‘Big retail’ must transform the economics of content production

Global retailers must adapt or risk the consequences of failing to match the high frequency content capabilities of smaller, more nimble competitors, argues James Brooke, CEO at Amplience.

High frequency content – highly engaging, shoppable digital content that can be delivered more easily and often into every shopping experience and every context – is a game changer for retail.

Quite simply that is because so few of the big established retailers - ‘big retail’ - can truly deliver it, even though they understand its importance very well.

That is not mere conjecture. A recent Amplience/L2 report focused on ecommerce localisation found that 70 per cent of global marketers report increased content budgets for 2015. What’s more, a majority (66 per cent) want to do more than just localise. They want to deliver localised high frequency content – high quality content that is refreshed more often: weekly (40 per cent) or monthly (26 per cent).

With good reason – those who can deliver high frequency content gain a disproportionate advantage in a retail environment that is increasingly driven by engagement; and not just online. According to Deloitte Digital’s Digital Divide report digital content is a critical influence on 30-50 per cent of all sales transactions in all channels.

And therein lies the issue for big retail – they see the need for high frequency content but, at present, they cannot deliver it.

The Amplience/L2 report brought the issue into sharp focus. It found that production complexity and high costs are preventing retailers from delivering relevant digital commerce experiences across all contexts and locales – particularly the engaging content types that define a high frequency approach. For instance, only 17 per cent of the retailers localised editorial content, user generated content is localised in only 7 per cent of cases, the rate of localisation falls to 5 per cent for look books and product guides, and fewer than one quarter (23 per cent) were able to localise reviews.

Indeed, even content on homepages was only localised in 39 per cent of cases, confirming that it is a significant challenge for these retailers to deliver locale relevance even across their most valuable digital real estate.

To make matters worse, retailers are well aware that this lack of merchandising sophistication represents a missed opportunity. According to the L2/Amplience report: “Eighty-three per cent of marketers who localise content believe that it improves customer experience, highlighting a widespread belief that brand messaging should adapt to local nuance by market.”

However, being aware of the issue and being able to resolve it are two very different things. These retailers’ shortcomings are not a matter of flawed strategy, they are baked into their technology and content infrastructures - for instance, the report found, only half of retailers use a consistent information architecture across global ecommerce sites.

That may be just one issue, but it is symptomatic of a wider malaise. Over time, retailers have acquired a fragmented array of channel-specific tools and content siloes – and that creates a content complexity problem that drives costs up and makes it practically impossible to localise content across the board.

Of course, this is all being played out in the context of a highly competitive, fast moving market. So, on the flip side of this challenge for established retailers is an opportunity – one that smaller, nimbler retailers will seize sooner or later. Unencumbered by content cost and complexity issues, by fragmented infrastructure, they will be far better placed to deliver the digital content experiences that – as I’ve already pointed out – drive significant commercial upsides in every retail context.

That day is not upon us yet, and the big retailers still have the advantage of deep pockets, scale and high street presence. But, if they are to retain their places at the top of the tree they must transform the economics of content production - driving down production costs, increasing exposure and measuring performance, to maximise returns on every content investment.

Specifically, they must find smart ways to consolidate diverse, channel-specific solutions and siloes - and move to the single digital content platforms that will enable them to streamline content production and automate channel and locale syndication.

Not every retailer will make the leap - and those that do not, risk serious consequences at a time when content is so important to customer engagement and, therefore, sales performance.

You can download a copy of the Amplience/L2 report here.

Image source: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia