3 B2C Companies That Have Tackled the Marketing ROI Challenge

December 11, 2015 Ted Karczewski

The Marketing ROI Challenge

As far back as the idea of “marketing” goes, there have been pessimists who insist there’s no accurate way to measure the business value of promotional campaigns. Before the Internet, brand marketers used circulation numbers, broadcast impressions, and inaccurate “brand awareness” analysis to justify spend on campaigns. With the advent of the Web, the tides were meant to turn, and marketers were primed to take higher seats at the executive table.

That didn’t happen. Or, it didn’t happen in the way that many had hoped. Digital marketing raised more questions than it has produced solutions, and because of the fast-paced nature of technology, times aren’t getting any easier.

In the content industry, marketing ROI remains an elusive KPI that most of us push off measuring until our jobs are on the line. This is how my Monday morning used to go before the Content Standard began generating ROI:

“Hey Ted, has your content strategy driven any revenue this quarter?” – Boss

“Can you believe those Patriots…they just keep winning, huh?!” – Me

I’d get out of those awkward conversations every time.

The Marketing ROI Conundrum

For many B2C companies, content marketing poses a complete shift in mindset from anything they’ve done in the past. A typical B2C brand uses the Web to drive sales, spending most of its time optimizing the online shopping experience, setting up paid programs to drive prospects to product pages, and then A/B testing those pages to maximize conversion rates. So, where does content fit in this process?

B2C marketers—retailers especially—have a hard time wrapping their heads around content marketing. They understand the value of storytelling—retail brands come up with some of the most emotional commercials out there—but they struggle to understand how to connect a content-driven microsite to product pages and attribute that progression to content ROI. According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 report, 46 percent of B2C marketers are challenged by measuring ROI. More, the majority of B2Cs consider their content strategy maturity level to be “young”—meaning, they’re experiencing growing pains around how to integrate their content efforts into the rest of their marketing activities.

When asked about the metrics they use to calculate return on investment, B2Cs named several different KPIs: Sales, customer retention, engagement, brand awareness, customer evangelism, lead generation, lead nurturing, and upsell opportunities.

Content is expected to do a lot, from introducing people to a brand’s products and converting them down the line to nurturing relationships and upselling buyers over time. With so much pressure on content marketers to literally do everything at once, are there any best-in-class brands out there exemplifying the sought-after value of content marketing? We’ve highlighted a few notable examples below.

1. Overstock.com

Overstock.com (a Skyword client) started as a liquidation business, taking surplus inventory from other retailers and selling those items at extremely low costs. Today, it’s a full-fledged retailer much like Amazon, just without the creepy drones and strange machine-learning robot friends.

The organization recognized a shift in how its customers behaved online. Many of its top customers would end up at the Overstock shopping site during normal web-surfing activities, buy something or not, and then navigate away from the website. There was no emotional connection to the brand; nothing that would bring people back even when they weren’t in the market for a new product.

To solve this, the Overstock team launched a new content destination called O.info. The digital publication produces lifestyle articles and tips-based content that appeals to its target audience, with the hope of becoming a daily destination. The company recognized that if it worked backward from the beginning, it could develop O.info with conversion in mind using its extensive analytics suite. The team is able to see how its content audience arrives, how they move around the site, and where and when they move over to the shopping center. The Overstock team uses O.info to cast a wide net through stories and then tracks activity to further tailor its editorial calendar around high-converting themes and formats.


Best of all, the strategy is working. According to the team, of the people who arrive on O.info content, between 70 and 75 percent will move on to the shopping site. And of those who move on to the shopping site, between 5 and 6 percent convert within the next 30 days. They attribute those conversions to its content marketing strategy, and by the company’s own calculations, O.info has becomes a profitable entity in and of itself. Download the full Case Study, and watch the video below:

2. Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club may be the most well-known industry disruptor today. After exploding onto the market with a viral video completely destroying its enterprise competitors, the company has continued to embrace its digital roots by developing content geared toward its male audience. Content has played a crucial role in the company’s sales efforts from the beginning, and it’s prepping a new editorial effort to continue to push into the “brands and publishers” space.

Recently, Dollar Shave Club rolled out a new editorial project called MEL. The media program will start as a twice-a-week newsletter that includes stories handpicked by its editors. According to MEL’s editor-in-chief, Josh Schollmeyer, a standalone site is in the works and will launch soon.


“MEL is for men who measure themselves by something other than their interests in sports cars, barrel-aged Scotch and designer socks,” Schollmeyer writes. In fact, the program’s first story profiled a yoga-loving Oregon police lieutenant.

While DSC’s new editorial effort is still in its infancy, the team introduced its program in a way that makes measuring marketing ROI simpler. By acquiring readers’ contact information from the start—even before a standalone website launches—DSC is able to include readers in marketing nurture tracks and eventually monitor their behavior across the live, standalone website. The Content Standard uses a similar approach: Newsletter subscribers are cookied by Marketo, which allows us to see what articles they’ve read, the categories they’ve trafficked most, and where and how they move over to the main Skyword.com domain. The big difference here is that in order to see MEL content, readers must give up their contact information from the beginning, there’s no added work at the end.

For MEL, content strategy becomes more about entertaining and retaining rather than converting. If the stories continue to draw in an audience willing to give up contact information, then it’s just a matter of setting up goal conversions and event tracking to see what articles are leading to sales.

3. Campbell Soup Company

Other B2Cs are still in the early stages of establishing a content strategy and measuring its impact on sales. Campbell’s, however, has taken a big leap of faith into storytelling, hoping that it’s new digital approach won’t just improve brand awareness, but generate new revenue streams.

According to Ad Age, Campbell’s will increase digital spending to 40 percent of its media budget in 2016, up from 20 percent in 2015. Where will this extra cash come from? The company will decrease TV spend to 50 percent.

“We’re moving away from brand marketing to brand experience, where we earn customers’ trust instead of buying it,” CEO Denise Morrison said at the company’s annual institutional investor analyst day.

And the enterprise has already seen success by going 100 percent digital with a few brands. Campbell’s Mark Alexander, president of the company’s Americas simple meals and beverages division, said that his experience with some of its 100 percent digital brands has given the organization the confidence it has needed to take the risk.

With the reallocation of a significant amount of marketing funds toward digital experiences, Campbell’s will be pressured by its board to show that it’s decisions are paying off. The company clearly has digital marketing ROI in its sights, and it might want to look at companies like Overstock and Dollar Shave Club for ideas on how to monetize an audience using content marketing.

Still More to Come

When I think back two years ago almost today, I sat in a room of marketers all wondering if retail-based brands would ever buy into the idea of content marketing. Since then we’ve seen some extraordinary programs go to market, many of which require multi-divisional marketing departments to co-exist and work toward common goals. And even more than that, these programs are driving sales. As all marketers learn more about storytelling, ROI will continue to be a dark cloud over our heads, but there are ways to get this done if teams are willing to make the shift how they think about marketing and implement a tech infrastructure that makes data analysis easier.

Want to stay ahead of the ROI curve? Subscribe to the Content Standard Newsletter for more stories like this one. Download the new Overstock Case Study to learn how to turn your own content publication into a profitable business entity.

The post 3 B2C Companies That Have Tackled the Marketing ROI Challenge appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

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