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As we’ve seen time and again, price wars with Amazon are a losing battle. To compete, brands must change the rules of engagement and use content to differentiate their brand where they control the turf: their websites and other owned content. To provide a richer experience, brands must integrate engaging content throughout the shopping journey, always with an eye toward guiding consumers to purchase.

Placed within the purchase path, branded content can also increase conversion.

At the Demandware XChange conference in Las Vegas recently, Lush Cosmetics, based in Vancouver – shared its approaches to cloud based ecommerce content strategy and how it collaborates to overcome the marketing and ecommerce divide.

Lush serves as a model content and commerce integration example, as it successfully weaves together site content such as blog and magazine articles, user-generated social content, videos and products into a seamless and rich consumer experience.

The Art of Storytelling

Lush has mastered the art of storytelling and the science of execution. “Everything we do has a story,” said Mark Parrott, Head of eCommerce at Lush. One example: the company has always focused on being an ethical business, so part of its marketing goal is to tell that story.

Lush includes seasonal articles from the blog on its homepage, offering engaging pathways into the site. Product and content articles are grouped together thematically in a more traditional category grid-like pattern.

In this way, Lush can create context around the products and effectively communicate the product story – its origins, ingredients, and intended use. The Lush blog is also integrated into the main site navigation; articles are cross-merchandised with product to lead visitors back to purchase.

Lush was an early innovator in integrating content and commerce. Blog content is placed throughout the consumer’s shopping journey where it receives maximum visibility and both leads to and contextualizes products.

Lush product detail pages include a feed of relevant blog articles providing ingredient information, product stories, and relevant beauty tips such as how to use a skin care product or shampoo bar to help them make their purchase decision.

In an industry where content often leads to a dead end or sits in an off-site silo, Lush stands out for the exceptional unified experience they’ve created for their consumers. In fact, Demandware and L2 found in a joint study on Content & Commerce last October that 44% US brand blogs are not integrated into the commerce site and of those sites, they may receive as little as 1% of the main site’s traffic. Brands inspired by Lush have a huge opportunity to better engage consumers, drive more traffic to the site, and influence conversion by joining content and commerce together.

Further evidence: A more recent study by L2 found that cloud based commerce sites are more agile and are therefore more easily able to dynamically add and modify website content.

What About Organizational Changes? 

Bringing together content and commerce in a meaningful way has been an organizational challenge for many brands – siloed teams, disparate channels and, most significantly, the lack of a clear strategy. The role of the brand’s ecommerce site often varies depending on whom you ask – marketing or ecommerce. We covered this in a recent interview with Forrester Research analyst Peter Sheldon, who believes the ecommerce site serves both discovery and sales.

While substantial budget has been allocated to content, just 39% of B2C brands have a documented content strategy in place, and only 67% have a dedicated executive to fully own content efforts. Lush is one of those companies. Its content strategist defines their content mission as educating customers on the freshness and efficacy of their products, showcasing its brand values and facilitating a seamless online shopping experience by integrating relevant content with merchandise throughout the site.

When the Lush team plans content development, the guiding principles are:

  • What is the overarching story we want to tell?
  • Which stories will interest our customers?
  • What type of content will be most impactful?
  • How will the content add value to related products?

Lush content covers product ingredients, its handmade manufacturing process, and the communities from which Lush sources their products. Actionable content such as how-to-videos and tutorials, are developed in tandem to drive conversion.

Organizing for Success

Lush’s content strategist leads the editorial process, partnering with ecommerce, copywriters, photographers and videographers to determine what content best tells the Lush brand and product story. Everyone sits under the same brand leadership umbrella, which has helped to foster better collaboration.

To that end, Lush is working on an agile site relaunch, with more content being integrated with a new look and feel.