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Content Led Retail – a New Path to Customer Loyalty – Part One

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By: Bill Hanifin, CLMP™ |

Posted on March 28, 2024

How Direct to Consumer and multi-channel brands are leveraging storytelling for success

Let’s say you are an entrepreneur who is passionate about starting a new online clothing brand. Or, your desire could be to sell mattresses, jewelry, luggage, health supplements or personal products for men and women. No matter the product, if you find the right niche, you have enormous potential for success.

A thoughtful assessment of risk and reward may temper your enthusiasm and apply an acid test for success. You will face unlimited competition from those who have low barriers to entry. And, if you are honest with yourself, your product is inherently undifferentiated. It’s a commodity. Your job is to create an alluring brand image that highlights your product benefits and makes it the first choice among many options for consumers.

There are several elements beyond brand building that will compose your success. Delivering a quality product at a competitive price point is foundational, but you have to create an above average UX on your web site and an easy to navigate shopping cart experience. You’ll have to decide what return policy you will offer and manage shipping costs and other operating expenses. With these challenging but necessary “table stakes” addressed, you have now given yourself a chance to win

Now, back to brand building. Your promotional strategy can include paid advertising, sponsorship, engaging influencers, and storytelling. Among all these options, the one that can create the most impact over the long term is storytelling.

Storytelling comes naturally to the founder. The most common theme among DTC retailers is the nature of their origin story. Almost every founder we have interviewed experienced a challenge first-hand that inspired the creation of the brand. Rory founder Rachel Blank shared her journey through a health challenge that left her wanting. She had a “personal connection to the problem space” that led to the creation of a business that is now a “content destination to women’s health care”. In other words, her frustrations with existing health care options and intellectual curiosity to meet her own needs formed the seed that germinated into a broad-based health care solution for any woman. 

Content creation that informs the customer about what they can do with your product to make their life easier, better, more satisfactory is one place to start. Illustrating stories of others who have purchased your product using it in daily life is another pillar in a retailer’s content strategy. 

This Content-Led retail marketing strategy is not only central to your success, but also the key to engaging with potential customers before they have experienced your brand firsthand and critical for building relationships with customers once they have made a purchase. 

One beauty of a content-led retail loyalty strategy is that everything you create is proprietary. A competitor may match your introductory discount offer – or any other element of your pricing strategy for that matter – but they can’t tell your story. 

Marketing from the first person also means that you have the option to move ahead successfully without engaging costly and sometimes risky influencers. If you do choose to incorporate influencers, they are more likely to be in the mold of the Gearheads used by online outdoor retailer Backcountry.

The nature of your content is authentic by definition. If you are selling camping equipment and plan to hike the Rim-to-Rim trail in the Grand Canyon, just gear up and pack your Go-Pro and Drone. As long as you and your team have the skills to create consumable content with those toys, you will end up producing content that will engage people on every social channel where you post your stories. 

We have three examples of retailers who have built their brand around a content-led strategy and continue to foster strong customer loyalty through the communities of fans they have created. In Part Two of this Content Led Retail series, we will share those stories. Stay tuned.