Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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How seasonal trading events can unlock robust year-round eCommerce strategies for publishers

Black Friday and Christmas shopping may be in the rearview mirror for now, but insight gleaned from these seasonal trading events and proprietary research can be invaluable for helping publishers develop a robust year-round eCommerce strategy says Paul Newman, Managing Director of Technology at Future.

For publishers with a strong eCommerce component to their businesses, January can feel something of an anti-climax compared with the frenetic deals-based activity that begins with Black Friday and takes us all the way through Christmas shopping and then into Boxing Day Sales.

But this is the ideal time to take stock of the results from several months of intense trading, lean into consumer research and start to assemble the plan for success that will power you through 2023’s peak trading period. January should be a time for really kicking the tyres on your eCommerce strategy and asking, ‘what’s changed?’.

For instance, recent Future analysis revealed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the cost-of-living crisis is consumers’ number one concern, with 85% declaring they have made cutbacks to their spending habits. Despite this, consumers continue to spend, focusing on the products they expect to help them manage through the current economic environment and using prominent retail sales events to find the best deals.

This shift in behaviour highlights the critical need for publishers to reach well beyond the status quo with their eCommerce strategies, embracing up-to-the-minute insight to react effectively to continuously evolving consumer behaviour, especially in the current economic climate. Making the most of seasonal trading events clearly needs to be at the forefront of these strategies given the increased importance consumers are placing on them. 

So, what can publishers do to capitalise on tightening budgets, setting themselves and their partnering brands up for success? 

Invaluable learnings

The most impactful eCommerce strategy won’t just consider the major sales days of the year such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Publishers who devote increased resources to smaller market moments such as Boxing Day Sales and Amazon Prime events can steal a march on competitors. 

These second-tier seasonal trading events can also be used as a training ground for the critical Black Friday and Christmas period, revealing key trends in how consumers are spending. For example, during Amazon’s Prime Early Access sales event in October, among the top transacted items through Future’s portfolio of brands in the UK were digital thermo-hygrometers (yes, really) that enable consumers to precisely monitor the temperature and humidity of their homes remotely, as well as energy-saving air fryers that reduce reliance on ovens.

Not only do trading events like Prime Early Access provide an opportunity for content and commercial teams to glean insight into what consumers are purchasing, but they also provide room for experimentation, whether that’s with page layouts or content distribution tactics. 

Future’s philosophy is about outcomes, and the most important outcome is always satisfying the needs of readers. Publishers with this ethos should be asking questions like ‘did we help readers find what they were looking for easily and at the best price?’ and ‘was the user journey from consideration to purchase as frictionless as possible?’

If publishers can address those questions in a satisfactory way, then they can generate exceptional results, alongside a strong technology stack and trusted retailer relationships. 

All about the data

On a more granular level there are numerous things publishers can do to position themselves to succeed during key trading moments. Publishers should see themselves as data-driven businesses and everyone from eCommerce analysts to editors should pour over data in search of the trends that can give the business that edge.

Future’s research also reveals that consumers are buying more supermarket ‘own brand’ goods and also switching mobile phone network providers – both insights that can prove valuable to teams working on seasonal trading events.

In addition, the effect on product availability due to global supply chain issues must be considered to protect the customer experience. Publishers should be helping readers find what they want in the right context by directing them quickly to retail partners with stock. A combination of editorial insight and eCommerce technology can really underpin the value that publishers provide to both consumers and retail partners during key shopping periods.

Seasonal trading events are vital for publishers because they offer invaluable consumer insights and are useful test beds for platform design and interface experimentation. Despite the cost-of-living crisis and macroeconomic pressures, 61% of consumers remain quietly optimistic that their spending habits will return to normal once the current downturn has passed. Now is not the time for publishers to be short-sighted with their eCommerce strategies!

Paul Newman
Managing Director of Technology at Future

Future plc is a global specialist multi-media platform that creates loyal communities across a portfolio of over 240 compelling brands. Every month it engages with over 400 million people globally through websites, events and magazines, with its content reaching 1 in 2 adults online in the UK and 1 in 3 in the US.