Trends in online commerce, content marketing, and advertising sales may have set the ecommerce and publishing industries on a collision course as both strive for trust, relevance, and profits.
U.S. online sales in just the first three months of 2012 were more than double American newspaper ad revenues for all of 2011. As publishers seek new revenue sources, magazine and newspapers might turn to ecommerce.
Online Sales Are Growing
Online retailing is booming, with trend-tracking firm comScore reporting that U.S. retail ecommerce spending reached $44.3 billion in the first quarter, up some 17 percent from the same three-month period in 2011.
“The first quarter of this year was especially strong for retail ecommerce as we returned to year-over-year growth rates in the high teens, numbers we haven’t seen since 2007,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.
All told, U.S. ecommerce has grown from about $27.9 billion to its current $44.3 billion in just five years.
The industry's superb growth rate has attracted a number of new businesses, some relatively large and others founded in garages. With more competition, marketing and presentation has become increasingly important.
Matter-of-fact product descriptions and ho-hum product photography will not set an online seller apart in an Internet marketplace where retailers can become indistinguishable purveyors of products, whose only competitive advantage is a lower price. For an example, search for just about anything on Amazon.
Content Marketing Builds Relationships, Brands
Selling on the Amazon Marketplace can certainly be profitable. Nonetheless, many online merchants want to build lasting relationships with customers so that those shoppers remain engaged and make subsequent purchases.
One possible route to long lasting, brand-and-customer relationships is content marketing.
Content marketing, in the context of online retailing, relies on high-quality content like articles, images, and videos to engage prospects, earn business, and create repeat customers.
Several well-known and emerging retailers use this strategy, with examples being companies like REI, One Kings Lane, Maker Shed, Mr. Porter, Radio Shack, Park & Bond, Element 14, and Gilt Taste to name a few.
The basic concept is that shoppers will be more willing to make repeat purchases from a retailer if that retailer is also providing information and entertainment.
Consider a recent article on One Kings Lane, titled, “Lessons Learned from Albert Hadley” that reads more like something from a fashion magazine than an online retail site.
“The lessons this design icon passed down to protégées, colleagues, and friends render a portrait of a man of impeccable taste, humility, and grace,” wrote Mariette Himes Gomez, the post's author.