E-commerce is turning into a new revenue driver for news media publishers today. Direct e-commerce allows an organisation to keep customers on its own platform and grow direct collaborations, thus bringing higher revenue streams and higher conversions.
“Subscriptions, advertising, and affiliates have all been around for quite a few years, but what we’re seeing now is that publishers are also adding e-commerce to their revenue channels,” Mikaela Jaconelli, director of client success at Tipser, told INMA members in a Webinar.
Furthermore, Jaconelli continued, embedded e-commerce is becoming a huge trend in today’s market.
E-commerce is often confused with affiliate programmes, she added. The difference is embedded e-commerce converts directly inside the publisher’s content, whereas affiliate links send the consumer to an outside source to complete the transaction.
“For publishers it’s fantastic, because they don’t have to send their traffic away to other sites by converting inside their content. For readers, it’s amazing because you can convert quicker than ever before. And furthermore, for brands and merchants, they can build a new target audience inside a trusted editorial content.”
The customer perspective
The reason embedded e-commerce is becoming so big is really because of today’s consumer.
“Today we see that visitors online have less time than ever before — and at the same time, they are faced with more impressions than ever before,” Jaconelli said. “This puts pressure on the experiences.”
With e-commerce, it’s all about location, location, and location — much as it is with physical stores.
“When a visitor is excited on a publisher’s site, it’s important that the brand can transact right there and then to take action on inspiration. Motivational shopping is huge, and social has become even more important to open up a dialogue before you actually transact.”
3 big digital media trends
Tipser see three major trends.
Publishers are becoming more transactional with embedded e-commerce.
There is power in editorial affirmation. “You can really earn a lot of money if you do this right,” Jaconelli said.
Revenue diversification is one of the main priorities.
Case study: Dagens Nyheter
Jaconelli led INMA members through a demonstration of the Dagens Nyheter e-commerce site, showing how its readers can add purchases to their cart and keep shopping or reading, without ever interrupting their experience, and then check-out easily when ready.
Per Johnsson, partnership manager at Dagens Nyheter, told members about his company’s e-commerce experience and strategy.
As DN revenue from print began to decline and the company focused more on subscription and digital revenue, e-commerce was a natural fit. It started with a Bonnier publication that worked with Tipser to collaborate with a Nordic art gallery, and Bonnier subscribers would buy the art.
“That’s when we realised that we had a group of subscribers that had high purchase power,” Johnsson said. “We decided to set up sort of the same thing with Tipser to integrate their solution with our platform.”
DN started small-scale in the beginning forays into e-commerce, acting as the marketing tool for the products while Tipser provides the back-end transaction technology.
“The user still feels that they are in our environment,” Johnsson pointed out. “This is really a risk-free model for us since we don’t buy the products. We don’t have them in stock. So the supplier will do the shipping and the packaging, and we get the commission from each sale.”
DN is selective about what products it offers on its e-commerce platform.
“We really want to have the right products for our audience,” Johnsson said. “When we see that a product really takes off, we push it even harder, and we can use our other [DN] platforms to push the products.”
The trust factor
The Dagens Nyheter audience comes to its Web site to read news and content primarily. With e-commerce, where does consumer trust fit in?
“That’s what I think it’s all about,” Johnsson said. “Our readers, they trust us. We are high-profile in that sense. We have an audience that really associates with the [Dagens Nyheter] brand.”
This creates a built-in trust factor for the DN audience when shopping on its Web sites. Consistency is also important.
“You can’t do this as a one-shot,” Johnsson said. “You have to be working with this all the time.”
Tipser provides a market analysis to help a publisher determine what will do well with their brand and audience, and guides them along the way.
DN has now been doing embedded e-commerce for two-and-a-half years. Between 2019 and 2020, it doubled e-commerce sales, and has continued to grow by 70%.
One example of a popular product that sells well on DN is an electric bike. So far, sales from the bike have resulted in revenue of about US$1.3 million, and the company expects to sell about 1,200 this year. The bike is very much branded with DN, which contributes to its popularity. DN readers want to be associated and identified as such.
What about the return rate? Johnsson reported that it’s very low for DN. A lot of that has to do with the quality of the products they choose to offer.
Building subscriber loyalty
A by-product of DN’s e-commerce offerings is that it helps build loyalty with its subscriber base. Readers who engage in e-commerce have a lower churn rate than other subscribers.
“We often talk about engagement in readership and how important that is,” Johnsson said. “But we can also see that going to this [DN e-commerce] site and buying something is also a kind of engagement in our product. It’s pretty good for us that we can actually earn money, and engage the subscribers, and they will stay longer as subscribers as well.”
E-commerce for the future
DN is currently planning a variety of e-commerce offerings, including customised earbuds. This fits in with the DN focus on audio content, such as podcasts.
Going forward into the next few years, DN plans to focus on its main revenue stream of subscriptions, along with e-commerce as an additional revenue model.
“I think this will grow over time,” Johnsson said. “In two years, maybe we can triple what we have today.”