Why data, not content, is king when it comes to publishers’ eCommerce efforts

What's New in Publishing 23 Apr 2020 08:26

“Publishers need to have the first party insights to create commerce environments that are contextually relevant to their users as well as their brand partners,” argues Chris Vollmer, the Managing Director at MediaLink and previously a partner at PwC’s strategy consulting firm Strategy&. As he explained to Digiday:

“That means understanding the preferences, interests and behaviors of their user communities more deeply and more analytically than they have before.”

In the eCommerce space, a number of companies are adopting this approach, harnessing data to support their own creative properties, partnerships and spin-off businesses. 

Here’s how POPSUGAR, Future Publishing, as well as retail giants – and content creators – Amazon and Walmart, are doing it.


As we’ve previously noted, POPSUGAR initially began life as a side project; a blog focused on celebrity gossip, before subsequently expanding into “a global lifestyle media brand focused on a curious, insatiable audience who wants to live an inspired, healthy, and full life.”

POPSUGAR’s assets don’t just include their core website, but also POPSUGAR Insights, “ a research platform focused exclusively on women and designed to help marketers learn more about this dynamic audience by sharing the most relevant and actionable original data about women’s digital media usage and buying behaviors.”

POPSUGAR’s understanding of their millennial-led audience is at the heart of their partnership with Kohls, an American department store chain. Through this, Kohl’s carries an apparel line informed by POPSUGAR’s user data. 

Alongside this, POPSUGAR also uses data to reinforce development on their own site. 

Describing themselves in their media pack as “A Global Leading eCommerce Content Publisher” the company recognises that visitors come to their sites to read product reviews, buying guides or deals posts, often with a purchase in mind. 

Six Strategic Implications for Publishers

  1. Understand why people are viewing your content and if they’re doing so with a purchase in mind. Future Publishing’s tech sites demonstrate this principle. Publishers need to avoid providing audiences with the information and insights they need, only for a third party to scoop up the purchase dollars. 
  1. Ensure top-level buy-in – it’s interesting to note that Future Publishing has a board member who is solely responsible for eCommerce. If eCommerce is a key part of your revenue strategy, then this type of investment ensures that this area of the business has a voice at the table. 
  1. Be aware that this space is becoming more cluttered. Retailers – who already have huge amounts of data about our shopping preferences – are trying to deepen this relationship by also moving into the content business. 

This article has been adapted, updated, and expanded, from our free to download report, The Publisher’s Guide to eCommerce.

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POPSUGARKohlFuture PublishingChris VollmerMediaLink
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