Custom v Lookalike: Knowing your Audiences
Thu, 16 Feb 2017 15:30:00 UTC

Advertising on Facebook isn’t as simple as it used to be. With new ad products and functionalities being introduced on an almost monthly basis, the days of simply boosting a post are long gone. Instead of promoting posts straight from the brand’s timeline, most social marketers are using Facebook’s audience tools to enhance their messaging, gain cut through and make sure that the right content is being seen by the right people at the right time.

But Facebook targeting can be a bit confusing, so in this article, we’ll be shedding a bit of light on the differences between Custom and Lookalike Audiences.

Custom Audiences

These audiences are generated using a brand’s own list of customers/subscribers or Facebook users that have already engaged with branded content on the platform. Depending on how owned data has been segmented, marketers can even create custom audiences for consumers based on recent purchases, birthdays, etc.

Lookalike Audiences

These audiences are created from  a cross-reference of owned data and Facebook’s user data.  Facebook examines demographics like age, gender and employment status, as well as particular interests of a brand’s Custom Audience. Then, within Facebook’s algorithm,  these demographic details are matched up with existing Facebook users, to create a highly relevant audience of users who aren’t already engaging with your brand.  

When to use Custom Audiences

The primary reason for using a custom audience is simply to target users who already have a relationship with your brand.  This could include:

  • Upselling to existing customers
  • Re-targeting users with abandoned shopping carts
  • Promoted exclusive offers to active subscribers
  • Getting feedback on recent purchases

But custom audiences aren’t just about sales. In fact, using custom audiences to drive engagement is a great way to transform customers into advocates.

Custom audiences can also be used to exclude certain groups from your paid social activity. For example, if an ad is designed to gain new subscribers for a brand email list, it’s typically a good idea to exclude a custom audience of existing subscribers. 

When to use Lookalike Audiences

While the main use for custom audiences is targeting users who already have an established relationship with your brand, lookalike audiences are designed to help you reach new, highly relevant users.  In theory, lookalike audiences are identical to your custom audiences aside from the brand connection. This means that lookalike audiences are great for:

  • New customer acquisition
  • Driving brand awareness
  • Generating site registrations / signups

As more brands are utilising paid social on Facebook it’s vital that you’re using audience tools strategically to maximise efficiency and, as a result, ROI.

Looking at the future opportunity for voice and content
Fri, 03 Feb 2017 09:14:00 UTC

We’ve all done it, asked Siri or the voice assistant on our smartphone what the weather is like today, we’ve tested its knowledge and probably got an ‘I’m sorry I don’t understand that question’ making us feel superior, or laughed at a preprogrammed ridiculous quip.

Beyond these basic commands the reality is voice assistants for the majority are limited to barking common orders at our devices to ‘call now’ or ‘play Ed Sheeran on Spotify’.

When we think about where we engage with devices via voice they are primarily used in private.  This makes total sense as people are more comfortable talking to voice assistants on their own, away from the ears and judgement of others. A detailed study by Creative Strategies in 2016 supports this behaviour as 39 per cent of consumers surveyed use their voice assistant in their home and 51 per cent in the car.

Products centered on voice such as Amazon Echo and Google Home have penetrated our lives further, capitalising not only on their proprietary technology, but on our becoming more comfortable of using such devices within private spaces.

The fact that they are effective and efficient means that they are being frequently used, thus becoming woven into the very fabric of our daily lives.

As history has frequently shown, where there are changes in consumer behaviour related to technology, opportunities will present themselves; and for voice these opportunities are only going to increase.  If we reflect, it wasn’t that long ago that we used to complain of people using their mobile phones in public.  With the ubiquity of smartphones in the UK, how many of us today take any notice of people having personal conversations in public as we once did? The fact is we don’t because we also have those public conversations. Both our behaviours and expectations from technology have changed.

I’d like to take a moment to look at a few broad trends that highlight the new ways in which we are becoming more comfortable in speaking at our device. It is these changes in behaviour that will result more opportunities for marketers to create content that requires voice as the primary input.

The first behaviour worth commenting on is the high user adoption of features such as Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories. The use of these requires people to take mini video clips and allow for voice storytelling commentary over the top. So, in a sense, more people are vlogging their lives and sharing these publically amongst their networks using voice as a key component of content production.

The second trend and closely aligned to the first, is live video.  Many experts predict that 2017 is the year that Facebook Live will explode in popularity. Again with live streaming you can provide voice commentary by speaking at your device to an audience that you cannot see. Therefore the more frequently we use, interact and are exposed to others using tools such as Facebook Live, the more comfortable we will be in accepting that we can talk at our devices.

Thirdly, and this is more of a personal observation, I’ve noticed that I have started to FaceTime (video call) more of my contacts in public and do not feel embarrassed by holding a device in front of me and talking at it. I’m also starting to see more people do the same as I walk to and from work, but this could be the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.
My recent adoption of this functionality is because of better wireless connectivity and cheaper data. But a couple of years ago I probably would have felt too self conscious to FaceTime along the high street in public.

Fourth, developments in AI and its increased adoption such as the daily use of personal assistants e.g. Alexa and Google Voice already discussed, means that we as humans are coming to rely more on voice as a way to successfully search for, send and receive information.

Related to AI are bots which incorporate machine learning linked to popular networks such as Facebook Messenger and indeed Alexa. These bots actively encourage voice interface.

One market where voice has been adopted into the mainstream is China, and more specifically on the dominant messenger platform WeChat.  Here users have substituted the trusty qwerty keypad to that of using just the voice for messaging, simply because it’s quicker and easier to do so. It is this convenience just as that which is found with using voice search via in-home devices that will fuel the adoption of voice not just as a driver for search but also our interactions with content.

Therefore, the opportunity in the long term for marketers when considering voice is in providing utility, and this can start with bots. Brands should look to exploit bot technology by turning current voice assistants into true digital agents able to have natural exchanges. In an era of customer centricity, customer service agents that are intelligent and provide real value based on personal interactions will truly provide relevance.

In the short term, content that we currently produce should take into account voice search for discoverability. Because more and more people are frequently using voice assistants to discover and learn - myself included. In 2016 Google made changes to its search engine algorithm to give preference to those sites and content that give equal consideration to mobile as well as desktop, in time their algorithms will no doubt rank content that favours the voice.

How financial services brands are using content hubs in 2017
Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:00:00 UTC

Did you know...

78% of financial marketers use content marketing, spending an average of 18% of annual budgets on content marketing activity. (Content Marketing Institute, 2015)

But simply investing in content creation is only the first step towards executing exemplary content marketing. Once you have created your content, in line with your brand’s predefined strategy and proposition, the next step is to work out where exactly it should live. Ideally, this should be somewhere that can be easily managed and provides a great experience for users.

As new channels and content types emerge, financial marketers need to be reactive; searching for new platforms and methods to underpin content marketing activity in the most effective way.

Fast-forward to 2017 and we are seeing more and more examples of financial service businesses adopting the use of onsite ‘content hubs’ to better-leverage their content marketing efforts.

With this in mind, we’ve pulled together a comprehensive review of current content hubs used within the financial service sector, to date.

But first...

What exactly is a content hub?

A content hub acts as your website’s digital content library. It serves as a centralised space used to host and showcase all of your content in a way that’s clearly navigable for your website visitors.

What makes a good content hub?

The foundations of a good content hub are the same no matter the industry you operate in but generally speaking, an effective content hub:

  • Cleverly draws content from all of the channels in your digital ecosystem, creating a rich, digital, mixed-media experience for your website users.

  • Regularly publishes, hosts and curates content that visitors find actionable and interesting.

  • Follows a sleek, clear design and layout that makes it easy for users to navigate content that is suited to them.

How are content hubs currently used across financial services?

Content hubs, adopted by many financial services companies, are most commonly used to collate and distribute articles. However, as investment in wider content activity increases, we are beginning to see changes in the types of content utilised within financial services.

Today, content hubs within financial services are generally comprised of the following features.


For a lot of brands, the newsroom is typically the standout theme used to populate the content hub. The newsroom provides audiences with reactive, timely commentary and updates on market/societal changes which affect businesses and their customers. Examples of these changes might include events such as Brexit or the US presidential election.

Resource centres

A resource centre is an area within your content hub that houses your brand’s evergreen content.

Evergreen content is content that has real longevity, content that your users will continuously revert back to. Gone are the days when blog posts, infographics, presentations, eBooks, white papers, videos, webinar recordings and interactive tools are lost within the ever expanding sea of new content creation.

Thought Leadership content

The Thought Leadership section on your content hub showcases commentary, written by influential figures throughout your business or industry. These articles are different from your average blog or newsroom piece as they provide hard-hitting, expert analysis and innovative thinking around key touch points within the industry. Again, similar to the newsroom, examples include events such as Brexit, the annual Budget announcement or the governmental elections.

Social media content curation

A Social Media section is an area within the content hub, generally, on the main landing page. This section aims to provide a real time feed of activity on your brand’s activity on owned social media channels, coupled with a feed that curates useful posts from 3rd parties and partners that you have selected.

Content curation

This is a space within your hub that directly draws content from reputable, external sources that audiences may find useful. An example of this might be to aggregate and post Financial Times articles on a daily basis and share these with your visitors. Hargreaves Lansdowne follows a similar approach with its newsroom, curating content from the likes of Reuters, Financial Times, Bloomberg and more.

Event support content

This is a destination within your content hub that pulls together content to support promotion and coverage of events within your business or key events taking place within the industry. An example of this might be to host an event takeover of your content hub and have your marketing team publish articles, event resources and social posts from the event throughout the day, providing content to your non-attendees.

Partner marketing content

This is an area contained within the content hub that hosts paid/non-paid 3rd party partner content that you want to share with your users. This is a good way to monetise your content hub and offer value to partnering brands. This is becoming more and more prevalent within the investments sector, for example - platform providers are now working with fund managers to develop and publish content for both public and professional audiences.

Examples of current content hubs within financial services

Whilst it is not uncommon for financial services brands to use every feature detailed above, there are best-practice examples throughout the industry that demonstrate how brands are engaging with content hubs to surface their wealth of content.

Sainsbury’s Bank Money Matters

Sainsbury’s Bank has developed a consumer focused blog within their website, featuring content that provides tips across a range of consumer-finance topics across everyday family finance.


The hub mainly features videos and articles at this time, but aggregates content well across its core topics in a way that is visually appealing and easy to navigate for users.


Standard life

Standard Life’s Money Plus blog now presents itself as a content hub, aggregating evergreen/standout content in it’s hot topics section, reactive content in it’s news & insights section, generic content split by product, social media curation and thought leadership content.



What are the benefits of using a content hub on your website?

A content hub poses many benefits for financial brands and enables marketers to:

Maximise the visibility, discoverability and longevity of content

Content can be drawn from all corners of the digital ecosystem and brought to the forefront of the content hub to drive awareness and engagement. Content hubs are also useful for driving awareness and engagement with pre-existing content that serves a long-term purpose.

Provide user support

Resourceful, useful content can be organised and clearly presented to support users at any stage of the purchase funnel.

Support lead generation

The content experience can be tailored to take audiences on a logical journey to discover, consider and purchase products and services for any organisation.

Control the experience

As the site owner, you own the experience. You are able to test, learn and adapt the experience for the best possible results.

Obtain detailed marketing insights

As a content hub is often contained within an owned website, brands are able to gather a wealth of data and insights into audience engagements, preferences which in turn drives better content marketing and better experiences for audiences.

The battle for audience attention is rife; driving the best experiences with and the most value from your content is more important than ever. As investment in content marketing increases, competition becomes more fierce and content becomes more important to users, the use of content hubs will be an essential tool in the financial marketer’s toolkit for years to come.



2016: Our favourite moments
Thu, 05 Jan 2017 14:46:00 UTC

It comes as no surprise that 76% of people feel that marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the previous 50 (Adobe, 2016). The last year has been explosive for content marketing, from the widespread adoption of always on content, increasing popularity of video and interactive content, to the take-up of brands utilising user-generated content.  Research shows that the growth in content marketing has no plans of slowing down, with spend in the UK set to rise 179.2% to £349m in 2020, from 2014 (Campaign Live, 2016).

In the last year, we have worked with brands all across the world, to help them reach their goals through strategy and planning, content creation, distribution and paid promotion tactics. As we start the new year, we wanted to take a look back over the last twelve months and share some of our favourite projects that we have been involved in.

MaxiNutrition’s Ibiza Challenge

Social Content Strategy & Paid Social Strategy

MaxiNutrition, a  leading UK sports nutrition brand, launched the Ibiza Challenge in summer 2016 with the aim of raising brand awareness and championing loyal customers. Having worked with MaxiNutrition for four years, our role in this campaign was to drive entries into this 30-day body transformation challenge. Kicking the work off, we developed a social content strategy, ensuring the brand’s key messages would be delivered consistently across all active channels, along with a paid social strategy. This resulted in the development of e-commerce ads, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts, along with the use of a voting mechanic. Additionally, to support this, we created content publishing schedules to help maximise the content’s impact through its distribution.

These activities were hugely important in the end results of the campaign. Out of all the sign-ups, 83.6% was attributed to social channels, and the brand achieved a 158% ROI in sales during the campaign.  Over 300 pieces of coverage based on ‘The Challenge’ were achieved through the micro-influencer outreach strategy we additionally undertook, with over 29,000 engagements on social channels and 12,000 visits achieved directly from these channels.



Content Strategy

FatFace is a much-loved British retailer, rich with heritage and a captivating story but whose communications have recently focused heavily on product messaging. Wanting to bring storytelling back into their customer communications, FatFace asked us to define a content strategy which focuses on marrying core brand values with the target audience's needs and desires. Focusing on their website, social channels and email communications, it was important to develop an overarching strategy that could still be tailored to each channel as well as being relevant to both new and existing customers.

In order to get involvement from the marketing and multichannel retail teams, we ran a series of workshops based on which we determined meaningful KPIs, created a new target persona, defined a content proposition and identified opportunities and rules for content on each channel. FatFace have just recently launched their website ( and will early this year start rolling out their new content plans.

DLA Piper

Content Strategy, Creation & Distribution

We worked with global law firm DLA Piper on their European Technology Summit, an event focused on key issues affecting the technology industry, including Internet of Things, FinTech and cybersecurity. To help raise awareness and drive registrations to this industry-leading event, we developed and implemented a content strategy and paid social strategy. As part of this, we created an array of content including infographics, articles, videos and speaker announcements, which were distributed across LinkedIn and Twitter.

The work leading up to the Summit generated a lot of interest, resulting in DLA Piper receiving over 650 registrations for the event - 300% more than the original target! The event was filled with some of the industry’s key professionals and has so far led to over 15 new business opportunities for the firm.

Fred. Olsen

Social Playbook & Ongoing Support

Last year we also worked with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, whose primary aim was to improve the quality and performance of their social content. To gain insight into their performance and market, we undertook an audit of direct competitors and the brand itself, in order to ascertain platform best practice that aligns with brand goals and objectives. A social content strategy and social playbook were delivered and presented to the wider marketing team. Ongoing support has been provided via fortnightly calls whereby we analyse and edit the brands’ content calendars.  We additionally examine post performance and identify opportunities based on the findings.

Before implementing the strategy and playbook, Fred. Olsen’s posts were achieving between 1.5k - 2.5k organic reach on Facebook. After implementation, organic reach increased to over 6k on average with some posts achieving an organic reach of over 30k. Engagement has also significantly increased, with the average reactions, comments and shares increasing from 50 - 100 per post to 200 - 400 per posts, with engagement exceeding 1,500 reactions, comments and shares on certain posts..

The year ahead

Content marketing continues to grow, but producing high quality and truly valuable content needs to be complemented with a good distribution network. In the coming year, we will see a continued focus on customer centric content, ensuring that it is specific, relevant and sparks an interest in the target demographic. Growth within influencer marketing is already evident, but predictions are that brands will not only partner with Instagrammers and YouTubers, but work with them to co-create new and original content (AdWeek, 2016). Brands will continue to utilise video and Syndacast have projected that 74% of all traffic in 2017 will be in this format (Convince and Convert, 2016). Brands that have not already done so, will need to consider content distribution, due to the decline in organic reach on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Ultimately, this drop in reach will influence social media spending, which is forecasted to grow 26.3% in 2017 versus the previous year (Hootsuite, 2016).

Well, what a great year it’s been! We look forward to continuing to work with many of these brands and teams, along with new projects and challenges in the year ahead. Last but not least, we’d like to thank all our clients and colleagues for a wonderful year!


Adobe, 2016.

AdWeek, 2016.

Campaign Live, 2016.

Content Marketing Institute, 2016.

Convince and Convert, 2016.

Hootsuite, 2016.

Why we said goodbye to Twitter
Sun, 01 Jan 2017 00:00:00 UTC

When it comes to social activity, we’re all about results and doing what’s right for our clients in order to help them meet their business objectives. We’re results driven, and sometimes that means missing out on the social flavour of the month simply because it’s not suitable for the task at hand. We take this approach in everything we do, including the platforms we choose to recommend and use ourselves. While our social strategy is unique and bespoke for each individual client, we also have to practice what we preach. And for us, that means saying goodbye to Twitter. Here are a few of the reasons why we’re doing this.

1. We’re not convinced about Twitter’s organic potential..

According to Global Web Index, 54% of UK internet users have a Twitter account compared to 81% who have a Facebook profile. If we look at users who classify themselves as engagers / contributors that falls to just 26% for Twitter compared to 48% for Facebook. While comparing the two platforms is like comparing apples to oranges in many ways, these figures are pretty rough for Twitter and most of the blame falls on the platform itself. Twitter’s “real-time” nature, means that organic tweets often get lost in the deluge of content that fills a user’s feed. We know the platform introduced an algorithm in to help users see content from profiles they engage with the most, but it seems like too little, too late. Twitter is firmly wedded to a real-time feed. It’s the platform’s biggest (and arguably only) USP. It’s also the biggest reason why we won’t be using the platform as an agency.

2.  ...and its paid platform isn’t delivering.

We’re big believers in paid social. Some might see it as necessary evil, but it’s actually an incredible asset when it comes to getting the right message to the right people at the right time. Facebook (and Instagram) offer some highly sophisticated targeting options along with an ever-expanding arsenal of ad types. We’ve seen some incredible results for all of our clients on Facebook owned networks, but with Twitter it’s a different story. Cost per click, cost per view and cost per engagement have always been higher and the quality of click/view/engagement has typically been lower. Because the results we’ve seen for clients  have been consistently more expensive on Twitter (and we’re all about results), and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to seed our brand messages, we feel that posting on Twitter might not be the best use of Headstream time and effort.

3. It drains resource. 

Twitter is a conversational platform. It brilliantly allows brands the freedom to have direct conversations with consumers in a way that just isn’t possible on Facebook. The only problem is conversations take time, and as much as we’d like to chat, we’re really busy working on client campaigns. But it’s not just conversations that take up resource, it’s content planning. Creating a content calendar for Facebook requires quality content over a high volume of posts, but with Twitter, even paid social campaigns are recommended to contain multiple tweets. So, it’s not just crafting one or two perfectly formed tweets, it’s about crafting 10 tweets that say roughly the same thing to try and help generate enough cut through to reach your audience. It takes time, a lot of time.

4.  It’s just not right for us. 

When we looked back over 2016 and analysed the amount of time and money we were spending on Twitter,  and compared it to our investment on other platforms, it became obvious that while there are definitely reasons to use Twitter,  we were getting better, more efficient results elsewhere. We’re not saying Twitter isn’t right for your brand, and if you want to work with us, we might find that Twitter is the best option for you. We’re just saying that Twitter isn’t right for us.  If you’re not convinced, give us a call. We’re more than happy to chat about it.

How to make your Christmas campaign a success
Thu, 03 Nov 2016 12:38:00 UTC

Christmas is now right round the corner. “But only last week it was summer!” I hear you say! - well it’s time to get a move on with your Christmas campaigns….

But when is the right time to start? It’s certainly not a Christmas Eve job. Here, I will walk you through the when’s and why’s of creating a successful Christmas campaign just at the right time.

The key to seasonal marketing is to reach people before they make decisions about purchases, not when they’re about to start buying. For example, starting at around early November time rather than Christmas Eve.

If you haven't yet made a start, don’t fret, you’re not too late. According to the National Retail Federation, by 15th December 2015, 44.8% of people surveyed said they were still undecided between gifts. Additionally, 28.8% said they wait until mid-to-late December because their friends and family had not given them enough gift ideas; and 22% wait for "the best deals" on products. Meanwhile, one in five consumers admitted simply, they were just procrastinating.

One major factor to consider is the fact that it’s not just about Christmas gifts anymore. The festive season includes a range of events such as Black Friday and New Year’s Eve. Think about your activity and the best timing for it. Black Friday has grown in popularity over recent years. It falls on Friday 25th November this year, that’s a date to keep in mind!

Black Friday is definitely something that you should take notice of, as more than £3 billion was spent over the Black Friday weekend last year. At least 15 retailers’ websites couldn’t even cope, according to The Guardian, big names such as Tesco, Argos and John Lewis experienced “some form of loss of service during the weekend”.

In order to make your campaign standout throughout this festive season you must plan accordingly. Here we have put together a six step process to help make your Christmas campaign a success.

  • Everything begins with audience. Once you have clarified who you’re speaking to, you can establish what you want to say, how you’re going to say it, as well as, where you want it to be said based on the channels your target audience touch upon. Understand your audience likes and dislikes - don’t just focus on demographics, make sure you’re aware of their psychographics.

  • Figuring out your objective is the next step; this will dictate the type of content you use in order to reach your target audience. The objective will also help establish how you are going to measure success of the content. For example, for driving sales it could be CTR to your e-commerce site to then purchase; attribution modelling is key. If it’s for brand awareness, it could be how many views of your Christmas video you achieved and what the reach of this was.

  • Develop a campaign strategy and confirm/establish your content proposition. Take into consideration the other crucial dates throughout the seasonal period, eg Black Friday, New Year’s Day; and what else might be going on in your target audience’s lives. Relevant and valuable content is key in grabbing attention in a busy Christmas marketplace.

  • Once you’re clear on your content strategy and the content you will be creating, this will help you determine the platform you choose to display it on. This may be your own website, social channels, digital ads, influencer channels, apps or printed material.

  • Once you have established your platform, this will help to lead the way the content is published, and then supported with paid media. Once you know your objectives, are clear on the call-to-action, and where it will be published, think about how you are going to reach your audience; probably through some paid media activity.

  • After your Christmas content  has been published it should be rigorously measured and optimized to ensure the content provides maximum value. This is where you can compile learnings and feed them back into the campaign or take note for future activity.

So don’t miss a trick when planning your Christmas activity, stay organised, start early and remember that Christmas is hectic for everyone, so your content needs to be extra smart and work extra hard. Have in mind how you’re going to give your customers some festive joy this year!

How to create effective retail product pages
Wed, 26 Oct 2016 00:00:00 UTC

A well put-together product page can be as important as a website’s homepage, but is often overlooked by marketers. Product pages act as a substitute for a tangible object or a helpful store assistant - and have the power to make a sale, or lose a customer. The most effective product pages excel in five areas - here’s how to make yours do the same.


The best product pages are in-keeping with brand look and feel, but are also easy to navigate and uncluttered. Many use white space to break up blocks of information, and a tab functionality to stop overcrowding.

Ideally, the most important information - product name and a brief description, images, price and delivery information, should sit above the fold when the page is displayed on a desktop - meaning that the user doesn’t need to scroll down to find any of these key details. Mobile users are more likely to scroll, but again, key information should sit within the top half of the page. Finally, call to action buttons such as ‘Add to basket’ should be prominent on the page, and are often a different colour to alert users to their presence.

Contemporary fashion brand, Wood Wood, uses a very clean lay out on its product pages that makes it easy to view product details as well as showcase high quality imagery. The overall look and feel matches the brand, and the ‘add to bag’ button stands out on the page. The most important details are above the fold, and the overall effect is orderly and uncluttered.

Wood Wood

Imagery and video

Studies suggest that large, high resolution product images have a positive effect on the rate of conversion - meaning that better pictures lead to higher sales. With this in mind, product images should occupy a large area of the page, and if possible, feature a zoom or 360° function. These photographs supply marketers with the opportunity to capture products in a certain aesthetic - giving a taste of the lifestyle associated with the brand, and potentially increasing the likelihood of a sale.

Luxury British brand, Mulberry, uses extremely good quality photography to portray its products online. Images on the brand’s product pages cover at least 60% of the screen, and show products in granular detail over 6 or more different pictures. This kind of transparency is especially important in the luxury market, where customers part with a great deal of money for a product, and expect only the highest quality in return.

Mulberry leather bag

Video can also be used to show products in action, and to connect with the users on a more emotional level. It offers users a chance to see a product actually being worn, or functioning in a certain situation. Online fashion retailer, ASOS, uses catwalk footage to show its products on real models, set to a soundtrack of popular music. This feature adds to the user experience, and may even help to reduce volumes of returns, as customers gain a better understanding of a product before they purchase it.

ASOS Product Description Pages

Powerful product description

In its simplest form, a product description is a list of specifications; but it can also communicate brand personality and infer a certain type of lifestyle.

Ultimately, the aim of a product description is to help customers find what they’re looking for, with a view to increase sales and overall basket value. Copy needs to be clear and concise, designed to drive traffic to your website from online search engines, and to persuade potential customers to become actual ones.

Creating good product descriptions comes from a thorough knowledge of a brand’s tone of voice, target consumer, and a knack for storytelling. Take a look at our previous blog post on perfecting your product descriptions for a more detailed guide to writing persuasive product copy.

User generated content (UGC)

Product pages can be greatly supplemented through the use of good quality, on-brand UGC. Whether it’s through an image, video, or product review, UGC helps establish trust in brands, as well as build consumer confidence - something that’s particularly important when selling online. Effective UGC comes from existing customers, who are relevant to the brand’s target audience and fit with its overall ethos.

Womenswear retailer, Oasis, uses UGC to promote customer advocacy as well as push users closer to the point of conversion. The brand’s ‘Oasis My Way’ initiative encourages customers to publish images of themselves wearing an Oasis product to the brand’s online gallery. These are then pulled into the relevant product pages, so that they can be viewed by users who are looking at the items.

Not only does this system reward existing customers by placing their images on the website, but it also helps potential customers to form an opinion about a product and hopefully proceed to a conversion. These self portraits can also be curated by Oasis, to show only the most on brand looks from aspirational customers.

Extra features

Finally, there are many extra features that can enhance a user’s experience on a product page. These include the ability to save items to a wishlist, check which stores an item is available in, live stock level information, and social sharing functions.

Another feature that can add value and potentially increase basket size, is the use of a ‘wear with’ or ‘get the look’ functionality - a block showing complementary products that can be used to style the selected item. Contemporary high street retailer, Whistles, does this well, showing users a small selection of pieces that can be teamed with the selected item, or are shown on the model in the image. This not only assists the user with product selection and outfit inspiration, but also helps increase basket size and again, can help to drive a user closer to conversion.

Product Description Pages

Overall, product pages really do have the ability to create new customers, and are vitally important when it comes to increasing conversion rates. From design and copywriting, to user experience and styling advice, effective product pages utilise a wide range of elements to create a stimulating experience for a customer that not only entertains them but also spurs them towards making a purchase.

How to make your content stand for something
Tue, 18 Oct 2016 00:00:00 UTC

Since 2010 investment in content marketing has increased year on year, with nine in 10 organizations marketing with content. Consequently, this has resulted in audiences being bombarded by a lot of similar content from brands, (think lifestyle content).  
For brands to be able to cut through and capture an audience's attention, the content needs to stand for something.

The sure fire way for brands to create regular and valuable content for its target audience is to define a content proposition.

The content proposition is a statement that clearly outlines what you are trying to accomplish with content. It helps to guide and creates a focus for your editorial strategy. As well as ensuring you are creating content relevant to your audience themes and goals, in doing this it also cements expectations for other agencies, writers, and audiences.

The stronger the content proposition, the more chance of increasing engagement and conversions with your target audience. Not only does the content proposition help to define what content to create, but sometimes even more importantly, what content not to create. 

A solid content proposition therefore needs to answer 3 things:

  • Who is your core target audience?
  • What will be delivered to the audience?
  • What is the desired outcome for the audience?

As an agency we typically approach the development of content propositions via workshops which comprise of two main stages.
The first stage is to look at our target audience in more depth using personas.  Here we couple psychographic data with demographic data to ensure that we create a reliable and realistic representation of the target audience. 

We then map out the audience personas journey with content using content journey mapping.  This enables us to tell the story of customer’s journey with content from awareness through to loyalty and advocacy. 

Once we have this detail we can then take that target audience persona through the second stage.  This stage is formed of three steps.

Step 1 - identify customer benefits.  Here we list all of the benefits your brand/product will offer your customers and why your target audience buys from you

Step 2 - link benefits to value offering - identify what value your products/brand bring to the customer, what are the proof points?

Step 3 - differentiate and create the proposition - here we make it clear who your target customer is, what you offer them and what is different.

We then draft the content proposition which is shared amongst the workshop stakeholders for feedback and review before the final proposition is delivered. 

An example of a solid content proposition is from P&G for their branded destination site:

“Whether it’s a delicious recipe, an inspiring décor idea or a refreshing approach to organizing, we strive to help you [Moms] create a home that’s truly your own. Everything we do here is designed to empower and inspire you to make your home even better, and most importantly, a place you love to be.”

As you can see from this proposition the target audience is clearly defined (albeit very broad) as Mums. We can see that they know Mums are searching for inspiration and ideas to help organise and create a unique home for their family. Therefore every piece of content that P&G places on its destination site should inspire and empower mums to create the best home for family.

How retailers can use video content across the shopper journey
Tue, 11 Oct 2016 00:00:00 UTC

Since 2010 video content used by retail brands has increased dramatically.  Shoppers who viewed product videos are 85% more likely to buy than their counterparts [Internet Retailer], and retail site visitors who view video content stay on average two minutes longer on site. They are also 64% more likely to purchase than other site visitors.

These recent statistics highlight how video content plays a huge part in influencing a shopper’s experience.  Not only does video allow you to tell a story to your target audience, enabling you to accurately craft your desired messaging, but the impact of video content for retailers can result in more interest, more views, more leads, and ultimately more conversions.

We believe it is critical for retailers to understand what a ‘good retail’ experience is for shoppers using video content.  in order to do this you have to identify and acknowledge the journey a shopper goes on throughout their own retail experience. This can be done by mapping out the content journey.  Content journey mapping tells the story of the customer’s experience with content: from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship.

For retailers, mapping the content journey allows you to see how shoppers move through the sales funnel, making it easier for you to identify gaps and opportunities, ensuring your content is relevant at each stage. This process may seem complicated, but actually, every shopper follows a similar path, all you need to do is establish this and create your own map to ensure you maximise your engagement opportunities along the way, for your key target shopper personas.

At its most basic level the shopper journey can be divided into 5 simple stages:

  • Awareness stage
  • Consideration stage
  • Purchase stage
  • Loyalty stage
  • Advocacy stage

The first stage of the journey is ‘Awareness’, this is the perfect opportunity for retailers to try something  a little different or more bold with content. The aim of this stage is to ‘breakthrough’  with video that makes customers really take notice of your brand or product. Two of the most effective ways to do this, is through entertainment and storytelling video content (link to retail storytelling article).

A great example of entertainment content at this stage is from Reebok.

This video features Jonah Hill, hollywood funny guy, pretending to know what skateboarding is. He awkwardly says, “that looks chill, you should buy that,” fanboying over sneakers with as much enthusiasm as a student giving a presentation about mould. As well as the ad featuring Jonah, it also features a comedic storyline which pokes fun at ‘old school’ 90’s ads and just how awkward they were. This gives the target audience (youth audience) something to be entertained by and engage with therefore increasing awareness.

Consideration stage
At this stage the customer demonstrates an interest in your brand, and not only considers your product but will evaluate your product against others/competitors. This shift in viewpoint is an entirely new stage within the shopper journey and therefore requires a new goal; to showcase how your product can help your customer achieve their wants and needs.
It is an opportunity to position your product as being different and better than the competition.

One example where this is done well are the classic blendtec videos who used entertainment content.

This short video demonstrates the durability of their product by showing how it is powerful enough to blend various items, including iphones, ipads, trainers and even superglue. This differentiates the company from its competitors, and encourages potential customers to think of the brand favourably, not only are potential customers clearly able to see the product working but they are also entertained by the video content.

This is the most critical stage along the shopper journey. The goal here is to eliminate any doubts your potential customers may have about your products. At this stage advocacy marketing via user generated content can play a critical part in building trust and credibility.  A genuine satisfied customer backs up any claims you have previously made, giving new prospects no room for doubt or hesitation regarding your brand/product. GoPro customer videos are a great example of this.

At the Purchase stage it is also important that retailers highlight their point of difference, whatever it may be, in order to completely convince the customer that their brand/product can outperform its competitors.

A great example is this storytelling video from Patagonia.

Patagonia demonstrates, as a brand how they focus on their hand crafted wetsuits, tested designs and highlight the importance of doing things to ensure their products can stand any surfing environment. This allows the brand to show how they stand for something that their competitors may not, high quality products that have actually been put to the test in the most extreme situations. Customers are assured that the wetsuits are of the highest quality, by demonstrating professionals testing out the products and how each wetsuit is handmade. This gives customers the assurance that  they are purchasing great quality clothing and products and leaves no room in the customer's mind for doubts.The content creates a positive point of difference as well as assured customer satisfaction.

Once you have managed to engage your customers through to making a purchase, it’s important for retailers to continue following the shopper journey, onto the Loyalty Stage. Here it is important to help customers justify their purchase and stay engaged with your brand. The goal at this stage is to  encourage repeat purchase.  It is important that you allow your customer service to shine through ensuring your customers learn something from you and take away more than just their purchase from their retail experience with your brand/product. This will prompt them to ultimately buy more. Some of the ways this can be done, is through live streaming events, tutorials using your products and producing helpful information.

An example piece of content which does this well is from the M&S  #HelloYou campaign.

This video content encourages women to expand their wardrobes from just the ‘boring’, to the exciting and bright in order to gain confidence and to feel good in the clothes they wear. Styled by one of M&S's top stylist’s, mum’s, wives and girlfriends get a transformed look to present to their families and loved ones. This piece of video content shows how the retail experience can engage customers and use the experience to educate, prompting a more loyal bond between brand and customer. It helps to build the bond between the customer and the retailer on a deeper level than just ‘the clothes look good’ to ‘the clothes from this particular brand look good and I feel great in them’.

The aim of the Advocacy stage is to encourage loyal advocates to become brand advocates; here, company culture can be used as well as user generated content. This stage provides retailers with a  great opportunity to solicit user generated video content via platforms such as Instagram. One example of using these social platforms well is Starbucks,

The Starbucks #WhiteCupContest campaign encouraged customers to decorate their own ‘white cups’ and post videos or images of them on instagram with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. This prompted further engagement with the brand after purchase with the incentive to win a prize. Ultimately strengthening the relationship between the brand and brand advocates and increasing customer return rates and sales.

As you have just read, each of these stages paves the way for a successful shopper journey, using video content. Ultimately, the experience you create for customers via content will be what they remember - and determine whether they ever want to come back again. Your goal is to get it right, to make sure they do.


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Should retailers become publishers?
Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 UTC

Today brands across all sectors are beginning to adopt a publishing mindset.  This comes as businesses begin to reduce their reliance on advertising and invest more in content marketing which is less disruptive, more engaging and can improve relationships with shoppers.  

Brands leading the publishing charge in the retail space e.g. Net-a-porter, L’Oreal ( and Birchbox, have all committed both culturally and financially to producing regular and valuable content.  

There are several advantages for a retail brand to become a publisher of content; SEO, increased site traffic, improved conversions - but the primary benefit is to deliver a better customer experience over competitors.  For retailers to deliver a great experience with content, it starts with placing the shopper at the heart of all activity.

Shoppers in the digital space are looking for inspiration, they want to indulge in content that reflects the ideas they have, or to further reinforce the tribe that they belong to.  Adopting a publishing mindset begins with a deep understanding of your target customers.  This is achieved via detailed personas that includes psychographics and demographics.  Having a solid understanding of your audience will help ensure that each and every piece of content produced will delight both potential and existing customers.

Taking each individual shopper persona, retailers can then begin to map out the content they need to meet Google’s key ‘micro-moments’ across the shopper journey.  Those micro-moments specific to retail are; I-need-some-ideas, which-one’s-best and I-want-to-buy-it moments.

Typically in e commerce, shoppers begin their journey with a question, essentially a request for information. The retailer that has made the effort to anticipate the question – and been generous enough with its expertise to try and answer it – will have the best chance of being found in search, and may well predispose towards a sale too.   This is where mapping shopper journeys allows marketers to anticipate what those questions, needs and indeed attitudes are that can be met with relevant content.

One of the primary triggers for shoppers is peer opinion.  As countless research into word of mouth and peer influence has shown us, shoppers are likely to be pulled toward what ‘people like me’ or friends and family have purchased or recommended.  To complement the content used across the shopper journey retailers also need to create advocacy content.  This can be in the form of storytelling content based on the personal experiences of customers, used to drive product recommendations.

When it comes to the content itself, this is where the publishing mindset separates itself from an advertising mindset.  The focus of content should be on entertaining, personal experiences, storytelling and advocacy with no commercial push.  Each and every piece of content should meet the content proposition which needs to be defined before content is even produced.  This proposition governs the quality and relevance of content in relation to the brand’s purpose and shopper needs.  Unlike traditional publishing, content doesn’t just have to be in written form, it could be a series of videos that meet consumer needs at each stage of the journey.

From our personal experience the primary challenge facing retail brands looking to adopt a publishing mindset is the lack of internal resource, experience and investment, not to mention limited content publishing knowledge from existing agency partners.  

With no dedicated resource, many turn to their social media team who are already developing always on content for social channels.  But these teams are already under pressure to learn new skills such as paid social, let alone learning what a great publishing strategy, proposition, processes and governance of content looks like.  So this either means that brands need to upskill their existing internal teams, or look toward a partner that can help them deliver not just content but more importantly the strategy.

For retail brands, adopting a publishing mindset today by creating valuable and relevant editorial content that supports the entire customer journey will not only help distinguish them from the competition, but as previously mentioned, it will assist in boosting website visits, increasing engagement rates, acquisition and ultimately having a positive effect on the bottom line.