E-commerce tips for specialist media owners

Most specialist media owners are well aware that consumers’ purchase journeys often start with their product reviews.  It’s all too easy though for users to browse reviews online, then go to search retail sites, and the publisher gets no benefit from their content.  So many specialist media owners are experimenting with ways to take a share of e-commerce revenues, without having to get involved in handling stock, taking money, despatch or returns.. There’s no perfect solution as yet, especially if you don’t have the funds or skills to develop an in-house e-commerce engine.  Here are some examples of different approaches, that might provide you with some tips:

1. Vertical search engine

Motorcyclenews.com and other Bauer specialist sites partnered with foundem to create a vertical search engine to sit on the sites.  It was comprehensive, covering c60k products, and enabled users to search from a dozen merchants, and for the publisher to take a commission on sales.  However, it was complex to build, and hard to link into the product reviews themselves, and despite high traffic volumes the sales revenues were low.  So probably only a solution for the big boys.

2. In-house products

Highly niche markets, where there is a focus on learning, and a committed user base, can do very well simply selling their own reports, specials and learning tools.  Electric Word found that when they offered both third party products and their own in specialist educational and sports sectors, the response volumes for their own products were much higher.  So try this first; the margins are better too, and you may even be able to deliver them online.

3. Superniche products

In enthusiast markets, some publishers are actually stocking and selling relevant products on their own site.  Publisher of modelling and craft magazines www.myhobbystore.com has taken this approach.  Of course then you do have to deal with stock, payment, despatch and returns…

4. Affiliate schemes

For those publishers with limited resources, there are services such as skimlinks.  These set up deals with multiple affiliates.  Publishers add some code to their site, and automatically get affiliate links added to their content.  Some specialist publishers are testing this out.  The only drawback is that high traffic may be required in order to earn any significant revenue.  As they only pick up existing links, this works best on forums rather than editorial content.

5. E-commerce widgets

There are some widgets being developed (for example how.much.is)that can be added to product review pages, and will automatically display prices and provide links to merchants, with tracking so that publishers can earn commissions.  Publishers can define the merchants they wish to include, and sometimes even users can suggest merchants.  The merchants can request to be included, and get live feedback on how their prices compare with competitors.  This could be a simple solution for smaller publishers without extensive development resources.

Some of the examples in this blog came from a discussion on the Specialist Media Network on linked-in, a group where specialist media owners can  swap ideas and tips.  Do take a look!

Carolyn Morgan‘s consultancy, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies. If you are considering how to add e-commerce to your specialist site, please contact Penmaen Media to arrange an inital discussion.