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How to Choose the Best eCommerce CMS To Dominate Content Marketing

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eCommerce content is not like its counterparts in B2B. eCommerce content has its own characteristics. Increasingly, brands realize that rich, visual content experiences matter.

It is about selling a lifestyle, and that means bigger, better content is needed to engage consumers.
Quote from Greg Wise at

B2C eCommerce companies have their own content creation needs. Research from the
Content Marketing Institute (CMI)
highlights the differences between content produced in B2B and B2C in a concise and understandable manner.

Should you use your eCommerce platform as an eCommerce CMS?

Let’s address the elephant in the room and start with what most people consider the best candidate to be an eCommerce CMS: your current eCommerce platform. After all, you already have it in place, and you are using this platform already to promote and sell your products. Up until you found this article, your online presence will most likely be centered around this platform.
There is a clear difference in what content tactics are being used. Content marketers in traditional, non-commerce B2B sectors rely heavily on written content as a channel. We find social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) case studies, blogs, newsletters and articles on your website at the top. Visual content, such as videos and illustrations/photos, are only ranking seventh and eighth, respectively.

B2C content marketing shows a whole different picture:

Visually oriented content ranks highest: photos and videos are amongst the most used content creation tactics, and as carriers, marketers in these sectors favor social media and eNewsletters as well as articles and blogs on websites.

An eCommerce CMS will mostly need to handle visual content.

The problem with many technologies and existing CMS platforms, though? They don’t translate well to eCommerce content creation. After all, in eCommerce, the focus is on

In traditional content marketing, images are typically an illustration of the message. In eCommerce, the images are the message itself. Logically, a CMS supporting the content creation activities in B2C and Ecommerce should be well suited to handle visual content.
In B2C
In B2B
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Amongst the most popular e-commerce platform suppliers, we find Magento, with 21% of the top 100,000 eCommerce sites built on it, followed by WooCommerce which has 15% of the top 100,000 eCommerce sites built on their platform. Shopify follows in 3rd place with 7%.
eCommerce platforms are built for transactions and selling products online.
An eCommerce platform is built around a structured listing of product pages and category pages that can be added to an online shopping cart, and then processed through payment and shipping channels.
Tied to this online catalog, a WCM offers advanced and very sophisticated merchandising tools that allow companies to up-sell, cross-sell, create product bundles, offer discounts, promotions and more. eCommerce platforms even support international taxes, shipping and inventory management.
That’s all fine, but what about the customer experience?
The user interface offered to the eCommerce site’s visit ors is mostly geared to offering the visitor fast access to what they are seeking through an attractive homepage, structured navigation, powerful search tools and an optimized checkout process.
This is how eCommerce has been done online for over 15 years and marketers have reached a great level of sophistication in optimizing the buyer’s journey. Significant progress and improvement has been made by A/B testing the efficiency of product pages, smoothening the checkout process and adding comparisons (products you’ll like), product reviews and live interaction online.
eCommerce sites are optimized for searchers
Despite all of these technological advancements, many eCommerce brands find that the overall experience of their current platform is geared towards a fast and functional find and check out. Which, in itself, is not a bad thing.
start browsing/swiping rather than searching
, as Jeff Sauro usability expert at MeasuringU notes. User research company
found that on average, 14% starts with search, but some sites see less than 5% of visitors in this scenario.
And this is where the problem starts to come to life: the setup of find and check-out is an optimal experience if the visitor belongs to the searcher (also called spearfishing) category. But for browsers, it is pretty much a turn off. Few people are motivated to scroll through lists and lists of identical-looking images to find the perfect product that fits them.
Browsers need a storyline. They seek visually interesting layouts running them through the story, and most importantly, a nicely targeted message that pinpoints a specific situation. And yes, most of the content you are going to need to enlarge your audience, create interest and increase conversions is oriented toward the category of browsers.
In eCommerce platforms, creating content pages means practically setting up templates, or even building themes. For example, Magento, which is a superb eCommerce transactional system, requires to build CMS Pages or Blocks.
All the eCommerce platforms have the same approach — build a template, which then can be re-used. Many brands resort to having to build custom themes on their eCommerce platform, which is not only expensive, but also limits the layout and content freedom to pre-built rigid templates.
An additional problem with unstructured content is that one will want to have subtle or not-so-subtle changes for every instance with real content. This means going back to development.

The case for an eCommerce CMS

At the core of traditional text-based content marketing lies a blog. It allows content marketers to efficiently build a backbone of text-based content.

For the eCommerce marketer and designer, the backbone of his or her content-marketing strategy is a content-management system (CMS) that allows them to efficiently create non-transactional, unstructured, interactive digital content — easier said than done.

The functionality offered by an eCommerce CMS is significantly different from an eCommerce platform. No vendor has succeeded in building a platform that successfully covers both goals: effective, unstructured content creation and reliable transactional selling.

While eCommerce systems offer some limited CMS functionality, it is “average at best,” says
eCommerce expert Tero Juola
, who is certified in Magento, Websphere Commerce and hybris. And he’s not the only one who finds that the CMS functionality offered by eCommerce platforms is a far cry from the agile content creation platform content marketers dream of.

An eCommerce CMS supports the creation and management of interactive, visual web content. At the heart of the CMS lies unstructured, rich marketing content. It should allow the users to build an ecosystem of different types of digital experiences (lookbooks, moodboards, magazines, catalogues, landing pages, etc.).
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You Need Content Now, and Without Breaking the Bank

The ideal world does not exist: ideally, there would be one platform to rule them all. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Realistically, none of the leading eCommerce vendors are going to be bringing out a user-friendly solution to create unstructured digital content experiences any time soon.

So if you want to build out a content marketing strategy, you have the choice to either Invest in development and build out templates on top of your eCommerce platform (and still be limited to a couple of layouts/templates for your content).

Or you can adopt a hybrid eCommerce platform / CMS approach. Martin Ryan, head of technology consulting at the Javelin Group, sees 5 options for retailers:

  1. eCommerce platform only
  2. eCommerce platform runs the shop and CMS runs a separate brand site
  3. eCommerce platform runs the site, CMS used as a content authoring tool
  4. CMS runs the site and calls the eCommerce platform via interfaces for shopping function
  5. CMS only

The choice is not a straightforward one and will depend on how important delivering a content strategy with lifestyle and advice content is for your brand.

The hybrid strategy will offer superior time-to-market and cost for the creation and distribution of your visual content, but will require vigilance to keep the user experience consistent.

The fact that you will have a duplication of site-experience tools can be a factor to take into consideration, but will strongly depend on the tool.

Given that the core of your digital presence is currently and likely will always be your eCommerce site, picking a heavyweight CMS is very likely going to be overkill, and may prove to be more than you can chew off in terms of management, adoption and maintenance.

An agile, lightweight and flexible CMS to complement your eCommerce platform seems the most straightforward solution if you are serious about (visual) content marketing.

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