Several popular e-commerce platforms are using editorial content as a part of their strategy. The obvious reason to focus on such a strategy is because people don’t buy things from a store daily, but they read and view content from their favorite sources daily— and if your store can also be that content provider, you’ll theoretically catch more sales.
Furthermore, the most effective push to get a product flying off the shelves is placement in the right blog or news source. But could an editorial source push its own content off shelves? Or is that a business model too incestous to work?
Well, folks are trying. Its hardly a trend yet, but Net á Porter and its brother company Mr. Porter have been toying with this model for a while, with upstarts like Refinery 29 following in their footsteps. And, to a more non-obvious degree, Fab.
But wIll these hybrid content/product platforms continue to rise? Is it even possible?
Let’s take Refinery29 as an example. It was essentially a blog from launch to 2 years in, with 100% of revenue coming from advertising, as to be expected. They’ve now added products for sale, accounting for 20% of revenue; they hope to grow it to 40%1. Can they make it happen?
Well, here’s the kicker: the way people discover editorial vs. products is vastly different. The lion’s share of web editorial traffic comes from the sharing of links; maybe 10% of a sites visitors will be regulars, with the remaining 90% coming in via discovering the “hot" articles that the original 10% spread through social media, other blogs, email, etc. Conversely, shoppers discover products mostly via entering an online store through homepage and navigating from there; sharing a product page is a very rare occurrence. Just take a gander at your Facebook or Twitter feed and count the ratio of article/photo/video links shared vs. pages leading to products for sale. Yeah, super heavy on the former.
The outlier is Fab.com. They don’t produce “editorial" but people share their products as such. 50% of their page views and sales come from people sharing product pages — an extremely rare activity that only happens when, like Fab, you have products that are so unique people share them as conversation pieces, like they would with content. Fab’s product line tries to be 100% products like this. It works for them.
Not every e-retailer can have a Fab situation, unless they’re going for curated product lines from undiscovered designers creating flashy, avant-garde items, but that doesn’t meant that the next Amazon won’t be born out of this strategy. They key to making the content / product thing work, as with any situation when you meld disperate user habits into one funnel, is in understanding the nature of how people use, differently, each type of platform, and combining them in a way so that they work as yin and yang.