What Kind of Content?

When people talk about content in an ecommerce system, I always ask a clarifying question – which type of content are we discussing? There are several different types of content used in online commerce. It is important to understand them before making decisions on how to develop systems and the processes with which to manage them. 1. Storefront UI This is the most obvious one. An online store is a web application, and as such, its UI is built from a combination of static and dynamic HTML, style-sheets, Javascript files for fancy Ajax interfaces and images to make the UI pretty. 2. Static Website Content An online store is either integrated into a company’s website, or has sections that contain static pages describing company information, return and exchange policies, and other content that is not directly involved in the process of buying things online. 3. Marketing Content Banner ads, videos, and other content which are used by the marketing department to highlight store offerings and promotions. 4. Catalog Content Catalog content consists of text, images, and sometimes videos which describe the product offered for sale. Catalog content is directly tied to a specific product or service. 5. User-generated Content This may include customer reviews provided by such vendors as Power Reviews or Bazaarvoice, or a blog relevant to site customers. Some sites even allow their customers to upload pictures of the products they have bought. Let’s have a look at how different types of content are put together on the home page of the Vancouver Olympic store operated by Elastic Path. The product details page shows us a different example. User-generated content has been added to the mix.

Why is it so important to distinguish between different types of content?

In a big ecommerce organization each type of content can be managed by different people using multiple software systems. For example, Catalog Content can be maintained within ecommerce software, while marketing and static content can reside in a Content Management System (CMS). Customer reviews are stored and managed by a 3rd party SaaS provider. In addition to potentially storing various types of content in different systems, separate groups of people (departments) are responsible for creating and updating that content. These groups will use different workflow and approval processes. For example, store UI is developed by web designers, while product descriptions are created by merchandisers. Most importantly, the architect of an ecommerce system needs to understand the business requirements of each group. This is in order to design the system that will seamlessly integrate all of this content together to create a consistent shopping experience as well as a reliable and efficient business process to manage the content.

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