In the competitive world of e-commerce, getting an online shopper to hit the "buy" button isn't good enough. Smart companies look for ways to go beyond the immediate sale in an effort to forge deep, long-lasting relationships with their customers.
How can companies form meaningful connections with customers? One way is to offer relevant, helpful content. I recently caught up with PublishThis founder Matt Kumin. PublishThis is a platform which allows companies to "aggregate, curate, and distribute compelling content across any digital channel." We talked about what companies can do to include products in the conversations consumers are having about brands.
Content Ping: How does PublishThis help companies engage with their customers?
Matt Kumin: We live in a world of Twitter and Facebook feeds where we are offered an unlimited amount of content. It’s coming at us 24/7, 365 days a year and every one of us struggles to filter it.
With an unlimited amount of content available to us, brands and businesses are finding it hard to get customers' attention. We help brands find content that would be relevant to customers and then publish that content.
Content Ping: How exactly does PublishThis make it easy to find and publish content?
Matt Kumin: Well, first of all, our content platform uses semantic search technology to filter through a lot of the clutter. Our core search engine helps companies quickly find the best and most interesting content on the topics their customers are most interested in, reducing the amount of time someone would have to take to hunt for it.
Secondly, we make it easy for companies to distribute and publish content in a way that's nimble: via email, newsletters, a blog, or social media. We call it dead simple publishing. Traditional content management systems weren't built to do that seamlessly across all those customer touch points.
Third, we measure conversion and how content drives conversion. Our system looks not just at your content, but also at all content that's out there on the web. We've developed social algorithms that monitor what's trending in social and we can track what is being shared, re-tweeted, and Liked the most.
Content Ping: Let's talk a little more about content curation. Why has this idea of repackaging content from around the web become so popular?
E-commerce is struggling at the moment to find a way not just to monetize that moment of clicking the "buy" button but about how to create an ongoing relationship. Customers don’t want to be in a one-sided relationship with brands.
Matt Kumin: We've found that people still want a human touch.
Historically, we started out with Yahoo! hand-selecting content for us. Then we moved to Google where content rises to the top based on algorithms. Most recently it's been about social, through our friends trying to be that killer filter.
Curation brings us back to favoring hand-selected content but with a new, smarter technology twist that allows an editor to use computer algorithms and social signals to quickly find the best content that complements their own content.
Content Ping: Why should companies be engaging in content curation? Isn't it enough for customers to like their products and buy them?
Matt Kumin: It's true that e-commerce companies are really good at monetizing their customers at the bottom of the purchase funnel. Yet we're finding that these companies want to use content as a way to add value and improve conversations with their customers.
As we talked about earlier, all companies are struggling to hold their customers' attention and loyalty. If the customer's relationship with the brand is all about price, that becomes a race to the bottom.
E-commerce is struggling at the moment to find a way not just to monetize that moment of clicking the "buy" button but about how to create an ongoing relationship. Customers don’t want to be in a one-sided relationship with brands where they’re constantly being sold to and are never getting anything back besides maybe a discount coupon.
We think content is a terrific way for companies to forge a deeper bond with the customer. Our clients are interested in creating lifetime value instead of focusing solely on transactional value.
We think a smart curation approach that's been modeled around a funnel, provides easy access, and updates across any device is a great way for companies to deliver greater digital value to their customers and give customers a reason to come back for more.
Content Ping: How do you help companies figure out what type of content they should be publishing?
Matt Kumin: We start with clients by talking to them about their brand and target audience. We help our clients become thought leaders and information resources for their customers. So we talk about what kind of value-add would make sense for the brand.
I used to work at Edmunds.com, the automotive research site. We thought a lot about the process people go through when looking for a new car. They have different information needs when they're just starting their research than they do once they've narrowed down their choices and are looking at the individual SKU [stock-keeping unit] level. We modeled it around the purchase funnel concept (awareness, consideration, shopping, purchase, loyalty) and tried to create content for every step of the shopping process.
Content Ping: So, as an example, what kind of content would a company want to create if they were trying to sell headphones?
Matt Kumin: Well, we'd encourage them to think up-funnel from the SKU level and think like a publisher would. They would want to create content that acted as an information resource for people modeled around the topics and stages that best fit that category.
For example, our tool could help them find audio content generally as well as maybe more specific audio quality topics that were of interest to their customers. Maybe the headphones had a feature that boosted the bass. The company could aggregate and curate content related to that feature.
Content Ping: You briefly mentioned "SKU-level content." How should companies handle this product-page level content? Does it also need to be social and sharable?
Matt Kumin: I think there's a challenge when you get down to the SKU level. We encourage companies to curate content first at the category level and then consider model level coverage. That said, there can be a place for SKU-level promotions as part of a curated, information-rich funnel.
Content Ping: Why would you not want to curate content at the product level?
Matt Kumin: The companies we talk to, once they get the customer to the product level, they're trying to get the customer to add the product to their cart. They don't want to distract them with a lot of information not directly relevant to the product purchase.
Content Ping: What do you see as being the biggest content challenge companies are facing?
Matt Kumin: We're seeing an explosion in mobile and tablets. Customers expect to be able to access content in stores, at computers, and on road. Companies need to be able to deliver fresh, compelling content across all the different platforms and customer touch points. And they need to focus on developing content solutions that offer a consistent user experience.
We think a smart curation approach that's been modeled around a funnel and provides easy access and updates across any device is a great way for companies to deliver greater digital value to their customers and give customers a reason to come back for more.
Matthew has worked in the software and Internet industry for more than 18 years. Prior to founding PublishThis, Matthew served on the executive management team at Edmunds.com, where he was responsible for helping grow the Internet’s leading automotive site from 2001-2008. Matthew started his career at Andersen Consulting and received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas in Austin.