Retailers’ Content Marketing Efforts Need to Return to the Middle of the Funnel

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This post was originally featured in Total Retail Report.

Remember applying for your first job after college graduation? You probably sent applications far and wide to companies with the goal of securing a role that matched your skills and interests. Many retailers are taking a similar approach in their daily quest to drive sales — trying to get as many leads as possible in the top of the funnel, then narrowing the pool down to prospective customers to nurture throughout the shopping journey.

Top-of-funnel and middle-of-funnel marketing are crucial to retailers to drive deeper relationships with their potential customers, but often it’s the bottom of the funnel — the sale — that gets most of their focus. Retailers need to shift their attention to ensure the content they’re sharing at the top and mid-funnel is personalized to each individual shopper. Why? If retailers are successful in driving deeper engagement in these earlier stages, purchase is much more likely. In fact, 48 percent of U.S. marketers reported that personalization on their websites or apps lifted revenues in excess of 10 percent.

Just like those cover letters and resumes sent to prospective employers, the upper part of the funnel spreads awareness, educates prospects and creates buzz. Blogs, websites and social media are effective top-of-funnel drivers. Once you’ve got a customer’s attention, they’re perusing your offerings and have opted in, mid-funnel content such as email, webinars, and live in-person or streaming events can facilitate meaningful interactions.

Think of the importance an interview plays in securing a job. This activity midway in the job search process, where we showcase interests and behaviors — and companies theirs — sets the tone for the relationship. Monitoring the behavior of these mid-funnel participants — e.g., what content they’re pursuing, pages they’re visiting and how often — is especially important, as retailers can then determine a customer’s needs and consistently deliver individualized content that will resonate with them. Why bother? A lack of content relevancy generates 83 percent lower response rates in the average marketing campaign, according to Constellation Research.

Email continues to be a successful form of middle-of-the-funnel content marketing. Every dollar spent on email marketing generates a $38 return and delivers a three-fold increase in purchases compared to spend on social media. What’s more, personalized emails have a 30 percent higher clickthrough rate than non-personalized emails, and marketers using deep personalization can drive as much as 17 percent more revenue through their email programs than counterparts that do not use deep personalization.

Many retailers share content like articles, videos or blog posts solely through an email newsletter. However, there are many ways to include content into all types of email messages that will strengthen relationships in that mid-funnel zone, and innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning technology make it turnkey to individualize. Consider the following:

  • Promotional emails: Many retailers hesitate to add anything to promotional mailings that could possibly distract from the purchase path. However, including content that’s related to the offer can create more interest in the offers themselves, increasing click-to-open-rates and purchases.
  • Transactional emails: Retailers are already sending high quantities of transactional messages related to their e-commerce operations, as well as having invested in developing a variety of relevant branded content. These retailers have engaging content at their fingertips that can be injected into their transactional emails to add more substance and relevance.

With the right tools and technology, the only thing stopping retailers from returning to the top and middle of the funnel to increase the effectiveness of their content marketing is understanding all the possibilities. It’s like being a college graduate stepping into the endless opportunities the real world holds.

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