What Content Marketing Can Learn from Department Stores

Department stores are a special kind of shopping wonder. It used to be that you had to go to individual shops that specialized in whatever it was you were looking for. If you had several things to buy, you could find yourself with a whole day of shopping on your hands as you went from place to place: the toy store, the hardware store, the furniture store, the appliance store, the salon.

These days, all of those can be found in one place: the ubiquitous department store.

I know you’re going to be totally shocked by this, but there’s a thing or two that a department store can teach you about content marketing.

Vary your approach

The beauty of a department store is that it doesn’t carry only one type of merchandise. There’s a variety of departments.

What’s that mean for your content marketing? It means you can’t just focus on one thing. To that end, you can’t pick a single method and just keep repeating it over and over. That gets boring; both for you and your visitors. Imagine what would happen if department stores never updated their stock to include current trends and fashions.

Instead, try varying your content. Mix it up a little with a video blog post or try your hand at an infographic. Post an interesting interview – either one that you’ve conducted, or where you’ve been interviewed.

Use content segmentation

If you close your eyes and picture the department store you visit most frequently, you can probably visualize where all of the individual departments are located. Kids, shoes, women’s, men’s, and so forth. When you walk in the door, you probably don’t spend much time meandering around the departments that are of no use or interest to you.

The same holds true for your website’s visitors. We’re all in a hurry these days and we don’t want to spend a lot of time lollygagging and slogging through content that’s of no interest to us.

Content segmentation is the process by which you provide your visitors with a way to self-identify on your site. The choice they make will determine the kind of content that they see. This way, the process is streamlined and they get what they need.

And speaking of all of those departments…

Have a little something for everyone

Beyond just providing different kinds of content, provide content that meets a range of interests within your industry. Different topics, if you will.

Take social media, for example. There are plenty of social media blogs out there, and many that are quite good. Think of your favorite one.

Okay, now why is that one your favorite?

If I had to guess, I’d say that one of your top reasons is probably that it brings you a very well-rounded picture of the social media landscape. It doesn’t focus solely on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.

If you’re only writing about Twitter, you’re missing out on catering to another significant part of the spectrum: those who are interested in other social platforms as well.

Get my drift? A department store isn’t a department store if it’s just aiming to fulfill one kind of person’s needs. Same goes for your content marketing.

Keep up with the latest fashions, but keep your classics handy

In the fashion world, every season brings a new look. Trends are constantly changing; so much so that people make careers out of predicting those trends years in advance.

But then there are the old go-to pieces: the little black dress or blue jeans, for example. These pieces may go through some changes, but by and large, they’re always in style.

You’ll note that department stores keep those trusty classic pieces on hand while the rest of their merchandise literally changes with the season.

I like to compare this to your timely and evergreen content. Timely content is the hot fashion trend. It could change drastically next week, but for today, it’s so hot. Use timely pieces to show that you’re up to speed on the goings on in your industry.

But don’t forget about those classic pieces. Evergreen content is the little black dress of the content marketing world. You might have to invest more in it (either creating it or consuming it), but you’ll get more wear out of it, as well.


What other content marketing lessons can you derive from department stores? Let us know in the comments!

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Renee is a writer currently living in Central Pennsylvania (whatever you've heard is probably true). In addition to writing for CEM, she serves as the Managing Editor for Business 2 Community and pursues her dream of once again renting her own apartment (preferably in Philadelphia), if only to house her ever-growing collection of books. She received a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MA in English from George Mason. She's still waiting for someone to write a song about her life so she can just quote the lyrics for her author bios. Catch up with her on Twitter , LinkedIn, or reneedecoskey.com.

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