How Content Transformed The E-Commerce Industry

“Sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more.” — Carrie Bradshaw

This famous quote by a fictional fashionista from Sex and the City is a perfect illustration of how much power fashion magazines have over people. There’s something about the surreality of the fashion world we experience through the glossy pages of a magazine that is so inexplicably alluring and more fulfilling than a three course meal.

But if you think about it, fashion magazines aren’t that fulfilling. In fact, they always leave the reader somewhat hungry. Producing a huge demand for the products displayed on their pages so beautifully and so creatively, magazines are actually incapable of satisfying that demand. Being stuck in a paper format does have its limitations, after all: you can browse but you cannot shop, you can look but you cannot touch — it’s all a teasing play.

At the same time, companies like Net-A-Porter and ASOS are investing millions of euros in creating digital magazines. The interesting point here, however, is that even though they move their content to the web, they still stick to the editorial-looking format that resembles good old fashioned print magazines. Why? Because magazines are the single best format to connect content with product, resulting in a 500% higher purchase intent compared with classic webshops (Source: AMA).

This is why there’s now an emerging new market out there that combines publishing (content) and products (commerce), called ”content commerce”. It is already 44 BLN dollars in size and it’s growing in double digits every year.

content commerce is already a 44 BLN dollar market

The brief history of content commerce

Content Commerce is often described as the future of e-commerce, but actually, the first example took place more than a decade ago — in 2005. This is when Refinery29 opened its online business based on a publishing+retailing model. Back then, however, the idea didn’t stick. Chasing both content and commerce created two completely different sets of demands. As a publisher, Refinery29 needed to focus on increasing the time spent on the website, but as a retailer, the objective was to boost sales. “The integration of content and commerce is really, really freaking hard”, admits Philippe von Borries, the co-founder of Refinery29. “You have to make a decision between ‘do I want readers to spend another two minutes on the site?’ or ‘do I want them to leave at that very moment and send them down to a checkout page that they leave as quickly as possible,” he explains. “That’s a really difficult decision that you have to make as a business owner.”

The good news is that it’s not 2005 anymore. Nowadays, technology has reached the point when it can boost sales without interrupting a continuous flow of storytelling. It’s called “shoppable content”. But even so, there aren’t many dedicated content commerce solutions for that out there — Styla is the first one on the market so far.

Styling shoppable content with Styla

A Photoshop-, inDesign- and HTML-free software, it builds an online magazine with an intergated shoppability function. From an editing point of view, Styla requres very little effort: prepare a headline, add some copy, choose a couple of images and hit the “Publish” button. Then, the engine automatically layouts the story so that it looks as if it was taken from Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite magazine. But from the user’s point of view, however, this finally means being able to read while shopping and shop while reading.

The crucial point here is that every product displayed on the virtual pages of the newly built magazine can be added to the shopping basket without interrupting the reading experience, solving the long-standing dilemma of having to choose between content and commerce.

an example of content commerce from Canterbury New Zealand, an online retail brand
The main USP of shoppable magazines is their ability to combine purchasing and reading experiences.

The result

Up to this point, e-commerce was based on a very direct type of search which required people to type in exactly what they wanted. But what if you don’t know what you want? What if you’re just on an inspirational journey and first need some gloss and entertainment before making a final decision?

The main task of content marketing is to emotionalise the process of going down the purchase funnel, and enhance people with inspiration to make a purchase. Consecutively, the main task of shoppable content is to turn that inspiration into action and drive people to actually make a purchase.

So when it comes to magazines, be it in paper or digital form, it’s not the gloss that we are really after, but the feeling of inspiration and the euphoria of discovery that we associate with it. And the fact that there’s finally a way to satisfy the demand for products based on whimsical inspiration is a truly exciting prospect for e-commerce. The big players, like the above-mentioned ASOS and Net-A-Porter, are already in the game, reinventing the rules and winning over the audience. Other brands, such as Boohoo and Grazia, have also followed suit. So, the question is — when are you joining in?

Written By

Olga Rabo is our content marketing and community manager. She is also a digital nomad and an avid storyteller with thousands of ideas about millions of things that she captures on the Styla blog. Whenever she has a spare minute, she also travels and runs a blog of her own.

  • Lyndsay

    This is fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing! Finding the right balance between content and eccomerce must be extremely difficult. I’ve always viewed them as separate things, but by combining them, I imagine you could create something very powerful. V.interesting stuff, and something I all think we’ll see more of in the future!

    • You’re absolutely right, Lyndsay – finding the perfect balance between content and commerce is a hard task, but the ROIs can be truly impressive! So in the end of the day, content commerce is definitely worth it!

      Thanks for your comment and happy content commerce’ing! 🙂

  • You’re absolutely right, Lyndsay – finding the perfect balance between content and commerce is a hard task, but the ROIs can be truly impressive! So in the end of the day, content commerce is definitely worth it!

    Thanks for your comment and happy content commerce’ing!