Publishers have observed declining advertising revenues over the past few years, which intensified during the covid-19 pandemic. Publishers have no choice but to look for other revenue streams. For some publishers, digital advertising, subscription-based models, and e-commerce have worked best as alternative revenue streams. However, eCommerce has seen tremendous growth in recent years, especially during the pandemic. As most of the world announced strict lockdowns during the pandemic, even non-tech customers had to move towards eCommerce to make their purchases. According to statistics, the eCommerce industry observed $4.9 trillion in retail sales in 2021, which is expected to reach $7.4 trillion by 2025.
Some publishers saw the potential early on and invested in e-commerce even before the pandemic hit. The New York Times, The Economist, BuzzFeed, and Penguin UK are among the ones who have initiated their e-commerce and digital revenue efforts. ECommerce offers two income streams for publishers; one is through publishing eBooks, and the other is by selling merch. The Economist has invested both in eBooks and merch, while Penguin UK has invested in eBook publishing only.
As publishers already have a loyal audience that reads their printed content, they can capitalize on it when launching an eBook. They can publish it through their website, Amazon kindle, or a third-party digital book printing service. While large publishers can use any of the methods mentioned above, digital book printing and self-publishing platforms are best for individual content creators. These are not cost-effective but take off all the hassle from the content creators.
As more and more publishers recognize the importance of eCommerce, it is becoming increasingly important to follow the latest trends in the eCommerce industry. Here’s a list of the latest trends that publishers should watch at all times:
Do you remember the early days of e-commerce? It was so difficult to make a purchase back then. You had to go through several steps to complete a purchase. Fortunately, the emergence of new technologies has made shopping online easier. Now you can purchase anything online without much effort. However, both retailers and publishers are still focusing on reducing friction in online purchases. That means they are working to create a seamless purchase process that includes as fewer steps as possible. It not only increases the conversion rate but reduces customer frustration as well.
The pandemic is one of the reasons why retailers and publishers are trying to create a friction-free experience for customers. As more non-tech-savvy people started online purchases during the pandemic, eCommerce companies had to make the process as easier as possible. And for eCommerce to remain viable, retailers and publishers must make it even easier.
In the past few years, many retailers have seen tremendous growth in their sales through social media channels. Social media sales accounted for $89.4 billion in 2020, which is expected to reach $2,900 billion by 2026. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are among the best social media channels for selling products and services online. According to Statistics, 87% of shoppers search for products on Facebook and Instagram. Most publishers maintain brand pages or shops on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, which they use to market their products and services. As many buyers use social media, this is a trend that publishers can't ignore.
Video commerce is yet another strategy for creating a seamless customer experience. Advancements in technology have enabled us to embed the purchase link of an endorsed product in the advertisement video. So, customers can purchase the product directly. ECommerce giant Amazon is also testing a feature where clicking on IMDB video ads would bring the customers to the merchant page. The customers can purchase the product from there.
Both publishers and retailers can use video commerce to increase their page views and sales conversions. Publishers can make marketing videos of their products, embed the purchase link, and then share them on social media. Customers can click on the links to visit the publishers' websites to purchase the endorsed product.
Similar to video commerce, shoppable content is also the latest trend in the e-commerce industry. In partnership with Phuzion Media, print publishing giant Bauer Media has made the content of its magazines' shoppable. With the latest imaging technology developed by Phuzion Media, customers can purchase products using mobile image recognition. A simple photo of a traditional printed magazine page becomes a place to jumpstart an online journey. This breakthrough technology has opened new horizons for print media, diminishing the need for QR codes.
Another example of shoppable content can be seen in NBC Universal's move towards shoppable TV service. QR codes are at the core of their shoppable TV service. Viewers can purchase a product during a show or an ad break by scanning the QR code shown on the screen.
Both retailers and publishers are constantly finding new methods of payment. Paying through bank transfers and credit cards is old school now. Some have even tried accepting payments in the form of cryptocurrency or through buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) schemes. Buy Now, Pay Later is short-term financing where consumers can pay in easy quarterly installments. Shopify, PayPal, and Mastercard are among the companies offering BNPL services to customers. Some retailers are also moving towards BNPL offerings for their customers. Another eCommerce company POPSUGAR experimented with a text-to-buy service. The company started sending text messages every week to its subscribers, informing them about new offerings. These are less common trends; however, they are important ones for the future.
Although live shopping has been around for a few years, it has only become a hot trend recently. Facebook, Amazon Live, and Instagram are popular apps for making purchases on live streams. In 2019, China reported that 37% of online shoppers made purchases on live streams, and they are expecting it to grow even further in the coming years.
Both publishers and retailers need to follow live shopping trends to make eCommerce a viable part of their revenue stream. Buzzfeed is among the first ones to host live streams for selling products. In Fact, the company hosted over 50 live streams on Amazon Live in 2021.
With the advertisement revenue declining year-over-year, publishing companies have realized that they have to look for alternative revenue streams. eCommerce is one of the top alternative revenue streams for publishers. Some popular trends that publishers should watch closely include creating a seamless customer purchase experience, using social media to increase sales, finding new methods for accepting payments, live stream shopping, and shoppable content. Publishers need to watch these trends and capitalize on their potential to improve their revenue streams and increase their profit margins.