Ecommerce and the related online content go together like a horse and carriage. E-commerce is the carriage, and ecommerce content is the horse that pulls it.

When we talk about ecommerce content, the first thing most sellers think of is the content marketing that funnels shoppers to your store. While this is part of ecommerce content, it’s not the full story.

For the purposes of this article, we consider “ecommerce content” the blogs, ebooks and other media that make up your content marketing, plus the content embedded into each product page like product descriptions, photos, and videos. After all, your content marketing will do little for you if users arrive at product pages where the content isn’t up to snuff—they’ll just navigate away and forget about you and your products.

Ecommerce content has changed in extraordinary ways since shopping online was made mainstream by eBay and Amazon in the 1990s. What trends should you focus on for the future? Trends are certainly moving fast now, and to position your brand for 2021, you’ll want a handle on it all to pick out the biggest opportunities. From enhanced visual content like 3D photos and AR experiences to hyper-personalized shopper interactions, dive into the biggest ecommerce content trends for 2021.

1. “Enhanced” content is becoming “essential” content

You can create an ecommerce storefront in about five minutes. Getting sales, on the other hand, takes strategy and time—not to mention work.

Picture it: you quickly integrate a Magento-powered storefront to your new WordPress site and then load a few products. You hammer out the basic product data like product titles, descriptions and feature bullets, and voila. You’re up!

Just don’t be surprised when no one buys your products.

There are multiple problems in this picture, starting with the lack of marketing. Second, even if someone does happenstance across one of those product pages, the product content there won’t cut it to make a sale. 

In the world of ecommerce content, product content has typically been divided into two buckets:

  • Essential product content
  • Enhanced product content

Getting the most out of your product content is found in the balance of perfecting your essential content and enriching your enhanced content. That means your essential product data has to be 100% accurate, complete, and consistent across channels, and your enhanced product content has to keep up with the Joneses in a world where online shopping experiences are now based on an intense and content-immersive experience.

Let’s dig deeper into the two types of product content so you can see the big-picture strategy.

Essential content is the meat and potatoes of your product listings (and what makes your product page a trustworthy place for buyers). On most ecommerce platforms and marketplaces, that content includes:

  • Product titles
  • Feature bullet points
  • Product descriptions
  • Product page hero images
  • Metadata (including the backend data attached to your enhanced content)
  • And, for some products, additional specifications like ingredients, warnings, weight, size, speed, megapixels, etc.

Enhanced content, thus, is the sour cream, chopped chives, sharp cheddar, minced garlic and bacon bits you adorn your meat and potatoes with. The types of enhanced content a brand uses will depend on the ecommerce platform or marketplace in use, but can include:

  • Longer product descriptions with visuals and callouts
  • Product tours and “visual storytelling”
  • 3D graphics
  • HD video content
  • Carousel modules
  • Augmented reality overlays and previews
  • Instruction manuals and other downloadable specs
  • Product comparison charts

Not all this content will make sense for every product. What’s certainly true for 2021, however, is that product pages without enriched content won’t convert. Most shoppers—two out of three, to be exact—will abandon their shopping cart if they can’t find the information they need to make an informed purchase decision. And with more consumers adjusting to frequent online shopping for items they were accustomed to buying in-store, the “information they need” now includes enhanced content that allows them to get as close to actually touching the product as possible.

Getting the most out of your ecommerce content starts with looking at content—essential and enhanced—oneach project page to ensure you get the most out of it for a compelling buyer experience.

2. Content is changing user experience forever

User experience—or UX—brings together every aspect of a user’s interaction with your brand online. In the broader sense, UX can be woven into in-store experience, too, but that’s a topic for another day.

In the context of ecommerce content, enhanced product content has been particularly influential in altering consumer expectations in UX. For 2021, this trend will continue. You can start by avoiding some of the pitfalls we’ve seen from brands who don’t groom their product data to enhance UX.

While there aren’t many “absolute truths” we can give you that will apply to the UX on all ecommerce platforms, here is one thing you can bet on:

All consumers want a quick, easy, and informed path to purchase.

The smoothest path to purchase can be managed with your product data in tandem with your overall web design—the perfect recipe for the best ecommerce UX. The navigation of your ecommerce storefront has to make sense; and once users get to that product page, it’s all on your on-page ecommerce content to keep shoppers engaged.

If you’re selling on marketplaces instead of your own ecommerce storefront, UX still comes down to your product data. In fact, since you have little-to-no control over the web design of marketplace product pages, the only control you can leverage is through your overall ecommerce content.

Think of your ecommerce content like you would the presentation of your product in a brick-and-mortar store. The presentation has to be pristine, prominently placed, and preferably set up so the shopper can visualize using or enjoying it. Ecommerce shoppers aren’t going to be able to interact with products like they would physically, meaning the closer you can get them with ecommerce content that mimics the in-store experience, the better.

Here are some high-level tips that can turn your enhanced content into more of the enriched UX you’re after:

  • Provide photos with multiple angles of the product
  • Provide photos with the product displayed in context
  • Consider photo overlays that provide interesting product information
  • Include videos wherever possible where you talk about the product or show it off

3. Augmented reality will not only be big—it will be an expectation

According to Statista, the market for augmented reality (AR) technology is projected to value over $18 billion by 2023. Even consumer spending on embedded AR mobile apps is expected to climb, with a projected value of $15.5 million by the end of 2022.

That means 2021 will be a big year for AR. Consumers are already primed to interact with more AR content—70% of survey respondents have said they will be more loyal to brands incorporating AR as part of their shopping experience.

But how do you incorporate it?

If talk of AR sounds like Greek to you, just think of social media filters. If you’ve used video filters to miraculously grow a mustache on Facebook Messenger or have applied Snapchat filters with a whole zoo’s-worth of animals to your selfies, then you’ve used AR. These filters might seem like they’re “just for fun,” but the technology is already being applied to help shoppers make informed decisions.

Brands big and small have already baked AR into their ecommerce content. Here are just a few of the ways they’ve done it:

  • Preview placement: think of someone buying a couch online. If the product is delivered and the buyer immediately sees that the color doesn’t work with the décor, or the dimensions are simply too big for the space, it will be a disappointment and a frustration to say the least. Visualizing a product you can’t physically handle is hard, however. Now, take the same AR made popular by Pokémon Go and allow the buyer to insert the couch—with exact dimensions, colors and all—into the right room at home. The buyer is given the necessary visual to make an informed decision, and the seller has one fewer return to process.
  • Virtual “try-on” solutions: another huge issue with online shopping is the reality that consumers can’t try on clothing before buying it. You can see this problem reflected in return rates. In-store returns hover pretty consistently around 8% while online returns jump to 25%. According to Narvar, the top reason why online purchases are returned is because they’re the wrong size, fit or color. From clothing to cosmetics, virtual try-on solutions are the answer. AR allows consumers to see how items will look on them.
  • Social media filters: coming back to those “just for fun” media filters, social platforms are allowing brands to use these to increase brand awareness. Imagine a specific brand of sunglasses integrated into a Snapchat filter that quickly becomes a user favorite. Users fall in love with the glasses and then learn they can buy them instantly. These filters can also be used to boost engagement by encouraging users to tag the brand in their publications when they share the resulting media.
  • AR will continue to change the way consumers interact with ecommerce content. The only question is how you’ll leverage the technology to create a “wow” factor for your products and brand.

4. Personalized content

Today, we know people better than ever before. That’s not because we’ve learned more about humanity, nor is it a product of the personal-lives-gone-public phenomenon of social media. What many users post on social media doesn’t reflect the whole story, anyway.

Instead, we know people because of what they share privately.

The way people interact with their online accounts (social, email, etc.) is trickled into elaborate algorithms that assign labels and make observations never imaginable before. Now we’re able to pick people out and segment them based on how long they spend looking at a single image in their feed, what they talk about in front of Alexa, or what their heart rate does at a specific time of day.

It’s pretty creepy, but at the same time, numerous consumer protection laws are in place to ensure that no company can connect the data to an actual person. Instead, we know people in a new and nameless fashion, following trends that inform our ecommerce content strategy for 2021 and beyond.

The result of all this data is that ecommerce brands have a better opportunity in 2021 to make their content hyper-personal.

In a recent Adobe survey, a whopping 42% of respondents stated that they feel “annoyed” when content isn’t personalized to them. It was 66% of respondents who said that encountering content that wasn’t personalized or was poorly designed would stop them from making an online purchase altogether.

Ecommerce content in 2021 will be the most personalized content yet. It will respond better to consumer expectations and will feel less “ads-y” and less intrusive as a result. This kind of personalized content will include:

  • Retargeted ads based on consumer purchases or behaviors
  • Product suggestions based on more behavior-sensitive algorithms
  • Nurture email marketing with reactive product displays for each user

Indeed, much of 2021’s ecommerce content personalization will come down to lead nurturing through email marketing. This channel isn’t remotely new for ecommerce, but it continues to be the one that gets the best engagement and results. Review the best practices in building a lead nurture ecosystem, and then get creative with the hyper-specific segmentation possible in 2021.

If ecommerce is the carriage and ecommerce content is the horse, you’re the one atop the horse who’s steering your team over the horizon of 2021. Many growing ecommerce content trends have been around for a while; they’re just seeing exponentially higher rates of adoption now. The opportunities are all waiting for you on the other side of a new outlook. Understand what ecommerce content includes, how it’s changing, and what’s possible next year and beyond.

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