This sponsored post was contributed by NimbleCommerce, the leading e-commerce platform and distribution network for publishers worldwide.
When done right, ecommerce is one of the most lucrative options for publishers challenged not just with creating compelling content, but also with generating revenue through content-based display advertising. Publishers like Thrillist, Torstar Digital Canada (with Wagjag.com), GolfNow (with dealcaddy.golfnow.com) Berlinkske Media Denmark (with sweetdeal.dk) are each generating tens of millions of dollars in revenue by leveraging their content and community with very successful eCommerce programs. Some of these publishers are many times larger than Groupon in their country, region or category.
Despite its lure, eCommerce has a set of challenges. Here are some reasons why many publishers shy away from the opportunity:
1. Publishers must invest in a dedicated sales team to acquire local offers for their inventory.
2. Publishers must commit to operations resources and processes such as merchandizing, customer support, managing money (receivables and payables) and shipping and fulfillment.
3. There are resource demands whether a publisher builds their own platform or works with a third party.
4. And, of course, launching an ecommerce offering involves investment in marketing to make it worthwhile.
One Solution: Syndicated Commerce
What is syndicated commerce? It is the outsourcing of all, or portions of, ecommerce operations and supply while maintaining ownership of the site, the customer experience and the brand.
A number of publishers have taken the syndicated commerce approach and have been very successful. There are three general models that have begun to evolve:
Fully Outsourced. The publisher outsources ecommerce operations to a 3rd party partner. The publisher manages the marketing, while the third-party partner manages sourcing of inventory, customer support and order fulfillment. Consumers purchase on the publisher’s own ecommerce site and all customer data stays with the publisher.
For example, many publishers use Travezoo as a fully outsourced provider. TravelZoo manages the ecommerce operations for publications like Washington Post, SFGate, LA Times, Philly.com and Denver Post.
Category Outsourced. Some publishers have a sales team or network of suppliers for certain categories, but need help in expanding into other categories. For example, a publisher may have a large local sales team sourcing local offers, but nothing in place to generate travel offers. With a syndicated commerce platform, a publisher can create categories on their site, which channels offers from third-party suppliers via a network. The buyer experience remains consistent, whether they are purchasing an offer sourced by the publisher or by the 3rd party supplier.
GolfNow sells local deals and products. Their local deals are sourced by their own sales teams. Their products, on the other hand, are sourced by Lyon’s Golf, a third-party golf retailer and supplier.
On-Demand Outsourced. A number of publishers prefer to supplement their inventory with offerings from other suppliers on a need/desire basis. The ever popular Restaurant.com gift card is quickly picked up and resold by publishers, whether or not they require syndicated commerce support.
The Risk of Getting Behind the Curve
The future of digital publishing depends on its ability to effectively monetize content. ecommerce is a strategy that publishers must use in creating a seamless monetization experience for their readers.
Thrillist is an example of a publisher who has been very successful with their ecommerce program. DailyCandy, on the other hand, with a similar sized audience, chose to focus on traditional display ads and affiliate links and recently shut down.
In 2014, the publishers that innovate and adapt to the trends of ecommerce will thrive and become leaders in the new economy. Those who continue to depend on display ads and pump more ads per page will become unsustainable businesses and will soon disappear.