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How 5 media companies around the world are using eCommerce

In this series from our comprehensive report on publishers and eCommerce, we’ve already explored how major publishers like BuzzFeed, POPSUGAR and Marie Claire UK are innovating in this space. Alongside these three publisher deep-dives, we also wanted to highlight some of the other interesting examples of eCommerce which can be found across the global media landscape.

Here are five case studies which caught our eye, from Heart Media and Dennis Publishing to Associated Media, NBC Universal and The Today Show:

Associated Media Publishing (South Africa)

Associated Media Publishing (AMP) is South Africa’s leading independent publisher of women’s media brands. This includes local, and international titles such as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping/Goeie Huishouding, House and Leisure and Women on Wheels. 

They reach c.3.5 million consumers a month through online, digital and events. Last year AMP generated around 6,253 pieces of original content, which garnered 85 million views.

In January 2019, after 15 years, AMP announced that they were not renewing their licence to print a local version of Marie Claire, instead focusing on digital output and events. This is part of a wider effort by AMP to reinvent the relationship between a magazine and its audience, a relationship which also includes a retail angle.

“In South Africa, e-commerce is still relatively small,” Julia Raphaely, the CEO of Associated Media Publishing told the Media Voices podcast in May 2019, “but I think that a magazine medium has an incredibly important part to play in curating products for consumers.”

One way that the company has begun to implement this approach is through the use of QR codes. In October 2018, AMP wrapped their marquee publications in giant QR codes. After scanning the codes on their smartphones and/or tablets, consumers were redirected to the “Ready to Shop” page of each magazine brand, where products were available for purchase.

Image via mediaupdate.co.za

AMP saw an immediate upswing in eCommerce related activity following this effort. From mid-December 2018 to mid-April 2019, QR scans grew from 7,000 to 17,430, page views in their shops grew from 47,000 to 84,441. Subsequently, the number of products available to purchase more than doubled from 1,500 to 3,174.

The initiative also received industry recognition, winning Bronze at the 11th IAB Bookmarks Awards (2019) in the Emerging Digital category for Interactive Mixed Media.

As Esther Kezia Thorpe, here at What’s New In Publishing has pointed out, “In Western countries, affiliate links and commissions are well-established revenue sources for publishers, thanks largely to Amazon.” But, in other markets, that model may not exist, or be the most appropriate way for publishers to monetise and creative shoppable content.

Dennis Publishing (UK and USA)

Founded in 1973, with the launch of its first magazine, Kung Fu Monthly, Dennis is now the UK’s 6th largest consumer magazine publisher, with a group turnover of over £130 million ($161m) a year. It has a portfolio of over 30 brands operating in four key areas: Current Affairs, Technology, Automotive and Lifestyle, reaching more than 50 million unique users and selling over 2.5 million magazines a month.

By 2018, Dennis Publishing projected to make 40% of its 2018 revenue from e-commerce. At the heart of this is their automotive vertical and the site BuyaCar, through which users can buy a quality new or used car online, apply for finance and then have the car delivered to their home.

BuyaCar.co.uk was acquired in 2014 by Dennis, and since then turnover has grown from £400k in 2014 to £62m turnover in 2018. Across the UK, 21% of all UK online motoring spend is spent with Dennis.

Image via SlideShare. Presentation by Nick Flood, Deputy MD, Digital, Dennis Publishing. Digiday Publishing Summit Europe, 2018

Importantly, as Pete Wootton, Chief Digital Officer of Dennis Publishing has outlined, BuyaCar purchases vehicles from franchise dealers, but not until an order has been made, thus avoiding any liabilities associated with holding stock.

At the same time, it has been selective about the dealers it partners with, focusing on those who “really look after your customers. ” After all, “if something goes wrong, it looks bad on Dennis, not the dealer,” Wootton says.

Auto Express and Carbuyer, whose sites have 2.5 million and 1.2 million monthly visitors, help drive 15% of Buyacar customers. Because of this existing readership, Dennis were confident they could convert elements of this active audience (readers are looking to buy a car!) into sales.

Dennis was named Media Company of the Year at the 2018 British Media Awards; and BuyaCar.co.uk shortlisted for Digiday’s “Best E-Commerce Strategy” award for 2018. However, the site notes that “Dennis hasn’t even scratched the surface of car commerce.”

“Just over 8 million used cars are sold in the U.K. each year,” they wrote in 2018, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, around 7,000 of which are sold by Dennis directly from its site Buyacar.co.uk. 

“As an overall percentage of that market, what we’re doing is still very small,” said Wootton. “We want to massively scale the business because we believe it will generate revenue in the hundreds of millions [of pounds] in the next few years. Next year, I believe we’ll make £100 million [$138 million].”

Image: Example of lead generation through Auto Express. Via Bibblio.

Heart Media (Singapore)

With 20 publications in Singapore, Malaysia and South East Asia, and offices in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Shanghai, Heart Media also operates ten websites and organises a series of “exclusive luxury lifestyle events” in Singapore, Phuket (Thailand), and Penang (Malaysia). 

The company seeks to produce “market leading magazines and digital media that connect with the region’s affluent and brand-conscious consumers through their chosen lifestyle activities.”  Its titles include Men’s Folio, WOW (World of Watches, with different editions for Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Vietnam), the Singapore edition of the fashion magazine L’Officiel, a home and lifestyle magazine known as Form in Singapore and Room in Malaysia, Art Republik, and a quarterly high-end real estate magazine, Palace.

In 2015, Heart Media acquired the luxury lifestyle portal Luxuo.com. As of late 2017, the site had over one million unique visitors a month and more than over 2.5 million page views per month.

“We hold a diverse portfolio of publications ranging from timepiece to fashion and even art and luxury yachts. Hence, we felt the need to acquire a digital property that would serve as a content aggregator for the whole group,” recounted CEO and Publisher, Olivier Burlot

In 2018, they invested in the Hong Kong based online luxury marketplace Luxify, for an undisclosed sum. The site has been described as “an eBay for the super-rich,” although as of November 2019 the online marketplace is being rebuilt after being acquired by My fashion Republic Group. 

Despite the pop-up on their homepage, which has been there for several months, posts on Luxuo.com do point to relevant pages on the Luxify website (and you can access the old site).

Image: Screengrab from LUXUO, September 2019. 
As of November 2019, this functionality appears to no longer be available.

Although advertising and events are their primary revenue sources, the company does invest in eCommerce. “We invest in e-commerce to understand how it works, but not to operate it,” their Olivier Burlot has said, offering a potential model other publishers may look to emulate.

Alongside this, in 2018 the company invested in Aditus, “a revolutionary new platform bringing the world of luxury to crypto-affluents, through a privacy-centric decentralised network utilising smart contracts and blockchain technology.” The site allows crypto-affluents “to make payments in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum” with the result that “it has never been easier to convert cryptocurrencies to real world assets.”

Aditus curates these opportunities, providing a marketplace for merchants and consumers alike, with all of the lifestyle products, services and experiences solely available for purchase through crypto-currencies.
Crypto transactions are also growing in importance as a revenue stream,

Heart Media CEO Olivier Burlot told the FIPP Asia conference in Wuhan, China, in late 2018. “Within two years so many people have grown very wealthy through cryptocurrencies, Burlot said. Aditus.net earns three per cent commission on transactions “and if it is complex, it can go up to five per cent on the payment… so you can imagine that this is an increasing business for us.”

Image: Screenshot of the Aditus website

NBCUniversal (USA)

Earlier this year, NBCUniversal announced that some of its biggest TV brands – including NBC, NBC Sports, Telemundo, USA Network, Bravo, E! and CNBC Prime – would be embracing ShoppableTV. 

Business Insider shared how the service would work, revealing that: “ShoppableTV will display an on-screen QR code for 30 seconds within ads and shows. Users can scan the QR code using their mobile phones and be taken immediately to an e-commerce site to buy the particular product. NBCU will collect not only a fee for producing the shoppable ads with partner brands, but also a percentage of sales resulting from QR code scans.”

“By pairing brands with our premium content, storming the purchase funnel, and removing the barriers consumers traditionally encounter between seeing a product and making a purchase, we’re giving marketers a direct sales channel to millions of viewers across the country.”

Josh Feldman, NBCU’s executive vice-president, head of marketing and advertising creative, via The Drum
Image: ShoppableTV demo image, via NBCUniversal and The Hollywood Reporter

Reporting on the announcement, The Hollywood Reporter wrote

“The company said this marks the first time this technology, on which the company has worked with an undisclosed tech company, will be used on national U.S. television to attract direct sales. It recently tested the technology on NBC’s Today, saying that within minutes it saw tens of thousands of scans and six figures in sales.”

The Today Show (USA)

One of the most successful, and longest-running TV shows in American history, Today (aka The Today Show) has been pioneering a number of different approaches to eCommerce. 

Aside from being a testing ground for NBCUniversal’s new Shoppable TV strategy (outlined above), the breakfast show has also been exploring other opportunities. 

This included creating a dedicated space, today.com/shopping, as well as working with the broadcast show “to amplify the on-air promotion of products online and then build off that success and momentum.”

A popular segment on the show, “Steals & Deals,” reportedly netted the network $60 million in e-commerce revenue last year, selling over 2 million products during the holiday shopping season, “largely thanks to Jill’s Steals & Deals,” NBC News president Noah Oppenheim has revealed. The site drove more than $12 million in sales during the week after Thanksgiving. 

Hosted by Jill Martin, TODAY offers three must shop on-air deals segments every month. The five minute segment has an audience of around 3 million people, and a dedicated microsite on their wider website; and app.

Image: Steals and Deals for Mother’s Day (video screengrab) via NBC

Separate to this, Today has a separate site for coupons, vouchers and promo codes, and a larger online shop which features articles (e.g. “The best gifts for 1-year-olds, according to child development experts,” “8 high-tech gifts for the self-proclaimed gadget geek” and “25 gift ideas Grandpa actually won’t return,”) as well as links to fashion items on Amazon, a section enabling you to “shop what you saw on the show,” and more.

Traffic to Today’s online store grew by more than 80% in 2018, and the company revealed that it expected to increase revenue last year from eCommerce by 400%. 

Much of their online content – complete with associated links to partners – would not be out of place on any of the women’s, or other, publishers sites more traditionally associated with the types of content which lend themselves to eCommerce. (See, for example, “14 pairs of underwear real women wear every day,” illustrated below.)

Image: Screengrab from the TODAY website.

The site is very transparent about the fact that it makes money through affiliate relationships; offering a potential benchmark of openness that others would be well served to follow.

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