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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How content companies can ring in the revenues this holiday season

October 13, 2020 | By Peggy Anne Salz, Founder and Lead Analyst – Mobile Groove @peggyanne

There’s no precedent for holiday shopping this year. It could be muted, or it could be massive. If data from the 2008 financial crisis is a guide, then holiday shopping is likely to stay the course. Back then, consumers reported they would spend 29% less for the holidays. As it turned out, retail in the U.S. dipped just 4.7% as compared to the year before.

Still, with so many variables and unknowns, we can only be sure of one outcome: This will be a holiday season unlike any other. The impact of the pandemic is profound. But mandatory lockdowns and self-isolation have accelerated a number of digital trends, including ecommerce. It has also opened opportunities for ecommerce marketplaces and mobile apps.  

Mobile must-haves

In particular, mobile shopping is set to skyrocket. App store intelligence provider App Annie estimates U.S. consumers will spend more than 1 billion hours on shopping apps on Android devices alone. That’s a 50% increase from the same time last year. App Annie is convinced this year will be the biggest year for shopping apps yet. The ecommerce explosion is good news for brands and businesses. However, content will be a critical component for companies that want to clinch the sale. In particular, they will need content that drives upper-funnel awareness and deeper-funnel engagement.

While most content companies today have a mobile app, they need to raise the bar by better integrating content into commerce. Serving the pandemic era shopper means being nimble and adaptable, 

 Today’s consumers want experiential content that brightens dreary days and drives meaningful connection. Here are two strategies content companies should consider as they prepare to be ecommerce-ready for the holidays. 

#1 Refocus your approach to mobile development

Mobile is a stage in the customer journey where content companies can make a huge impression, provided they position their media properties and assets to be a growth driver for retail businesses. Today, more than ever, that means being able to iterate your mobile app at the speed of change. 

Mobile and apps have combined to become the “the central nervous system of our connected lives,” according to App Annie’s State of Mobile 2020 report. Ease of use, convenience and personalization are driving a surge in shopping-app use and downloads. They are also factors fueling a massive increase in new shopping app releases.

The race to be app-optimized in time for the holidays is one even industry laggards can win thanks to the evolution of low-code solutions. At its core, low-code allows companies to fast-track mobile app development allowing companies to cut development time by “an average of 50%,” according to Samir Addamine, Founder and President of low-code platform provider FollowAnalytics

But it’s not enough to deliver content that supports shoppers every step of the journey. It’s critical to embrace what Addamine calls an “always-on innovation” mindset. This means relying on low-code to “surface the same experience as the website and leverage mobile capabilities such as push notification, augmented reality and geolocation.” 

Even better if the outcome is an app experience that anticipates, not just answers, shopper requirements. Because of their intimate audience understanding, and first-party data, content companies are uniquely able to deliver on this. 

Aspiring to this level of integration is a must for companies seeking to add or enhance their commerce experience. From advice and assistance based on location, to chat dialogs that infuse messaging with a personal touch, apps are evolving because they must.

The pandemic has accelerated this dynamic, creating a “forcing function” that pushes audiences to apps for all their needs. It also turns up the pressure on content companies to evolve a full-funnel strategy, powered by feature-rich apps, to meet ever-evolving customer requirements.

#2 Prepare now to enable “content-enhanced commerce”

Content companies can win big if they position themselves to deliver what I call “content-enhanced commerce” to consumers online and in-app. In this scenario, content companies do more than offer advertising space or craft native advertising. They forge partnerships and harness platforms (including their own) to deliver commerce-complementary content, relevant messaging, and riveting storytelling.

The concept of content-enhanced commerce is in its infancy. However, it draws inspiration from a mature and massively successful model: home shopping. Thanks to mobile devices, chat apps and live streaming, this reboot makes ecommerce a two-way conversation. Hosts, brands, companies and consumers connect in real-time. And that authentic engagement makes this model unstoppable.

While technology is a must, the right content clinches the sale. This means priming audiences with expert reviews, entertaining hosts, and exciting approaches to drive content and product discovery. If it sounds like heavy lifting, then consider the enormous market potential. In China alone – a mobile-focused country where shoppable live streaming got its start – sales revenues reached $63 billion in 2019.

Elsewhere in APAC, content companies are teaming up with brands and broadcasters to deliver a local and lucrative spin. Mediacorp, Singapore’s largest content creator and national media network operates a suite of TV channels, radio stations and multiple digital platforms. The company has partnered with ecommerce platform Lazada. The alliance turns shopping into a retail experience. To go one better Mediacorp plans to leverage more “immersive content marketing. That will allow people to discover products, compare prices and shop items, all while watching content.”

Is APAC an indicator of what will come next to the west? Let’s just say Asia has a first-mover advantage in what is shaping up to be the next trend in e-commerce. 

Happy holidays

Content companies need to use this unusual holiday season as an opportunity to experiment. They should test ways to infuse the shopping experience with credible content and reviews. It is important to partner with brands that understand that content is an asset. 

Content companies are in the enviable position of employing experts in any number of areas. This allows for a seamless integration between that expertise and commerce, which is far superior to the social media influencer model. 

Finally, if your content has a local focus, explore partnerships with local brands and businesses. Research shows that new audiences gravitate to companies that support local interests and enterprises. Clearly, working with local-focused companies is the best way to show your support. 

Maybe you plan to drive full-funnel engagement through your app to empower ecommerce. Or perhaps you want to enhance a shoppable live streaming experience. The precise path you take will depend on your content assets and strategy. But these pathways are sure to pay dividends and prepare you to ring in the revenues at a time when the pandemic is wreaking havoc with physical retail and driving consumers into digital at a breakneck pace. 

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