Retailers are seeing record store closings this year, in the worst year for retail since the Great Recession of 2008. Armchair analysts are quick to point blame, either at the changing wants and needs of millennial shoppers, or at the emergence of ecommerce giants like Amazon. But make no mistake, the retail apocalypse is not the fault of younger shoppers, it’s not Amazon’s fault, and it’s not the Internet’s fault in general. More than anything, it’s the unwillingness of retailers to adapt to new realities, embrace ecommerce as an equal to brick-and-mortar, and finally, to move aggressively into new marketing tactics.
Those millennial shoppers every retailer wants to target don’t look at print ads, they’re not swayed by clever television commercials (if they watch television at all), and more often than not, online banner ads don’t influence them either. How then, will retailers get the word out?
What shoppers want is unbiased information. Those shoppers tend to do research before making a purchase. That research may involve looking at a product website, but they want more than a product pitch. They want to read meaningful articles, opinions of their peers, and meaningful content that resonates emotionally with their deepest needs and desires.
What we’re talking about is the next generation of content marketing.
Content marketers are often still stuck in the mindset of thinking of content marketing as an SEO tactic, a product pitch, and a game to create backlinks and build traffic. In reality, the true goal of content marketing is to become a trusted thought leader.
Take for example, The Red Bulletin, an online publication created by Red Bull. The site does not exist to talk about the merits of Red Bull — rather, it exists to offer useful, informative, and entertaining articles that you might find on any mainstream media outlet. It promotes the Red Bull brand not by talking about how awesome Red Bull is, but rather, by engaging with their target audience with excellent, unbiased content written by professionals. The articles don’t attempt to sell energy drinks. They aren’t full of hyperlinks and keywords, and they are written to journalistic standards instead of SEO standards. This is an example of brand journalism at its best, and where content marketing is ultimately headed.
Major retailers are beginning to see the light, and engage in the same type of activity with journalistic sites like Walmart Today and KrogerStories.com. Sites like that will go a lot further than any Madison Avenue television advertisement in getting the loyalty of customers. Blending content marketing/brand journalism with a new focus on bringing ecommerce channels to parity with brick-and-mortar will be a major contributing factor in the resurgence and success of retail.