Open Mic Publishing Ecommerce

Publishers are going all in on e-commerce – here's why it’s an opportunity for retailers

By Angus Quinn, head of marketing, EMEA



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September 26, 2022 | 8 min read

With a likely recession on the horizon, marketers are being pressured to deliver performance on severely reduced budgets. Facing their own challenges, publishers have dived head first into creating commerce content to monetize their sites. As part of The Drum's Deep Dive into E-commerce, Skimlinks’ Angus Quinn (head of marketing, EMEA), explains what commerce content is, and how savvy online retailers can take advantage of the opportunity to drive direct purchases at a fraction of the cost of other channels.

A young woman shops e-commerce on her mobile cell phone

A recession on the horizon. Stinging cuts to advertising budgets. And worst of all, shoppers tightening their belts and turning away from all but the most necessary of purchases. To say the e-commerce headwinds are heavy is an understatement.

But for savvy retailers, performance marketing offers a path to continue bringing in new customers and driving incremental revenue. Its name is affiliate marketing, and while it may not be the new kid on the block, it has a hot new set of wheels.

What is commerce content?

These new wheels come courtesy of the brightest lights of UK media - from News UK to Telegraph Group, Hearst, Condé Nast, Bauer Media and more. These publishers are investing heavily into developing ‘commerce content’ – content focused around products that readers can buy from online brands. One report found 84% of publishers are now creating commerce content.

In this way, publishers are able to monetize content that they may be creating anyway, or even that already exists.

Commerce content can take many forms, such as:

When a user clicks on a product link in a commerce content article, goes through to the retailer website and makes a purchase, the publisher earns a commission on that sale, normally somewhere between 5-20%. In recent years, commerce content has become a key revenue stream for publisher businesses.

The affiliate opportunity for retailers

With publishers wholeheartedly embracing ecommerce as a significant revenue stream, retailers can capitalize on the opportunity to promote their products on these sites. Brands facing budget cuts can gain access to large and engaged new audiences, while only paying out from their affiliate budgets when they make money.

While there may be a small cost to monetize at scale through affiliate networks and subnetworks, once live, brands can access thousands of publishers with engaged shopping audiences and only pay out commission when purchases actually take place.

Recommendations straight from the horse’s mouth

By promoting their products via commerce content, retailers benefit from the trust and relationship the publisher has built with their audience. Post-pandemic, consumer trust is a limited commodity, and publishers have invested years into building it with their audiences.

These audiences turn to their favorite publishers for reliable information on breaking news stories, opinions from respected editors – and recommendations on which products they should buy.

As publishers have developed their commerce content strategy, they’ve acquired audiences who love their content and use it to inform everything from a big ticket investment to an off-the-cuff purchase. Almost all millennials (97%) read online reviews before buying from a business and 89% trust those reviews.

Customers that engage with commerce content typically have a disposable income, and are in the mindset of making a purchase, making them a perfect target for retailers. To narrow down further on particular target audiences, retailers can hand-pick the publishers they work with, ensuring their brand is only associated with those publishers which are relevant and in line with their brand identity.

Because of the pre-existing relationship that the audience has with their favorite publisher, their recommendations carry a weight of social proof that simply does not exist in a retailer’s own messaging.

If readers like the recommendations and value the editor’s opinion, they’ll keep coming back to the commerce content the next time they’re in the market and have your brand top of mind as a result. That goodwill can be leveraged to drive lifetime value for retailers and publishers alike.

Down the purchase funnel

Thanks to the weight of social proof carried by commerce content, affiliate marketing can make a strong addition to a retailer’s marketing mix at every stage of the purchase funnel.

Product roundups and gift guides can generate awareness for your products, while reviews and comparisons can help consumers make up their mind in the consideration phase, and drive them to your website to make their purchase.

While some commerce content is specific to a particular season or shopping holiday, much of it is evergreen, creating recurrent revenue for retailers and increased lifetime value from consumers.

In fact, data from the Skimlinks network shows that publishers make almost a third of their quarterly commissions revenue from content published in the previous three quarters. These well-indexed buying guides, product reviews and recommendation articles offer brands a path to reach in-market consumers and reap dividends again and again.

A win-win for collaboration between brands and publishers

Savvy retailers can work collaboratively with the publishers that bring them the best results. Reporting tools offered by affiliate marketing platforms allow retailers to understand exactly which partners and even domains drive are responsible for driving purchases.

That in turn enables the top retailers to properly optimise the channel, rewarding partners that drive success, and yield higher ecommerce sales as a result. For example, they can offer exclusive commission rates to key partners, securing a greater share of sale-boosting coverage.

Sex toy retailer Lovehoney has been able to optimize their affiliate marketing activities through regular collaboration with content sites and adult bloggers, working with publishers to create exclusive offers during key seasonal events, and get the right product, at the right price, in front of the right person at the right time. As a result of their close-knit partnership with key publishers, Lovehoney was able to generate a 36% increase in clicks and 229% increase in total order value in the UK in the course of a year.

Affiliate marketing in a cost of living crisis

While a pinch on advertising budgets is almost inevitable in a challenging economic climate, investing in affiliate marketing offers retailers a long-term bet that can deliver great results and offer a path out of the harsh times too.

As people feel the sting, they’re more likely than ever to seek out expert advice and ensure that every online purchase, from the frivolous to the essential investment, is well informed by expert advice gleaned from quality commerce content.

Publishers have recognized this and invested extensive resources into their commerce content divisions, creating an abundance of opportunities for retailers to not only get their products featured in trustworthy publications, but also drive direct purchases, and pay only when these occur.

Retailers gain customers, publishers get rewarded for their content and consumers are able to make informed purchases. If there’s a virtuous cycle to be found in adtech today, this may be it.

Open Mic Publishing Ecommerce

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