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Making a success of ecommerce

Ecommerce is often cited by publishers as an obvious area for revenue diversification. But how to make a success of it?

By James Evelegh

Making a success of ecommerce
Photograph: Unsplash.

Ecommerce is big and growing. Last year, it accounted for a third of total revenues at one of the UK’s largest publishers, Future.

At the recent Publishing Show, there was a panel session discussing ‘The future of ecommerce for publishers’. On the panel were Andrea Davies (Collingwood Advisory, chair), Chris Dicker (MD, Trusted Reviews), Emily Ferguson (Ecommerce Director, Marie Claire) and Rachael Prasher (MD, Haymarket Automotive).

So, how can publishers make a success of ecommerce? Here are my five takeaways:

  1. Make sure what you’re selling complements your brand. Is it a natural fit and does it add value to the user-experience?
  2. Be transparent. Adding a disclaimer along the lines, ‘We may earn revenue if you purchase via this link’ has even been found to improve conversions.
  3. Don’t flood your site with affiliate links. Make it work naturally, don’t over-sell and it’s ok to have pages without affiliate links; protecting editorial integrity is vital.
  4. Get the tech right. This is a fundamental driver of ecommerce success. Building your own tech stack is not for the faint hearted, and if you go down that route, make sure you own the code. For independent publishers with more limited resources, there are good third party providers out there.
  5. Employ the right people. You need to employ people who love spreadsheets and will need to budget for their wage demands. The salary expectations of even junior analysts are higher than you might expect.

Get these right, throw in lots of guts and perseverance and the ecommerce world is your oyster.


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