“Whoa Nellie! Content Strategy for Slow Experiences” – Margot Bloomstein at Confab

Confab Events logoI’m rounding up some more of my notes from Confab 2013 in London where I’ve spent a couple of days. This is what I made of Margot Bloomstein’s session on Monday.

“Whoa Nellie! Content Strategy for Slow Experiences” – Margot Bloomstein

The centre-piece of Margot Bloomstein’s argument for “slow content” was a photo of people waiting in a line to go on an attraction sponsored by Chevrolet. Rather than being bored waiting in the line, it looks like they are having a great time, taking photos, and getting to learn about the design of cars through interactive tools. Making the wait fun and enjoyable means they don’t really notice how long they queue. The pre-ride is probably as memorable as the ride.

Margot then went on to quote Jared Spool’s observation that if people have had a frustrating time during ecommerce, they rate the checkout process as slow. Margot posed the question, if great digital user experiences stop us noticing the time we spend queuing, and frustrating digital experiences make us think things are slow, does it follow that every slow digital user experience must be frustrating?

The answer, she said, was a resounding no. We are long past the years when people said nobody would read on the internet or on mobile, and long-from journalism, ebook singles, and various other developments have proved that longer-lasting content experiences can be made enjoyable and viable.

She compared the Amazon check-out process with that belonging to outdoor clothing brand Patagonia. Amazon hurries you through. There is one-click shopping, and all your default choices are saved. They send you a nagging email if you leave stuff in your basket without checking all the way out. Margot says lots of people must make mistakes, as if you try and report that you’ve made an error ordering, Amazon list a drop-down with “lots of ways to tell them what you got wrong.” A company like Amazon, Margot reasoned, wouldn’t engineer those solutions if there wasn’t a demand. Haste makes people make errors. As you may have noticed from these rapid-fire blog posts.

By contrast, Patagonia practically beg you not to buy. Ethical responsibility is part of their brand, the idea of people buying less stuff, but making sure it is the right stuff. At the point of checkout they break all the ecommerce rules by checking you don’t want alternative products instead, and really get you to focus on whether you’ve picked the right size and colours. Their argument is that they’d rather have some cart abandons, than have to ship and process lots of returns because of the carbon footprint involved.

Margot illustrated another way that Patagonia aimed for a long-term slow relationship with the customer through content. When you land on their website, you don’t get a list of products. They show you a mountain.

Patagonia homepage

They don’t stock mountains, but they do stock the gear that would allow you to get a breath-taking view like this. They aren’t selling products, they are selling an experience to you. And they start by showing you the experience, not the products.

The also have content that is aimed at their customers, but which isn’t a brochure. Essays on their environmentalism section don’t end with “And that is why you should buy product X”, they standalone as content. You just happen to be on a site where products are a couple of clicks away if the blog has reminded you that you were thinking of replacing you hiking boots. It is a very interesting form of “brand content” or “content marketing”, a topic currently vexing a lot of people in the digital journalism space. And a topic I’ll be returning to shortly.

You can view Margot’s slides on Slideshare.


I’ve still got two or three more sessions to write up, so stay tuned.

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