Beyond the Buy Button: Using Shoppable Content as a New Revenue Stream

Apr 20, 2016

Article ImageLast year, the buy button hit big, with Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram adopting more enticing ecommerce solutions in an effort to alter the consumer experience on social media and increase revenue opportunities. Since that time, a wider trend has unfolded, as demonstrated by major publishers like Vox Media, The Huffington Post, and Bonnier Corporation pursuing content monetization options: the maturation of shoppable content and the emergence of a universal shopping cart to make that content shoppable.

Case in point: Bringhub recently rolled out a notable content-to-commerce platform that offers four core ecommerce products: SmartCart 2.0, a universal shopping cart solution enabling users to "favorite" items, tap into a Discover feed emphasizing related content, and generate wish lists; a VideoCart that allows consumers viewing a video to click a "buy button" to peruse and purchase highlighted products; a SmartAd that permits consumers to explore a brand's merchandise and finalize a purchase within the ad; and StoreFront, powered by the site's content, which pulls together all of the products into a customizable shopping destination-allowing publishers to focus on creating content to which products can be automatically added and integrated.

Dominik Pantelides, CEO and co-founder of Bringhub, says these new tools are game changers in content-based ecommerce because they empower digital publishers and content creators to monetize their content without developer resources or complicating existing infrastructure and workflows. "Until recently, shoppable content was viewed as affiliate marketing or linking individual products to a store. But it has evolved to be about bringing an immersive commerce experience to users at the point of inspiration-the content. Now, users can engage with their favorite sites and blogs in a new way by having the ability to explore, discover, and purchase products directly from a piece of content," says Pantelides, who notes that prominent publishers like Saveur, Racked, and Bustle are using his company's new tools.

Stacy Smollin Schwartz, instructor of professional practice in the Marketing Department at Rutgers Business School, says it makes sense today to put a shopping button in as many places as possible. "A marketer never knows when a specific customer might be ready to buy, and having a shopping basket at the ready within their social media posts, banner ads and videos covers their bases," says Schwartz. "Even if these new buy button placements don't provide a significant revenue stream, they are a convenience for shoppers who might be ready to decide. And these e-tailers get to appear more user friendly and accessible, especially among shoppers who don't wish to interrupt their experience on the content page they're currently viewing."

Schwartz adds that savvy marketers are quickly learning that today's shoppers enter and exit purchase decisions at various points during a site visit; hence, content providers have to "plan their strategies around a circular consumer decision journey rather than through the top of a linear sales funnel."

Virtually any publisher can benefit from shoppable content because it's a way to keep consumers on their sites instead of forcing them to go elsewhere to buy, according to Jill Finger Gibson, principal analyst with Digital Clarity Group. "It could potentially benefit B2B publishers as well, but B2B transactions tend to have a greater degree of complexity that makes them less suited to [shoppable content]," says Gibson, noting B2B complications like procurement approvals, custom quotations, regulatory approvals that could make it difficult to pursue ecommerce opportunities.

As further evidence that shoppable content is increasingly on the minds of content providers today, consider that many publishers-including BuzzFeed, Business Insider, and Gawker-are employing ecommerce editors and specialists to produce content that can be more easily monetized. It's been reported that Gawker actually derives one-third of its revenue from commerce-driven and native ad sales.

Gibson cautions, however, that the modern era of shoppable content for most publishers is still in its early days. "It is still more of an aspiration than a reality," she says. "Publishers still tend to think of the content first, investing in beautiful, rich media sites and apps and only then think of the shopping component.  But it is all a single experience from the point of view of the consumer, and publishers need to look at it that way."

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)