people are going to be involved in it, small time sellers. There's also been, especially working with Payhip, We've found a lot of people who, they're home more, they are maybe out of work or furloughed. And they're looking into how do I become a content creator? How do I launch my own business? And we've seen a lot of interest in that. And so creating content for those people that teaches them how to launch an ecommerce store. I'd be interested to see where companies like Payhip and Shopify have been impacted if more people are kind of getting involved or becoming Etsy sellers for instance.

Ryan: (30:53)
One of the things we saw, I think, with a few of our ecommerce customers is the power of content marketing as a tool for capitalizing on the changes that happened around COVID. Because a company like Sellbrite, their product is fundamentally useful in a pandemic. Obviously there's naturally increased demand for the product because the product is useful for people that want to sell online. But what we saw was, if they'd not done any content around that, I think if they'd taken content to the classic ecommerce route of writing about ecommerce 101 and all these kinds of generic topics, they wouldn't have been set to capitalize on that demand as well as they were when they were writing about all these individual platforms. All those keywords that you were really cleverly identified and writing about, they were all things that they were themselves products that saw a natural increase in interest during COVID.

Ryan: (31:45)
So by having content, it was almost like Sellbrite invested in their own strategy. If the company succeeds the content succeeds, and it creates this virtuous cycle of growth where they were perfectly poised to capitalize on that. And I think they saw record breaking levels of traffic, didn't they, at a time when lots of companies were really struggling?

Laura: (32:02)
Yeah. Looking at many other customers, it looked great for me because all of a sudden my customers were doing phenomenally. But Sellbrite, yeah, they were prepared for that because they had been writing for this very specific audience for so long. One of the examples was like, I think it was like how to start selling on Etsy in 10 days. Not super exciting, but for someone who was home during a pandemic who wants to start selling on Etsy in 10 days, we really hit that sweet spot, and we walked them step by step how to do it. And so I think that that's just what has really paid off for Sellbrite. Like you said, they had invested in their strategy for so long and then this came along and it was exactly what people needed at that moment.

Ryan: (32:38)
Just last thing I was going ask you. We talked a lot about the changing nature of ecommerce. Are there any trends in particular that you're particularly excited about? Things that you've seen adapting, new technologies, anything like that that you think ecommerce content marketers should pay attention to?

Laura: (32:54)
Yeah. I think I was really interested in how social media and ecommerce kind of come together. I know with Instagram at one time you had product stickers, and anyone can kind of do that. But now you can actually ... If you're certain brands, H&M is one example, you can go and shop entirely on their store, take your credit card information once. Even your tracking information and your updates come through Instagram.

Ryan: (33:15)
Oh wow.

Laura: (33:16)
So it's really become like a one-stop shop. And you'll see this year, a lot more companies, you can shop on Tik-Tok, you can shop directly from YouTube videos. And I think it's going to be interesting to see how companies adapt to that. And then also I think people are kind of tired of seeing big celebrities like Kim Kardashian pushing products. So there's been a lot more interest in not just micro influencers, who are influencers who typically have 1000 to 100,000 followers, but also just regular people like me pushing your product through user generated content. So basically anyone who posts a selfie with a product or even a product review, any type of social proof like that, companies can reshare it on Instagram. And Glossier comes up again because Glossier did a great job with ... they reshare pictures of people using their products, or these heartwarming emails they get of, "My grandmother uses your lipstick every day." And like who doesn't want to-

Ryan: (34:08)
I think I saw that. I'm obviously not the target audience, but that even made its way into my social spheres.

Laura: (34:14)
Yeah. And I think that's big. And then the last one that comes to mind, again with a little bit of heart, is that especially right now during a pandemic we're focused on making connections. We have Black Lives Matter movement, a lot happening around there. So there's a lot of look into diversity and inclusivity and good social and environmental practices. And people expect that of brands. Earlier this year a photo of a little boy in Target went viral because he saw a picture of a boy like him in a wheelchair in product, like their marketing. And that took off. And I can't say, "Oh, Target is like the brand you should try to be like." They don't always have the best practices, but it was huge for them because they made this inclusivity, this diversity, a direct part of their marketing. So people talked about them for the right reasons.

Laura: (34:57)
And I think we're going to see more, like we see it now, especially with Black Lives Matter, people don't just want companies to post a black square on Instagram, they want to see that you're doing more. And people are going to invest in the companies that support what they support. So I think that's going to be really big with e-com as well. People don't just want to throw their money anywhere. They want to make sure it's going to a good cause. And you've seen that with even small ecommerce brands going onto Instagram saying, "We're going to donate this percentage to this movement," and people want to support that.

Ryan: (35:25)
Amazing. Well, it's been so great chatting to you Laura. I feel it you're a fountain of knowledge when it comes to ecommerce. Made me smarter from talking to you.

Laura: (35:33)
Well, thank you. It was actually a lot of fun.

Ryan: (35:35)
Awesome. Well, thanks Laura. I will see you on Slack, no doubt.

Laura: (35:39)
Right, it was nice to meet you. Sorry, I had to.

Ryan: (35:43)
That was great. That was genius.