Successful retail brands stay relevant and grow by clearly showcasing how their products fit into a consumers’ lifestyle. They tell their brand stories through strong content and insight which can drive commerce and create lifelong, loyal customers. This was the main topic of conversation during Advertising Week in New York City where KWI’s Chief Customer Officer Frank Weil moderated a thought-provoking and lively panel with Lindsay Bressler, VP Strategy of Hatch Collection (and a KWI client), Sean Dollinger, CEO, President and Co-Founder of Namaste Technologies, YinYin Gao, Senior Product Director at Tencent Smart Retail and Geoff Schiller, Chief Revenue Officer at PopSugar

Hatch, Tencent and Namaste Technologies and publisher PopSugar joined Frank on stage before a pack-housed as each brand shared how they use content to influence commerce, the factors that go into creating for different channels as well as the content each brand is most proud of. All agreed that content is still king but there is no one size fits all approach.  If your content misses the target and is done in a manner that is not authentic to your brand, it can actually do brand damage

Below are key takeaways from the panel:

Namaste Technologies operates the world’s largest cannabis e-commerce platform. Being in a unique and highly regulated space that has restrictions around pay-per-click and paid advertising, Namaste makes content a main focus with 30 people dedicated to creation alone. According to Sean, the content needs to come from an authentic and honest place. That’s why Namaste has a policy that employees need to be part of the company for at least 30 days before they can produce content, so that they are able to experience the culture and knowledge before they share their views externally. In this way, Namaste is built on creating shared connections that come through in the their content.

As the premier destination for pregnancy and early motherhood, Hatch Collection operates an e-commerce site and physical storefront for pregnancy fashion and beauty. Their approach to content has been weaved into their product offering to be able to offer relevant and timely content throughout every stage of pregnancy and beyond. According to Lindsay, because consumers are so inundated with content, it is important to constantly check in and ask what types of content are relevant. What are the right layers of content for engagement and the best way to distribute it, whether on social media, deeper engagement on blogs or creative brand campaigns? She also added that while the distribution may be different, Hatch’s content is one and the same whether for sales or brand. Whatever the desired action from the content, the focus is always problem/solution driven with the goal to create trust between Hatch and their consumers.

Geoff Schiller from PopSugar agreed with Lindsay in that there is so much content, it can feel oversaturated. PopSugar’s approach is to be the curator of content to find the perfect mix of art and science the makes consumers want to spend time on your site. It is this metric of time and engagement that is most important for them, rather than audience numbers and traffic. Schiller also added that there is no distinction in content whether for editorial or brand. With content, PopSugar works to take the friction out of the purchase process.

YinYin Gao of Tencent shared insight on how content drives commerce in China. As one of the largest brands in China, Tencent’s two core businesses focus on social platforms such as WeChat and the creation and distribution of digital content. According to YinYin, content drives emotional connections with their users, especially on the publisher side. Young generations with purchasing power are willing to pay for the emotional connection derived from strong content.

In addition to moderating a panel, Frank also had the opportunity to be in the panelist seat when he spoke with Bridget Davies, VP of Advertising at eBay North America and Jacinthe Vannier-Moreau, Marketplace Manager at Dyson during the eBay Commerce Marketing Summit at Advertising Week. While still focused on how content drives commerce, this discussion delved into the areas of data, intention and platforms as it relates to content.

Jacinthe shared that at Dyson, they are focused on understanding the shopper journey and at which points content can help consumers better understand their products and offerings that may ultimately lead to sales. She added that Dyson works less on platform and more on shopping channel, whether physical store, online, eBay, etc. and that shoppers in each channel are focused on different aspects. For example, shoppers on eBay seem to be most interested in filters, as opposed to shoppers on the Dyson website focused on suction or other functionalities. Using this data helps to shape the content they craft for each channel.

According to Frank, retailers need to understand the customer intention when using different platforms for content. Content needs to be tailored for that intention, whether purchasing, education or inspiration as well as the platform, and then measured and evaluated. He also spoke to the risk of looking at results in the aggregate as well as the value of drilling down to specific areas that can be analyzed to see what is working and what falls flat. When asked about brands that are doing content well, Frank pointed to Glossier which relies on crowd-sourced and user generated content as well as Supreme, which has created a cult following by being disciplined about their often quick to sell out items, based on huge demand. Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, Frank spoke to the importance of convenience and making a seamless experience for the customer, whether that is via mobile POS or bringing recommendation engines from the web to the sales staff in a physical store.