Jun 27, 2017 by James Strategy

Aligning Content for E-Commerce

If you’ve been using MailChimp for a while, you might have noticed we’ve made some pretty big changes recently. You might also have spotted a trend in those changes: We’re adding more e-commerce tools and going beyond email to empower small businesses.

That shift means we’ve got lots of new stuff to write about. It also means we’re reviewing our existing help content to ensure it fits with the new e-commerce focus.

As you can imagine, the content aspect is taking truckloads of teamwork, spreadsheets, and cat GIFs.

And we’re still not quite done. But here are a few things we’ve tried and found helpful along the way.

Start with the task

For me, the toughest issue when we began this project was grasping how our new e-commerce features would fit into some of our existing mental models.

This became obvious when we were working on ad campaigns. In the past, we’ve used “campaign” as a functional synonym for bulk email. But now that users can create Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns in the app, it was clear the old terminology wouldn’t work anymore. There were other questions, too: Are automations considered campaigns? (Yep.) What do we mean by campaign, anyway? (We figured that out.) Can we explain this without confusing users?

The deeper we dug, the fuzzier those answers seemed to be. Meanwhile, our publication dates crept closer and closer.

As we puzzled over how to define a campaign, we forgot to ask if users really needed the definition in the first place.

Most of our customers visit the KB because they’re trying to get something done. So let’s show them how to do the task first, then worry about conceptual stuff afterward.

For us, that meant moving articles with tutorials and screenshots to the front of the queue. These articles had the most tangible changes and would be the first ones users would miss. After we finished our task-based articles, we moved up to conceptual ones.

Plan together

Not too long ago, content planning was a detailed, solitary activity here. But it didn’t take long before the team noticed something: Often, we’d have to overhaul or discard the initial plan during the project.

It wasn’t that the plan was bad—it was just too specific and didn’t incorporate the perspectives of everyone working on the project. Our old plans didn’t leave room for the changes that were bound to come up during editorial review or as the feature changed. In short, no plan was surviving the actual writing process.

Now, instead of putting together inflexible plans by ourselves, we start every content project with a collaborative kickoff meeting. We share data beforehand, giving everyone the opportunity to bring their own ideas. At the end of the kickoff, all we need is a loose set of proposed changes, each tied to a specific metric and outcome. And we assume the plan is going to change.

Planning together also helps us make sure we reach out to other teams. Have we checked with Product Management about new terms? Does Research have any e-commerce use cases that might be helpful? What benefits of this feature is Marketing planning to highlight?

At the end of each project, we wrap up with a retrospective. That’s the final step in a good plan. It’s a great opportunity to check in on those outcomes. I can also get feedback from the writing team and other strategists about how the project went. We can figure out what worked, what didn’t, and make suggestions for things to try next go around.

Watch your metrics

With any large-scale change, there’s a risk of unintentionally damaging the customer experience. We wanted to make sure we didn’t remove or change content that users rely on.

Luckily, we already had a reliable set of content metrics tied to the user experience. By keeping close tabs on our analytics, we could spot issues as they arose and make changes before they became too big. We had a few hiccups, but having solid data behind our decisions helped us make changes confidently. It even let us try some experiments around the e-commerce content journey we may not have attempted otherwise.

Do your stretches

There’s one clear trend in all these recent changes: flexibility. Although we’re wrapping up our content alignment project, these process improvements are also helping us do the rest of our work quicker and easier. Even if these tips don’t fit your team, it never hurts to test faster, more flexible paths for creating content.