Paul is an experienced eCommerce Consultant and Founder of Vervaunt. Paul's background is in eCommerce technology and customer acquisition strategy and he now runs the eCommerce services side of Vervaunt.
Blogs and content creation can be a challenging marketing channel for any ecommerce brand - with varying viewpoints on the value of a blog, who owns the blog, what the purpose of a blog is, and how essential a blog is. This article will guide you through some of the reasons brands choose to have blogs and what the arguments are against having a blog. It will also share some outstanding blog examples from a breadth of brands in the ecommerce industry.
Many brands use a blog to build their brand identity and reinforce their core values. A blog allows the brand to immerse themselves in the space in which they operate and create content for wider topics that aren’t confined to what they sell. For example, many brands are choosing to use their blogs to open up conversation around environmental and societal issues in a way that they could not do via more traditional marketing communications.
By having a clear purpose for the blog that is linked to the core values and personality of the brand it reinforces the brands identity and position in the market.
Similar to brand building, a blog can be used to create loyal users and repeat customers. An impactful, educational or entertaining blog can be consumed by a user like a standalone editorial or news site would be. Creating loyalty and a reason to return to the blog space can reinforce the brand with a customer and become a regular touchpoint for them. This in turn brings the brand front of mind and can result in repeat custom and brand loyalty.
A well thought out blog can bring great results from search. A blog allows the creation of a wealth of brand and product related content that is useful for brand discovery and building website traffic. Creating rich content packed with relevant keywords and phrases whilst being useful to the user gives brands the ability to target high volume search queries that they couldn’t do with their website alone.
Creating and maintaining a successful blog can be a full time job. Planning, researching, creating, posting, outreach, community management are all part of running a blog. And that’s without taking into account incorporating a brand identity or carving out the blog’s own sub brand identity. It’s a lot of effort and shouldn’t be taken on without careful consideration.
There’s little point in starting a blog without a clear long term strategy. The purpose should be clear and there should be defined KPIs that can be monitored closely to ensure that the purpose doesn’t veer off track. The purpose might be to grow brand awareness which could be monitored by tracking new users and subsequent referral to the main brand website.
Another purpose could be to keep users engaged, and this could be monitored by looking at levels of returning users, time on site, pages per visit and more.
A great blog can sometimes become a destination website within its own right. There is a fine balance between this being great and this being a distraction from the core purpose of a business. Similarly a blog can also become distracting when it provides too much content that could and should be part of a core website. It’s often difficult to draw a line between what belongs on a blog and what doesn’t and if a user gets too involved in a blog it can mean they get so distracted that they don’t come back to their intended journey which may have resulted in sales.
Blogs aren’t the right move for every brand. It’s not easy to get a blog right and for that reason many brands never start. Another reason is that a blog is often not considered premium and therefore many luxury brands choose not to operate a blog - although in our experience, this is a missed opportunity as there are many luxury brands with outstanding blog content. Understanding your target audience is key, if your target audience is not part of a demographic that will engage in a blog or may perceive it negatively, then it’s not for you.
If a blog is the right choice for your brand, how do you make it great? The following blogs from ecommerce brands show how a blog can be a core channel and reinforce the brand image, proposition and values. Some use blogs in quite a traditional sense whilst others take it to the next level with sub brand microsite blogs that have an identity in their own right.
Mad Happy is a mental health brand that ‘creates products and experiences to make the world a more optimistic place.’ Their core product is sports apparel and loungewear. The Local Optimist is a dedicated blog site for the brand. The blog content includes blog, podcast, playlists, interviews and help resources. Many of the interviews are with mental health and wellness experts and well known public figures.
Mad Happy refers to The Local Optimist as ‘an accessible resource for people who are looking to explore and learn more about their own mental health’ and it really delivers on this. The blog is genuinely useful and contributes whole heartedly to this mission without selling back to the brand in an obvious way. The Mad Happy brand and Local Optimist blog are so aligned in their mission that this really works for them. They create genuine impact on their users’ lives which in turn creates loyalty with the brand.
Lick is a brand shaking up how we see painting the walls of our homes. Popping out to the local DIY store won’t cut it when you could have the premium experience of browsing the Lick website for thousands of paint colours, styles and finishes. The brand has a really clear identity and has honed in on a millennial audience.
The Lick blog is cleverly referred to as ‘Magazine’ in the website's main navigation which reinforces the aspirational editorial vibe that the brand is creating. The blog is packed with editorial style articles with many ‘How to . . .’, ‘The Best . . .’, ‘Top 5 . . .’ which curate content around all things home decor. The content is well thought out, useful and inspirational and really hits the mark for Lick’s target audience. The volume and breadth of home-focused content on the Lick blog is applaudable, they’re carving out a very defined and visible brand in a crowded space.
The Sports Edit is an ecommerce brand that sells high quality activewear, trainers and nutrition. Their mission is to ‘inspire movement and improve customers’ lives through fitness’. The brand is focussed on curating products, creating content and building a community around this core purpose.
The Editorial blog is packed with content on health and wellness, nutrition and sustainability. This blog is a good example of an ecommerce brand with search at the core of its blog, targeting demand via search volume. The content is strategic in terms of search benefit but is well thought out, well executed and stays true to the brand identity and purpose.
The Recreationalist is a standalone blog site for Outdoor Voices who position themselves as a recreational brand who make activewear for ‘Doing things daily’, such as dog walking, running and yoga. Their mission is focussed around creating a happy and healthy life through moving your body and having fun with friends. People and planet and the centre of what they do. The blog reflects this focussing on a number of personal, social, recreational and environmental topics and has a laid back editorial feel.
Despite offering multiple brands Wolf & Badger have a distinctive brand and e-commerce offering. Their blog ‘Magazine’ sits around five pillars of Creators, Environment, Inspiration, Reports and World. Within these pillars are articles of carefully curated content that focus on the lifestyle and interests of their target audience.
The blog has an editorial feel with many articles typical of what you’d find in glossy magazines but strategically planned to capture search traffic that can then be referred back to the core website. For example ‘9 Alternative Gemstones for your engagement ring’ is an article that targets key phrases with notable search volume and also provides an opportunity to sell back into the brand and main website. This particular blog post has a subtly positioned ‘Shop the Article’ section at the bottom of the article.
Into The Gloss is a standalone blog site of skincare and beauty brand Glossier. The blog offers editorial content that resonates deeply with the Glossier target market focusing on lifestyle, trends, interviews, make up, skincare and hair.
The blog has a big focus on search and use linking extensively throughout each article. There are a mix of internal blog links and links back to glossier but also a significant amount of external links out to related brands and products. This helps reinforce the blog as a useful resource and not just a sales tool for the Glossier brand.
Kettle & Fire is a brand dominating their niche of bone broth products with a clear brand identity and commitment to providing high quality but convenient bone broth products. This is reinforced with a blog dedicated to clean eating recipes featuring bone broths and informative content around bone broth. There is great search value in providing recipes within the clean eating space that feature the brands bone broth and aid brand discovery.
Thinx is a key player in the rapidly expanding market of reusable period products with a focus on comfort, inclusivity and community. The Thinx blog, Periodical, is described as ‘a platform for people with periods and focused content around opening up conversation, inclusivity, health, wellbeing and real stories with no topic being too taboo.There is a really clear brand identity and continuity between the main site and the blog. As with the previous blog example from Glossier, the Thinx Periodical utilises heavy linking within each blog article to keep users engaged and provide links back to the core product.
DAME is a B-corp brand carving out a clear identity in the market of reusable and sustainable period products. DAME offers ‘effective period care free from toxins and single-use plastic’ with brand values focused on Sustainability, Accessibility and Acceptability.
The DAME blog ‘The Pioneer’ is positioned as ‘Stories about things that matter’ and features a mix of content around the product, overall ethos (reusable, sustainable, good for the planet, vegan etc.), environmental and societal issues. The blog also answers many commonly searched questions such as ‘How long can you keep a tampon in?’ and ‘Can you pee with a tampon in?’. The content of these articles is detailed and informative but gently nudges back towards the brand and products towards the end of the articles.
Pursuit is the blog of performance clothing brand, Rhone. The blog is positioned as ‘Real stories with a purpose’ and shares a mix of lifestyle, sport and wellness content for their male target audience. There is a big focus on male mental health, stress and improving overall wellbeing. Many of the articles have a heavy focus on answering specific search queries and utilise many sub headings and links out to credible sources of information. The blog sits within the body of the main website making it easy to discover or get back to the shop from the blog.
Away is a premium travel brand selling suitcases, bags and accessories for the modern traveller. Their products focus on quality, thoughtful design and durability. The Away blog is a standalone website named Here Magazine and is a minimalistic and inspirational space featuring city guides, travel inspiration and interviews. It’s clear that Away really knows their target audience and there is great fluidity in the brand look and feel between the two websites. The blog really focuses on providing useful, informative and inspirational content without clear links back to the main Away brand.
Sous Chef is a premium cook shop providing hard to find ingredients, cookware and tableware for both home cooks and professionals. The website is a huge one stop shop for all things cooking and a core part of the website is recipes and how to guides. From articles such as ‘How to choose the best soy sauce’ to recipes for over 10 different types of cuisine, ‘The Bureau of Taste’ blog section of the website is packed with detailed content which directly targets the brands core audience. By providing premium recipes and high end buying guides the brand is able to draw in search traffic but also drive revenue directly through the shop.
Bulletproof is a nutritional supplement brand dominating the Keto space with their range of high quality clean supplements. Within the website the blog is positioned under a ‘Learn’ headline and focuses on educating the user about nutrition, health and wellness. The blog content is strategic and the brand is highly visible via organic search for keto and nutritional based topics. Bulletproof is a great example of a brand generating significant traffic via their blog and building authority within their niche.
Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) is an outdoor co-op offering top quality equipment for outdoor sports and pursuits. Annually the brand invests more than 70% of their profits into the outdoor community and the whole brand has a strong focus on giving back to the community and getting outdoors.
The Uncommon Path blog is a space for REI members and visitors alike to read about all things outdoors. The blog is a mix of entertaining and informative content and also acts as a platform for the brand to talk about its commitments to climate change, racial equality, diversity and inclusion. The blog reinforces the overall brand mission and values and helps to build an invested community.
Patagonia is a well known global brand of outdoor clothing and equipment for adventure sports. The brand is well known for their focus on environmental issues and activism to campaign for change. The Patagonia blog has a really unique approach utilising both video and written content and seamlessly integrating sporting stories with environmental and social topics. The blog is well thought out, extremely insightful and true to the brands core purpose and values.
For all of the above points, it’s important to remember that in order to do well, an ecommerce blog must be considered and have a real purpose. It can and should be a core part of the overall marketing strategy and planned as such. Many ecommerce brands are taking blogs to the next level and really providing their target audience with a valuable space packed with useful, informative or entertaining content. Gone are the days of creating content for the sake of it, users want and deserve more.
If you want to discuss your ecommerce store and need advisory help for your ecommerce blog setup, get in touch.