While doing research on a recommended product, treatment (cosmetic or otherwise), supplement, or even an activity, you go down the rabbit hole of internet searches, you often find the best, certainly the most accessible and easy-to-understand information, personal accounts, and stories on websites that are curiously purveying just what you’re looking for, a quick hyperlink away.
Product demos and reviews, long-form or short video tutorials and how-to(s), and behind-the-scenes looks are all examples of content to commerce, an advertising strategy engineered to help us become members of a tribe who buys better, because we know better, resulting in the self-satisfaction of even more sweet dopamine.
Keerthi R Kumar, Business Head-South, FoxyMoron (Zoo Media Network), says that brands can build trust and establish themselves as experts in their field by providing valuable and relevant content to consumers, which leads to increased sales.
“Furthermore, thanks to technological advancements, brands can now easily integrate e-commerce functionality into their content, making it easier for consumers to make a purchase directly from the content they are viewing. This can be accomplished through simple tactics like shoppable on different social media platforms or by linking directly to a product page from within a video or even a blog post,” Kumar said.
Watch, research, buy
Manish Solanki, COO, and Co-Founder, TheSmallBigIdea, says that for the model to work effectively, brands have to invest in building engaging and informative content through LIVE streaming, augmented reality and virtual reality, which can be used to create immersive shopping experiences.
“Creating valuable and relevant content that resonates with the target audience will help brands attract customers who are more likely to be engaged with the brand and more likely to make a purchase. I would like to call it ‘assisted reality’, where we can use relevant content to effectively guide and assist the customer in making a choice,” he says, adding that while advertising can help build recall, content can help augment the brand’s value through related content.
An interesting example would be the Good Glamm Group, which was one of the first to adopt this model by investing in content companies like Miss Malini, ScoopWhoop, and POPxo. Another example would be the beauty and personal care brand Mama Earth, for which the content strategy worked well with the mother-focussed content platform Momspresso.
Shivani Kamdar, Associate Creative Director, SoCheers, observes that there's been a paradigm shift in the way consumers make their purchase decision today.
“They trust an informative/educative and credible piece of content more today over just another promotional ad. It's them who decide where and how they want to consume content making their purchase journey much more seamless. By probing through reviews, blogs, and websites, they arrive at their purchase decision and these serve as the perfect touch points for brands to leverage their communication,” she says.
Stories in shopping
Shubham Singhal, CEO, Dot Media Solutions Pvt. Ltd., believes that the content-to-commerce base is the most important way to establish a brand personality and create an identity. “It is not a process of a few days but something that brand’s need to be consistent about for years in order to solidify their connection to their audience. If you have a story to tell, ensure it's interesting and relatable. If not, make it up. Ensure the content you put out on the internet is from the perspective of informing, not selling,” he says.
According to a recent study, D2C brands in India are expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 30% over the next five years, with the market projected to reach $3 billion by 2026. Dharmender Khanna, Country Head - AnyMind Group, says this rapid growth is being driven by several factors like the growing importance of social media and digital platforms, the increasing popularity of influencer marketing, and the growing focus on customer experience.
Additionally, D2C brands are also leveraging the power of influencer marketing to further boost their content-to-commerce efforts. According to a report by the Influencer Marketing Hub, the influencer marketing industry in India is expected to grow by more than 20%, reaching $5 billion in 2023.
Khanna says partnering with influential figures in their industry or niche, these brands are able to tap into a pre-existing audience and drive more traffic and conversions to their e-commerce sites. As brands gain a deeper understanding of the model, they are shifting their focus from quantity to quality. Instead of hard-selling their product, they are focusing on telling their side of the story in the most interesting way possible.
Singhal notes, “You forget the products, prices and offers, what you remember is the story. An example that is particularly effective are the advertisements created by Cred. Sure, they showcase their USPs but what their content focuses on is establishing their brand personality.”
Arihant Jain, CEO at marketing agency Wubba Lubba Dub Dub, points out that content has been around since time immemorial, but it is not always preferred due to the assumption that content may not guarantee sales. “As for ads, you can be absolutely certain that your investment of Rs 1 crore will make an X number of sales in a specific period of time, and since it’s data-driven, it’s easy to rely on it without having second thoughts.”
“However, I believe that content marketing has reached a crucial stage right now, making it imperative to start creating content on your platforms - Insta, YouTube, Twitter, and Discord, to reach out to audiences organically and convert them into customers. Unlike Ads, it’s easier to interact on platforms via content since it’s a two-way street and the engagement can be tracked down easily,” Jain added.
Beyond Walled Gardens
Kumar points out that the content-to-commerce model has a significant impact on major walled gardens such as Facebook, Instagram, and Google because it enables brands to leverage the platform’s vast reach and audience to promote their products and drive sales. “The platforms benefit by providing brands with tools and functionality to easily integrate e-commerce within their content, such as shoppable posts and product tags, and by allowing them to reach a highly targeted audience.”
Kamdar adds, “To put it in simpler words, it is data democratization, which means it's like breaking their monopoly right? With brands adopting intelligent commerce platform strategies and consumers being receptive to the same, content-to-commerce does pose a serious competitor for these big leagues from their individual business point of view.”
Experts say the content-to-commerce model has adversely affected major walled gardens. There is an influx of content on a daily basis on these platforms disguised as influencer marketing, digital marketing and SEO, that is designed to fit in and stand out on these platforms at the same time.
However, the content-to-commerce model presents difficulties for these platforms. One of the most significant challenges is the possibility of increased brand competition as more companies seek to capitalise on the content-to-commerce model. This makes it increasingly difficult for any single brand to stand out and capture consumer attention.
Sharing thoughts on this barrier, Kumar says, “As these platforms evolve, they may need to adapt to new technologies and trends, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, in order to remain relevant and provide value to both brands and consumers. Another issue that the model faces is privacy concerns and the use of consumer data.” Platforms need to ensure that they comply with data protection regulations and maintain consumer trust, Kumar noted.