The future of content and eCommerce is interactive content

In just a few weeks I'll be attending and speaking at WooConf—a conference specifically focused on eCommerce using WordPress and the fastest growing eCommerce platform, WooCommerce.

I'll be talking about some lessons I've learned in scaling large WooCommerce sites—but that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about my take on the future of content and eCommerce.

My friend Heather Brunner, the CEO of WP Engine, will be speaking on this topic at WooConf. I'm positive she will articulate a better take on all this than I can, but I thought, as a warm up, I'd share my take—and why I find it's a gaping hole in the WordPress ecosystem.

The Buyer's Journey

To start, it's important to contextualize my observation. When I think of eCommerce, I don't start at the website running WooCommerce or any other shopping platform. I think about people who are staring at Google.

Yes, Google.

Because half of the time, we don't know what exactly we're looking for. When mosquitos are biting you out at your hot tub, what's the right thing to search for?

  • Mosquito killer?
  • Mosquito repellant?
  • Mosquito zapper machine?

Because we don't know, we step thru a journey. First, we have to become aware of the problem definition (and the terms we use to articulate the problem). Then the solution space (and terms used there). And from there the companies that offer solutions. And then the products. And finally, we make a call about what we want to buy.

Whew. That's a lot of research that happens long before we press, “add to cart.”

I spoke about this in both Paris and Miami in February of this past year. Here's the slide I used to make the point.

Buyer's Journey

What you can see is that there's a tremendous need for a variety of different kinds of content that's needed long before people are ready for eCommerce.

Most of these types—checklists, white papers, stories, case studies and more—are things we already understand and are creating. But there's another kind of content we're not creating much.

Before we get to it, we need to talk about how the decision buying process works for many people who land on that product page with the “add to cart” button on it.

For that, we have to look at another giant. Not Google but Amazon.

The eCommerce Decision Process

I don't know when the last time was, and I'm talking minutes, that you checked out Amazon. Some of my closest friends are the delivery guys who drop off Amazon packages here at the house (I'm kidding. Don't start an intervention yet.)

If you've shopped from Amazon, you'll notice something about their product pages.

About 30% of the page is filled with customer reviews and Q&A.

That's not content they create. It's content we create. And we trust it. Because it's everyday people, not the marketing departments who are trying to sell us stuff.

But I don't really want to focus our attention on the 30% space used by this kind of content. Or by who authors it. I want us to focus on how it's used.

These comments are the first edition of interactive content.

Think about how you shop. If you're like me, you scroll to the bottom to scan the comments. You might click the link to see the most recent, the most critical, or all the reviews with a score of 3.

This isn't Amazon forcing you to do anything. This isn't the product vendor trying to force you to watch a video. This is you—at your best—highly engaged in the content and digging into things like you are Indiana Jones, searching for the truth among all the comments there.

As  As youd a comment that scares you (because most of us are motivated to “not buy” more than to buy, by these reviews), you look at an alternative product. And start the process all over again.

The truth is simple: the more you can engage the content instead of having the content forced on you, the more likely you are to invest in your buying decision.

You have to be in control. Not the site. Not the eCommerce or marketing systems. You. But you have to have content that lets you engage it.

And that's why I think the future of content and eCommerce is interactive content.

Here's a simple example

What if you wanted to know what the likelihood was that you had made the wrong choice about the membership plugin you recently purchased? How would you go about quantifying the chances that you were wrong?

Here's a simple little calculator that is an interactive component.

Were you engaged? I was.

I wrote the tiny bit of javascript to make this work. So I know what it does.

But even though I knew how it worked, that didn't stop me from playing with it. I moved the sliders. I clicked the boxes. All for the same reason: my brain wanted to work out the puzzle of how it all worked.

That's the engagement that interactive content brings to the table.

It's more advanced than just user reviews. But it pulls at the same part of our brain that wants to find the best deal, figure out the puzzle, and more.

The future is interactive content…

And the sad part is that there's not a lot of ways to create it easily in the WordPress space.

Yes, we have a number of form plugins that can be pushed to do some wizard-like work. And we have easy ways to embed video if you create all the video (and the connection between videos for a choose-your-own-adventure approach) in YouTube.

I love what I've been seeing from WP Engine, as they recently rolled out a different kind of calculator / wizard for checking site speed. It's likely also a lead generator, which is exactly how marketing sites use these pieces of interactive content today.

wp-engine-interactive-content

The crazy thing is that tons of marketing sites are created using WordPress. So it's not like we don't hear people asking about these things. Marketers want it.

For me, to build this little interactive solution meant I had to go find a javascript solution that I could embed into my site after building it. There is another I looked at that looks like it will even do some lead capturing.

But these aren't WordPress-oriented solutions.

And maybe that's ok. Maybe these other solutions, and the bigger ones for agencies, are fine doing it all in Javascript.

But here's what I notice about the WordPress space. Sometimes it takes one of our friends to build a solution and start doing well for us to start suggesting it to our clients. Meaning—that we wait to see a realized solution before we work on solving the problem.

That's a broad generalization and I'm hoping I'm wrong. But if I'm not, it means one of us needs to solve this problem so that everyone else can start offering interactive content to their clients.

Because, in my opinion, it's the future of content and eCommerce.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission, at no cost to you.

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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