Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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Future plc: Learnings from 2021 to drive results in 2022

​​With consumer behaviour constantly changing, it’s no surprise that one of the most prominent topics among publishers right now is revenue diversification, with ecommerce taking centre stage.

Key retail events last year proved yet another outstanding success for the publishing industry; as we can see from our own data, in 2021 Future sold over $1 billion in products via ecommerce across the entire portfolio. Shoppers have increasingly turned to trusted content for guidance and look to reliable information sources as their top destinations for ideas and inspiration, a trend that translated into high rates of online purchases during last year’s peak trading season.

So, what learnings can publishers take from last year’s retail events to drive results in 2022?

What were the key outcomes from retail events in the last year?

The last year has taught us that consumers are still switched on to major retail events to seek out deals and are often prepared to spend big, so publishers shouldn’t neglect this lucrative revenue stream. Looking at Amazon Prime Day for example – even with only an eight-month gap between the two events in 2020 and 2021 – not only were there considerable increases in the usual deal-day categories in tech and games across the Future network — with sales order value (SOV) up 60% for large appliances — but gardening tools enjoyed an uplift of 104.5% in SOV, while automotive saw a 54% increase.

The same increases were seen across Black Friday, with sales up by 17% month-on-month and 19% year-on-year across Future’s Tech network in the US. This was spearheaded by an expansion of leading tech brands Tom’s Guide and TechRadar, with the former achieving a huge 81% year-on-year revenue increase driven by Black Friday deals. 

How can publishers surpass performance expectations?

While major events such as Black Friday and Prime Day present shoppers with thousands of great buying opportunities, choices can often be overwhelming. Publishers have a vital part to play in helping to streamline the purchase journey, cutting through the hype, and supporting consumers with their buying decisions. 

With the ability to collect rich first-party data and segment audiences in line with complex interests and behavioural signals, paralleled by actual purchase intent, publishers’ can deliver ads and affiliate links to audiences with the best match rates for each brand and its unique products. Alongside this, they can also produce evergreen content, update articles in real time, and last but not least, diversify their digital channels to surpass performance expectations.

One obvious evergreen focus area is buying guides, as these aren’t focused on a timely event. In demand at any time, this content is sought after by consumers eager to discover the options best suited to their unique budget and needs. Taking steps such as starting a regular guide generation schedule and introducing in-house deal experts is an effective way of ensuring publishers can consistently deliver the content consumers want, whether for sales events or not. 

Equally, however, maintaining pace with fast-moving ecommerce days is just as critical. In-the-moment understanding of what’s working and what isn’t is vital to ensure deals are accurate; and doing so involves optimising agility on multiple fronts. In-house experts should check deals every 10-20 minutes and publishers should keep a close eye on consumer purchasing trends, adjusting articles in response — a practice that will also mean the best performing products can be given standalone spotlights on websites and within editorial content. 

Implementing solutions that are similar to Future’s proprietary ecommerce technology Hawk will enable publishers to identify when items are out of stock and alerts readers to the best deals. Through our SEO authority we can share this content with readers who are searching for specific products, positioning Future’s brands as the place to find the best deals across Tech, Home, Music, Fashion, Beauty, Sports and more. This ensures retailers and consumers can cope with supply chain issues and allows brands to see which products are most in-demand so they can adjust future campaigns accordingly. 

Publishers will reap the rewards if they utilise these tactics and insights; take Future’s Homes portfolio as an example. By utilising all these techniques, the UK portfolio saw a 69.4% rise in SOV. To further expand on this vertical growth, Future has diversified its Homes and Gardens portfolio into the US. 

What opportunities can publishers tap into? 

Our peak trading survey in July last year found that consumers had accumulated almost £200bn in lockdown savings, and 70% had the same amount or more money to spend on Black Friday and 78% for Christmas, compared to 2020. 

We also saw that online was the buying destination of choice. More than half (54%) of consumers had planned to make their Black Friday purchases digitally and interest in all events remained strong. Over four-fifths (82%) said they would be the same or more engaged with Black Friday than in 2020, while 55% planned for Christmas to be their biggest celebration. But what was especially interesting was the urge to spend earlier, as more than two-fifths (42%) intended to use Black Friday as their main source of Christmas gifts. Indeed, many did shop earlier and online last year, largely driven by supply chain issues and concerns over the Omicron variant. 

Consumers tend to base ecommerce purchases on hobbies and passions; looking at specific products bought between 6th December 2021 and 7th January this year, wireless earbuds were the most popular item in the technology vertical), while gaming chairs were the best-selling product in gaming. This gives publishers an opportunity to focus content around these highly popular verticals and passion-based products this year. 

With consumer shopping habits changing at a rapid rate and the cost-of-living crisis ushering in an extended period of uncertainty, it’s even more important for publishers to provide high quality, verified, trusted information to consumers. So, developing effective strategies for the rest of the year will be reliant on a clear grasp of consumer trends. As a global multi-platform media company with a large ecommerce offering, we’re mindful of the challenging economic environment, which is why our team of editorial experts are focusing their strategies on creating and delivering the most relevant and up-to-date insights to our readers to help them navigate soaring costs. 

Elizabeth Deeming
SVP of Group at Future plc