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I'm sure many of us took the obligatory stroll around Ikea this Easter weekend, and it was while searching for the store’s opening hours that I discovered their Live website, which provides inspiration and ideas for the home (although it should have some strange Swedish name, like Uppväcka, to be truly Ikea).
What's the story?
As we keep getting told, content marketing is the next big digital media revolution. One third of the 100 most read magazines in the UK are owned by brands, which suggests that many businesses already understand the power of content. But some are only now starting to realise that generating fresh and regularly updated content is key to not only to improving your search ranking, but also key to building customer engagement, especially in the social space.
Although Ikea have been slow in their uptake of some social channels (still no Twitter or Google+ in the UK), they have not only been experimenting with repurposing the content they create for their in-store magazine, but also exploring how to enable and curate customer-generated content that provides a rich and engaging online experience.
The Ikea Live website was developed for Ikea UK and their in-store magazine publishing partner August Media in 2011. The site brings together editorial content from some of the 22 in-store Family Live magazines from around the world and blog posts from over 20 contributors, plus functionality that allows users to create their own scrapbook, share pictures with other users, and make comments.
At the same time Ikea US launched Share Space, which mirrors the Family Live site, but is inherently more social and less about repurposing the brand's own content. The focus is on user-generated images, providing a platform for users to share their ideas. More importantly it allows you to tag your photos with links to the Ikea site, making it easy for others to buy via the site, or to check out how others have used the product.
What where they thinking?
The brief to their agency for the UK site was as follows:
• Reposition the Ikea Live brand online
• Build a website that would serve as a place full of ideas and inspiration, based around Ikea products
• Bring together engaging editorial content, but with user-generated content throughout
• Provide a clear pathways to purchase products from Ikea.com
• Deliver shareable content
• House content from the print version of Ikea Live
• Allow users to easily add their own content to the site
• Provide tools to enable authors to easily tag content with relevant items on Ikea.com
• Create a platform that inspires and provokes discussion with equal measure
How would they judge success?
It seems that the key criteria for measuring success was an increased traffic to Ikea.com (an impressive 400 per cent increase compared to a previous site), although they don’t provide any indication of increased sales or basket size. Hopefully they are also measuring levels of engagement and sharing, as well as tracking the conversion of products added to users scrapbooks with actual sales.
The UK site is split into three sections: Rooms (includes photos posted by both users and Ikea), Home Stories (features based on real customers but editorialised by the Live team), and Blogs (posts from 20+ independent bloggers from across Europe).
Rooms - Unlike the US site it’s not easy to work out exactly what Ikea products are in each photo as they don’t seem to be tagged, although they do provide some links to relevant sections of the website.
Home Stories – These editorial features also include some simple but effective video features, as well as floor plans of the included homes. The section offers up lots of useful information, but again no obvious links to buy.
Blogs – Four to seven new posts are added each month, some of which include interviews with customers. These do include some links, but not for every product.
User Generated Content - They are having quite a bit of success in getting customers to post their own photos to the site – almost two-thirds of the bedroom photos on the site were posted by users (131 of 200 photos). The process of creating your own scrapbook and adding photos is simple to use, however I couldn’t find any way of tagging the items I’d bought from Ikea. The website team also seem to be a little standoffish when it comes interacting with the users, with no signs of them trying to start of take part in conversations. The site encourages you to share via email, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, but amazingly not to Ikea’s own Pinterest page.
So what did we learn?
1. Ensure all your content is actionable, and that you offer a clear path to purchase - you may not be able to get users to link all their images to your store, but at least give them the option and the tools to do it.
2. You need to link all relevant editorial content to your retail site to enable sales.
3. Using outside bloggers to provide content for your site can help drive brand advocacy and trust in your content.
4. If you are encouraging your customers to share, ensure that you occasionally reward them – highlighting the best (or latest) submissions will encourage users to keep sharing.
5. Make content easy to share across all the social networks your customers use.
6. Allow users to decide which platform they prefer to use. If they are regularly posting images on your site, make it easy for them to also post their content to sites such as Pinterest.
7. Put a comprehensive measurement strategy and realistic KPIs in place – including traffic, sharing, sales, and leads (such as sign-ups or subscriptions). This will give you plenty of ammo to ensure your content strategy continues to get buy-in internally.
8. Identify the resources you might have to publish regular and fresh content. If your budget is limited you may want to increase the balance towards contributions for bloggers, user-generated content, and curated content.
9. Interact with user content and comments – it will not only encourage them to keep posting, but can help start a conversation, especially if users seem a little tentative when it comes to making a comment.
10. Don’t be afraid to repurpose existing content – content that is specific to a key season for your business can be used again.
Brands such as Ikea and Coca Cola are heavily investing in content marketing, but which other brands are getting it right? Does this approach also work for B2B brands? Or is it another another opportunity that will be tried by many, but done well only by a small few?
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