This post is based on a presentation entitled “2016: E-commerce Content Strategy: 7 Keys to Improving Conversion and Sales” presented at the Internet Retailer Conference and Expo (IRCE) on Thursday, June 9th, 2016 by Joshua Nafman, Sr. Director, Brand & Digital Marketing at KIND Snacks, and Alex Schmelkin, CEO of Cake & Arrow (formerly Alexander Interactive)

The holiday season is fun, full of food, and for some of us a little bit stressful. Maybe it’s the idea of talking politics with family that puts you on edge. One way to deal: start with avoiding hanger. It’s real. Perhaps your holiday anxieties are less political and more about staying true to your gluten-free gut with all those buns and bread around. Enter your NOBREAD holiday survival guide. Or maybe you have it easy, and all you need is a pep-talk on the dangers of too much sugar to help you avoid that second piece of pie. The Ingredients, KIND Snacks’ Medium publication, can help ease these fears.

But it can also do more. By talking about things you care about, KIND Snacks can earn your trust and your loyalty and perhaps, by becoming a trusted source of information concerning your health and diet, eventually, make you want to learn more about their healthy snacks–which might also, come to think of it, assuage your holiday hanger or your gluten-free gut.

In May of 2016, KIND Snacks announced that they had started a new blog on Medium, a blogging platform for publishing ideas and sharing content. The move to Medium–an increasingly common one for brands like KIND–was more than a mere platform choice, but a component of a larger marketing strategy focused on creating content that people actually care about, and figuring out interesting ways to connect this content with the people who care. The Ingredients is not simply a repository of KIND content, but rather a curated collection of what KIND calls “captivating stories about the ingredients that make for a flavorful life”– or, this time of year, a place to read up on holiday hanger and survival. It’s also a window into where content strategy is headed in e-commerce.

The Ingredients is evidence that when it comes to content, KIND has got something right. For comparison, the KIND Snacks blog that lives on their website sees less than 25 visitors per month and has a bounce rate of more than 75%, whereas their Medium blog sees about 2,500 viewers per article. That’s thousands of people interacting with the KIND brand that wouldn’t be otherwise. The key to KIND’s success? not only generating content that people care about (and figuring out where to put it), but first and foremost caring about people.

At Cake & Arrow, we care about people too and have a history of helping e-commerce brands use content to connect with consumers, making KIND Snacks a natural partner for us. Which is why, earlier this year we partnered with KIND Snacks to redesign their website and help them create a unique e-commerce experience focused on surrounding their snacks with content that encourages purchasing. We had the chance to present some of these ideas with KIND Snacks’ Sr. Director, Brand & Digital Marketing, Joshua Nafman at this year’s IRICE. As we move into 2017, content strategy is going to be more critical than ever for e-commerce brands like KIND and we think some of the ideas we discussed are worth sharing again.

Continue reading to learn more about how KIND Snacks has used content marketing to meet their business goals and connect with more people, or, if you want the quick version, you can check out the slide deck here.


Align Content Planning with Current Business Goals

You might have a hundred creative people with a million interesting content ideas, but if you want your content to work for you, and not just create work for you, it’s critical that you align content planning with current business goals.

At KIND Snacks, one of their business goals was to increase household penetration. In order to do this, they knew they needed to increase awareness and relevancy with the target consumer–females between 25 and 44. As a brand who strives to be “discovered,” not “marketed” and to be seen as a small, trustworthy brand, they could not have the impact they wanted through the traditional channels. Instead, they created a program called KIND Ambassadors. KIND Ambassadors are celebrities and influencers who self-identify as KIND Snack enthusiasts. They are people that care about KIND. By offering these people free KIND Snacks, swag and other ways to get involved in the company, KIND was able recruit passionate people with millions of followers to say nice (and true) things about them–making KIND relevant and raising awareness about their brand in the service of achieving their business goals.

Stop Committing Random Acts of Content

Aligning your content strategy with your business goals is the first step to preventing yourself from committing “random acts of content.” Taking the next step of ensuring each piece of content produced is on brand and serves a specific goal and purpose will help make each piece of content meaningful and worthwhile.

  • One place to start is by getting to know your content. Create an inventory of your content and organize it by category, purpose etc. Knowing what you have will help you know how to use it best.
  • You can also consider grading your content. By applying a grade to your content based upon its value in achieving your business goals, you can better prioritize what content you want to spend the most time and resources to produce, and in the end be more efficient and effective.
  • Or just do the math. If you are an e-commerce brand and it costs you $150 to style and photograph a $20 item of clothing, the content (in this case, the photograph), is probably not worth it.

Develop Content that Moves Your Customers

Good content will not just interest your customers, it will move them. This where caring about your customers is critical. To get at what moves your customers, we always recommend starting with research. Even a little user research can uncover insights that have a big impact on your content strategy.

For example, in our work with KIND Snacks, we began by interviewing some of their customers to get a better idea of what moves them. Through this process we developed personas that helped us understand not only more about the behaviors and purchasing cycles of KIND customers, but more about the kinds of content they might interested in. For example, one athlete we interviewed explained that one of the things he liked about KIND Snacks was the variety because it gave him the opportunity to try different things–some of which were healthy, but some of which gave him a chance to indulge. Knowing that people like this athlete who fit into his persona are mainly focused on health, but occasionally like to indulge can inform content strategy in a variety of ways, from helping KIND determine the topics of blog content to working with us to determine how to organize and describe actual products on their website.

Design Content, Not Pages

Content is what is actually on the page, not the page itself. Your content can go everywhere, but it can also go anywhere, meaning first and foremost figure out what the content you want to share is, and then figure out the best way to share it.

Because KIND Snacks is a company that cares, for World Kindness Day they decided to launch a program around kindness to support their business goal of increasing household penetration. The program created a way for people to “turn kind acts into KIND snacks” by encouraging them to spot acts of kindness, recognize them, and reward these acts of kindness with a KIND snack.

KIND started planning the campaign first by figuring out what they wanted the program to do and how they wanted it to work (the content), and then determined the platforms that would best facilitate different aspects of the program and help them achieve their goals. For instance, they created a website called howkindofyou.com that would turn a thank you Tweet from one person into a real kind bar for another. They also sent social influencers KIND kits with a variety of snacks, guides and information about the program to inform them and get them excited. The influencers then used social media to create awareness. Finally, they created an advertising campaign that included posters all around New York City and ads that played in NYC taxis. The campaign was anywhere and everywhere.

KIND’s World Kindness Day campaign content could have just lived on a webpage, but by designing the content first, they were able to utilize a wide range of platforms for maximum engagement.

Don’t be Afraid to Fail

Every innovative idea involves a certain amount of risk. If your idea is sure to succeed, it has been done before. And while planning, intentionality, and research can all minimize the risk of failure, it’s important to be ok with failure when it occurs, and to use failure as an opportunity to learn.

When KIND Snacks launched their World Kindness Day campaign, they did so with the goal of increasing household penetration. And while the campaign reached more than 238 million people, became a trending topic on Twitter, and resulted in more than 20,000 KIND Snacks shared, it turns out that kindness does not necessarily drive sales. And while the kindness campaign did not help KIND move the needle on their business goal of increasing household penetration, they did increase loyalty (relevance), which was another important aspect of their business goal.

Although the campaign was technically a “failure” in this regard, it had unexpected benefits that provided KIND Snacks with valuable knowledge that will help guide their content strategy and make it more effective.

It also did the important work of showing people they cared.

You can watch the entire presentation here. Kind Snacks Presentation