Today’s business models are no strangers to fluidity. Brick and mortars have gone e-commerce, e-commerce has gone brick and mortar, consumer brands have become publishers and publishers have become consumer brands. Who needs labels?
What remains constant amidst the shapeshifting is content. Because it’s content that has become most impactful upon present-day buying behaviors. As Cision reports, 70 percent of internet users prefer to learn about products through content versus traditional advertisements.
Brought on by The Information Age, the buying process has been reconfigured to give consumers their own sense of autonomy. Rather than allowing a brand to dictate decisions via traditional advertising at the top of the funnel, buyers now place value on their own research and evaluation. After all, products are a dime a dozen and time is scarce—they want a reason to invest.
So, what is content commerce?
In this hunt for information first, commercials later mindset sits content commerce. More simply, it’s the selling of goods through content publishing. Let’s dig into what content commerce is by better understanding the angles of content-driven commerce and commerce-driven content.
This is Content-Driven Commerce
To better understand content commerce as a whole, it’s necessary to draw a line between content-driven commerce and commerce-driven content.
Content-driven commerce is essentially just that. It’s an investment on behalf of a brand to build upon brand narrative as a means of driving consumer interest and conversion.
Additionally, it’s a tactic that better aims to connect with audiences on subject matters they truly care about—inevitably feeding long-term affinity. For example, take Airbnb’s launch of Airbnbmag.
Rather than blindly pushing an editorial plan based on their own wants every month, their team relies on digital insights to drive the project. They look to user search trends on the Airbnb platform to inform subject matter. From established intent, it’s content they’re turning to drive future searches and in turn, sales.
The Footprint Chronicles from clothing retailer Patagonia is another prime example of content commerce—or more specifically, content-driven commerce—in action. Further showcasing their commitment to both the importance of exploration and environmental and social responsibility, this interactive portal on their website is driven by content that explores global issues of production.
This is Commerce-Driven Content
On the flipside is this idea of commerce-driven content. The focus here turns to publishers that are now integrating product-selling alongside information or as Styla writes, “blending commerce into content.”
The way publishers go about this is two-fold. They might go the route of affiliate and influencer marketing. Or they may, in fact, launch/co-brand physical products of their own.
In terms of the former, consider a publisher like Cosmopolitan, popular for all things women’s fashion, beauty and lifestyle. Alongside their editorial content, they’ve inserted shopping links to affiliate partners. See: “10 Pretty Perfume Gift Sets That Make the Best Presents.”
Alternatively, the New York Times now has a team of consumer marketing and retention experts aiding them in reaching 10 million subscribers. This has led to the relaunching of The New York Times Store, featuring Times-branded and inspired physical products for purchase.
Refinery29 is an American digital media and entertainment company, which uses a similar strategy. The Shop section of their website offers products and curated collections for readers to browse and purchase in affiliation with their publication.
The moral of this definition story is that companies have become free to defy labels and rewrite the ways in which they reach consumers via content and commerce.