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Launching your content-rich website without integrating an ecommerce transaction layer of some sort causes you to miss out on opportunities for both traffic development and revenue development. When ecommerce features are skillfully woven into top quality content, your site has another avenue to develop trust between your audience and your site as well as make money.
The key word, however, is "skillfully." If you're just haphazardly pushing content at consumers alongside products you're selling, you can actually damage your site's brand. However, lessons learned by other sites about integrating ecommerce into content can help you create a more seamless blend of content and commerce. Here are a few ways websites are cultivating purchasing opportunities by integrating an ecommerce content strategy.
Linking to an Affiliate Site
This doesn't necessarily have to be done through an affiliate program like the one offered by Amazon. If, for example, you run a trade publication website and publish an article reviewing a highly specialized tool used in your trade, you could work with providers of that tool to develop an affiliate relationship that allows you to earn a commission for every transaction initiated through your website. This is easiest on you as a publisher, but does result in a certain amount of friction for readers who decide to make a purchase through your site.
Adding an "Ask the Expert" Feature
Whether you include a regular "Ask the Expert" blog post every week or month, or whether you have a dedicated "Ask the Expert" page on your site, you can use this content to provide readers with the opportunity to purchase products mentioned in the articles. For example, suppose you run a website for pet grooming professionals. Your "Ask the Expert" features could link to specific products you sell. If your expert recommends a particular grooming rake, for example, you could link to a purchasing opportunity for a nearly seamless learning / shopping experience for your readers.
Creating a Mobile Shopping App
Whether your site includes ecommerce or not, it needs to be mobile-friendly. If ecommerce is a primary revenue stream, you may want to invest in a custom shopping app for mobile devices. Fab.com, for example, launched a shopping app for Android and iOS at the end of 2012, which rapidly came to handle approximately one-third of daily sales. Mobile shopping has increased significantly over the past year, and is expected to see healthy growth into the foreseeable future. Making purchases easy for mobile visitors is becoming a necessity for those engaged in ecommerce.
Social Commerce Integration with Facebook
Your ecommerce offerings, like your content, should be shareable and integrated with social media platforms. Sites that sell items reflecting personal tastes (like clothing or jewelry) should make it easy for customers to "Pin" photos of items on their Pinterest pages or share photos of items they want or have bought on Facebook. This increases audience engagement and can generate additional revenue by giving your products a wider audience via social media.
In general, the less friction your readers experience when they buy something through your site, the better. Two leaders in the seamless content / ecommerce game are Essence.com and TeenVogue.com. Essence includes in its content a "Beauty Matchmaker" tool that lets women find and buy makeup that suits their color preferences and skin tones without leaving Essence.com. TeenVogue plans an on-site "Back to School" shop for summer 2013 that allows readers to shop a range of retailers without leaving the TeenVogue website.
Carefully integrating an ecommerce content strategy into your website is a way to maximize ecommerce as a revenue stream. There are many ways to develop an ecommerce content strategy, with varying levels of site design and vendor integration involved, but all depend on weaving ecommerce into the high quality site content that keeps your audience engaged in the first place. With ecommerce, traditional advertising, "freemium" subscription models, and white label job boards, you can curate a subset of revenue producing features on your site that serve readers well while increasing revenues. If you're a digital publisher interested in recruitment advertising, RealMatch invites you to check out its revenue sharing possibilities through custom job boards.