These straightforward-but-true words come from the very source of great content: Zalando and its Teamlead Content Marketing Strategy Tina Nord. In this interview, as a prelude to her virtuoso talk at the E-commerce Berlin Expo 2018, you will learn how Zalando empowers their customers to find the right content in every micro moment – and how you can start doing this, too.
Paulina, E-Commerce Capitals: You work as Teamlead Content Marketing Strategy at Zalando, Europe’s leading online platform for fashion. What does your current role entail and how does it affect your customers?
Tina Nord, Teamlead Content Marketing Strategy, Zalando: Me and my team are responsible for all strategic decisions around content and videos in Content Marketing. Furthermore, we do research on emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how they influence content. Our main goal is to provide the content our customers need to answer all their fashion related questions. And the information that helps them make the best buying decision.
You started at Zalando in 2015 as Content Strategist with tasks such as leading video and editorial content projects like the EDITORIAL online fashion magazine for DACH, Scandinavian countries and Netherlands. This sounds like a massive task! What was the most difficult part of this job?
The EDITORIAL is a project with a democratic approach that aims to align the needs of our customers, as well as of different internal stakeholders. This biggest challenge was to identify and consider all requirements and develop a concept that works well without being a weak compromise.
How much do you need to adjust the content to the regional or local requirements? In other words, how much is the Scandinavian recipient different from the German one? Are there any other stark differences in how you target your existing and potential new customers depending on their countries?
We do localise our content for the different markets. Depending on the content format, we choose between a localised translation or a local text production. When we collaborate with international celebrity influencers, a translation makes more sense. Working with native editors is more effective when we address topics with high local impact. For example, sunglasses or beach wear: These are products that are more relevant in the southern European countries. In the Nordic countries timing, context and relevance differ. Our content considers this, as well as cultural differences.
We’ve all heard that ‘Content is King’, but there is still lots of low quality, cliché, unengaging stuff around us. Based on your expertise, what does it take to create truly exceptional content? What is the ‘must-do’?
First of all, you need talented, motivated and skilled editors. Your content is usually as good as the team who creates it. Investing in the knowledge development of your employees will push your content quality. Secondly, regular analysis and measurement is important to learn from mistakes and improve constantly. This includes not just numbers, but also user testing and research. And – last but not least – you and your team need to be open for new input. Stay motivated throughout the whole trial & error process, keep an open eye and ear on latest innovations in your field and never stop learning.
And what is the ‘must-not-do’ – the worst or most frequent mistakes that brands make creating content?
Simply underestimating the power of editorial content. Many companies limit internal resources, which makes it harder for the editorial team to succeed. Instead they invest for example heavily in TV advertisements. This is not ideal because the target group up to 40 years old mainly consumes content online, for example on YouTube. This channel is ideal to publish editorial content and bring traffic to conversion optimised landing pages. A lack of openness for innovation is my favourite “must-not-do”.
Furthermore, there are some low hanging fruits every publisher should be able to pick. Like outdated content with an evergreen potential. That tells me that publishers do not measure the performance regularly or have an unclear update process.
Where do you take your content inspiration from? Is it tailored research, big data or perhaps some other sources? What is your content marketing library? Where do you learn and get inspired? Are there any specific websites or trainings that you could recommend to our readers?
The customer demand is our inspiration. At Zalando we are customer obsessed – so to say. We constantly research and evaluate what our users need and want. When you are in an ongoing dialogue with your customers, you develop ideas every day. If you add knowledge about new technologies to these results, you have basically an endless flow of inspiration. This influences directly the choice of content topics, channels and formats. Talk and listen to your customers. That’s the only thing you have to learn.
Obviously, Zalando is a big brand with a potentially massive, long-term content strategy. We all learn from the biggest players, because they’re usually the best in what they do, so what advice would you give to the small & medium businesses that want to start doing content, too? What should they consider? How should they prepare?
That’s hard to tell, because it depends on the business model. For e-commerce in general, focus only on the content basics until you reach the break-even point. Basic is every type of content that supports your search rankings and helps you to sell. Like transactional texts or conversion optimised landing pages. As a next step, you can start thinking about a content niche that reflects and positions your business in the web. And connects your site with opinion leaders, experts and influencers. Furthermore, I would recommend focussing on formats that help your customers to understand your product and the benefits. This can be done via How-To videos or help content. Its closely connected to a reliable and easy-to-get customer care communication. After reaching break even, you should start investing in a more complex content strategy.
What exciting projects have you recently worked on at Zalando? What are this year’s highlights of your job?
Visuals and AI are my favourite topics at the moment. Highlight of my job this year, was a dedicated user research around use cases for visual search.
In your opinion, what are the hottest upcoming trends in content marketing?
I am convinced that AI and machine learning will change content marketing in the following five years. These new technologies allow more and new data insights and therefore faster and more effective decision making. Which I am looking forward to as a strategist. I also see a change in the buying process. There will be much faster customer buying decisions and new ways for users to search and find a desired product. And last but not least, it will change and speed up the way we create and curate content. It’s actually already happening.
Let’s focus a bit on the video content. Brand video content, if done well, has a large impact on sales and leads. We can measure how many people watched the first three seconds – or who watched the entire video, but it happens really rarely that a video converts immediately. Measuring the performance has always been the problem with traditional TV ads, but now that we have various forms of video ads online and lots of different fancy tools at hand, it seems we can measure anything, can’t we? Do you agree? How do companies such as Zalando measure the performance of video content?
Actually, YouTube provides a pretty useful analytics tool. It provides all the insights you need to measure the success of your videos and to generate learnings. The platform also offers a range of online trainings to learn what the single KPIs mean and how to optimize the performance. You can measure a lot, but surely not everything. There still remain certain gaps, which will hardly be answered by figures. Getting direct feedback from your viewers is therefore an important insight. And part of a sustainable community management.
‘Voice & Visual: How the current trends revolutionise search’ is the title of your upcoming talk at the E Commerce Berlin Expo 2018. Why did you choose this specific topic?
I started to do extensive research around that topic in early 2017. The reason was the exponential growth of products based on machine- and deep learning. We also saw a change in the search behaviour of user’s due to voice assistants. That’s why I started to read every external study and research paper I could find around that topic. In summer 2017, we reached a solid knowledge level, based on secondary sources. This was the basis to start our own research. The presentation is a summary of our learnings. As mentioned before, we see a high business impact and are happy to share the news.
What do you want your audience to learn from your talk?
That there is a technical revolution going on where all should join to participate (learn) from each other.
Tina Nord is a Content Strategist, speaker and author. Over the past seven years she has developed her expertise in corporate publishing and performance content management. Holding a degree in Business Communications, she has a proven track record of managing international editorial teams in e-commerce companies.
As a certified YouTube Content Strategist, she has been managing video and text productions in content marketing at Zalando since April 2015. Tina is also leader of the strategy team. In this role she is investigating the impact of new technologies – such as machine learning – on content.