Help the Podcast
Hey, Scott Austin here.
I'm a big believer in content being a needle mover for online stores. In several past episodes, I've covered different tips and tricks for enhancing your shopping experience with content. And today's topic will be another content tactic. This one is buyer's guides. Buyer's guides dovetail nicely with the last episode's topic which was building out a holiday plan. You see, buyer's guides can fit in well with many if not most store's holiday plans.
So, let's start with what is a buyer's guide? A buyer's guide is content that you bring together in your Shopify store. The purpose of the content is to inform or educate the purchaser about a product or set of products so they can make a more informed purchase decision. A good buyer's guide will increase conversion and average order value while decreasing returns.
Even though buyer's guides produce these positive results, most Shopify stores are not building them. And the reasons why can vary from the store staff being too busy to not having a skillset (or confidence in their skillset) in creating content. So my goal with this episode is to help you understand how you can start building out some buyer's guides now so you can see the impact on your business.
I'm going to put the Buyer's Guide creation work into these five buckets:
- Define the audience.
- Define the purpose.
- Format the guide for fast and easy reading.
- Integrate your products into the buyer's guide.
- Measure your results.
I'm a fan of illustrating ideas with examples. So for this discussion, we're going to pretend that we own a Shopify store called Unlimited Ukuleles. And at Unlimited Ukuleles, we sell a broad range of ukuleles, from beginner ukuleles to Hawaiian luau concert quality ukuleles. We also sell just about everything else a ukulelist needs. From cases to tuners to racks to music to strings to picks. Unlimited Ukuleles has it all.
So let's dive into the Buyer's Guide process.
Step One. Define the audience.
Each guide that you create should have an intended audience. And different guides can have different audiences. For example, our intended audiences at Unlimited Ukuleles could include:
- Someone who is thinking about learning how to play a Ukulele.
- Someone who has been playing ukulele for years and is looking for better sound quality.
- Someone looking to give a ukulele as a gift to a recipient that has never played before.
- Someone looking to give a ukulele accessory as a gift to a recipient that has played ukulele for years.
Note that a couple of things we are being clear about here in the audience definition are:
- Who is buying the product.
- Who is using the product.
- The experience or knowledge level of both of these people.
Here's how those differences can manifest themselves. Let's take two of our audiences, someone who is thinking about learning how to play a ukulele and someone else giving a gift to someone that has never played ukulele before. In these cases, the person using the product is the same, a newbie. But the person making the purchase is different. In one case it’s the newbie and in the other, it’s a gift giver. The difference in the purchaser will make a big difference in the final buyer's guide content. The guide for the newbie will go into lots of details and background about ukuleles. The different sizes. The different strings types. The different body materials. What is the difference in sound? Which are easier to learn on? And on and on. While the guide for the gift purchaser could be as simple as '7 beginner ukuleles that make great gifts'. And that's because when researching for ourselves, we tend to spend a lot more time and soak up a lot more information. The goal when researching for ourselves is to gain a certain amount of knowledge. But gift-givers are generally in a rush. Their goal is to remove purchasing the gift from their to-do list. And it’s the difference in our audience's goals that drive the content of our Buyer's Guides to be different.
Step Two. Define the intention.
Once you are picturing your audience, its time to determine what you are trying to do in the guide. So using our previous audiences, here are some potential intentions.
- Audience. Someone who is thinking about learning how to play a Ukulele.
Intention. Educate the person on the basics of ukuleles so that the customer can confidently make the right decision on their first ukulele and accessories.
- Audience. Someone who has been playing ukulele for years and is looking for better sound quality.
Intention. Educate the person with a deep background on the different variables in ukulele sound quality so that the customer can confidently decide to upgrade their existing instrument or to get a new ukulele.
- Audience. Someone looking to give a ukulele as a gift to a recipient who has never played before.
Intention. Provide the gift-giver with the confidence that the selected ukulele with be right for beginners and isn't total crap.
- Audience. Someone looking to give a ukulele accessory as a gift to a recipient that has played ukulele for years.
Intention. Inform the person that ukuleles are pretty typically personal decisions and then steer them to high-quality accessories that work with all ukuleles.
And I want to note here that there does not have to be a one-to-one relationship between audience and intention. There can be some overlap and you can have more than one intention for an audience.
Step Three. Format the guide for fast and easy reading.
This step is where the bulk of the hard work needs to happen. Most people in a shopping experience are not going to take the time to read a buyer's guide with pages and pages of copy. So we are going to need to be creative in finding ways to share our knowledge in a way that engages the guide reader. Most readers will only be scanning your guides instead of going through the content in detail. So you'll need a variety of content and structure so it keep reader's attention. Here are some content types and formatting best practices that you should be leveraging:
- Structure your text with multiple levels of heading so the reader can quickly find the content that is important to them.
- Make copy skim-able with:
- Bold and italic text for emphasis
- Comparison charts that show products or product categories side by side.
- Pro and con lists to show a balanced evaluation.
- Infographics. Infographics are super-engaging and informative. Creating them can take some work and you need to think about the information you are trying to share and then think about how to structure the infographic. But they are not impossible. For example, we could easily put together an infographic on the different sizes of ukuleles. It could visually show the differences in size and also highlight some pros and cons for each size.
- Videos. I'm a big believer in video as a part of e-commerce. They help establish a human connection which motivates most people. So imagine the owner of Unlimited Ukuleles recording a video version of the infographic we just showed. They could walk through each of the ukulele sizes and highlight the pros and cons. They could also play a few notes on each of them establishing their expertise in the subject matter.
Note that I recommending that videos have real people in them. I'm not recommending those crappy videos that seem to be popular these days in YouTube ads where the video is graphics and not shot through a lens. And there is a computer generated voice over. Those do nothing to build trust or to establish a human connection.
Your guides do not have to be restricted to these types of content. If you have a different idea, go for it. And its okay to present the same information in multiple ways as different people prefer different types of content.
So those are the content blocks. Your overall guide should have a focus or format that's driven by the audience and intention. Here are some examples of formats we could use for Unlimited Ukulele's:
- First-time purchaser's guide. We've already talked about this one. It's a deep educational dive to help the first time purchaser gain a broad background of knowledge on ukuleles so they have confidence they are making the right purchase choice.
- Comparison guide. This guide puts products side-by-side and compares them. No one product is perfect. Each has pros and cons that should come out in the comparison guide.
- Product add-on guides. This guide educates the customer on what accessories or replacement parts work best with their chosen ukulele. For Unlimited Ukuleles, we could build one of these for each ukulele in our store.
- Holiday themed guide. Maybe not the best guide type for Unlimited Ukulele's, but it could be great for a chocolate store as the best chocolates for Halloween list would probably be very different than the best chocolates for valentine's day list.
- Shop by price. Many gift givers have a dollar amount in mind when they start their shopping experience. So grouping products by price can useful for them.
- Shop by quality. Now this might be a politer way to say shop by price. Grouping products by good, better and best can help shoppers make decisions.
- Shop by recipient. For Unlimited Ukuleles, we could have guides like 'Best Ukuleles for Kids', 'Best Ukuleles for Students' and 'Best Ukuleles for Seniors'.
And once again, these aren't the only ways to structure your Buyer's Guide. These are just ideas to get you thinking about what can work in your store.
Step Four. Integrate your products into the buyer's guide.
As you run a Shopify store versus Consumer Reports, I fully believe that your products should be integrated right into your buyer's guides. For example, for our Shop Ukulele's by Price guide, the guide page could show five product listings for each price bucket. How you do that will depend on your theme. But with Online Store 2.0 and sections anywhere, you will be able to more easily integrate product listings into your pages. With Online Store 1.0 stores, I do this by creating unique liquid templates for each guide page.
Step Five. Measure your results.
Let's say Unlimited Ukuleles is a family run business and there are only 5 people total at the company. Well that is too small of team to explicitly measure the performance of each buyer's guide. If your store has a dedicated analytics team, you can measure each guide. But for small stores, I recommend you keep it simple. You should be measuring the same set of metrics weekly and watching how they trend over time. Those top level metrics should include conversion and average order size. So you'll get a feel for how your guides are affecting those metrics. And you should also get a feel for percentage of returns. Now I know the term 'feel' is a bit soft for measuring your business. But I do think small stores have too much on their plate to measure performance at the same level of detail as larger stores can.
So now let's say that at Unlimited Ukuleles, we've been working on building out buyer's guide for the last year and we now have 15 of them. The great thing is how often we now use them in our marketing. Their primary purpose is not to engage people that are already on our store, though that is fine too. No, their primary purpose is to attract new customers to our store and we do that across all of our channels. First we optimized our guides in the beginning for SEO by ensuring each one targets a valuable keyword phrase for us. We also use them on our social channels to attract our followers and bring them in. And we use them in our paid advertising as landing pages. And of course, we use them in our emails. Our best performing Klaviyo flow is now the one we send out after every ukulele purchase with the accessories guide for that instrument.
As you may recall, I started this episode by saying I'm a big believer in content. Buyer's guides are flexible content that you can use in several ways. And guides can help you build awareness and brand in pre-shopping experiences. Guides will make your store a relevant result whether in SEM or SEO for pre-shopping queries. By ranking in research queries, you'll start building your brand awareness before your competitors that don't provide educational content. Customers will notice these things and it will grow their trust in you. Now it doesn't eliminate the need for product selection and competitive pricing. Its just another piece in the puzzle. But here's the thing, Unlimited Ukuleles doesn't make instruments. We resell ukuleles we buy wholesale from top quality manufacturers. Same thing for our accessories. As we built our business we knew we didn't want to compete on price. Instead we competed on the quality of the service. But a lot of that service happened after the sale and was hard for the new customer to see. By adding many useful guides, it become a sign of our differentiated service over our competition. And its visible to new customers before they make a purchase.
Well, that's all I have on Buyer's Guide for this episode. I hope this was useful.
Thanks for listening.