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Our 5 Favorite Holiday Gift Guides of 2016—And What They Did Right

Our 5 Favorite Holiday Gift Guides of 2016—And What They Did Right

The sugar high of Halloween has not yet begun, let alone dissipated, and yet the holiday season is upon us ladies and gentlemen. Black Friday articles are up earlier than ever and holiday gift guides in October don’t so much as raise an eyebrow. This is our reality and it’s time to make the most of it. As you scramble to throw together the gift guide of the century, check out 5 ridiculously cool gift guides that graced our presence in 2016—and what we loved about them— picked by your very own StackCommerce Content Team.

Katy’s Picks:

The Verge Holiday Gift Guide 2016

Holiday Gift Guide from The Verge
Credit: The Verge

Why I Loved It:

Apart from the fact that this guide is freaking amazing to look at, The Verge delivered a welcome departure from the typical persona-driven gift guide formula. Rather than breaking up gifts according to the usual suspects (e.g. Gifts for Soccer Moms, Gifts for the Man Cave, Gifts for Besties, etc.), they focused in on where and when a gift might actually be used. Interesting, right?

Friends with a bunch of homebodies? Buy them something to use at home. Shopping for coworkers? You might (choose to) know absolutely nothing about them, but you’re positive they come to work every day. Buy them something to use at work!

By taking the road less followed, The Verge’s guide becomes not just another gift guide, but a totally fresh resource for shopping the season.

Refinery29 Gift Curator

Refinery29 Gift Guide
Credit: Refinery29

Why I Loved It:

There are two universal truths we can all agree on: holiday shopping sucks and people don’t read. Agreed? Great. Refinery29 took that to heart and made a unique gift guide experience that renders both those things insignificant.

Firstly, their interactive gift guide handholds you through the gifting process like a “Which Friends Character Are You” Buzzfeed quiz. It’s pleasant, engaging, and best of all, easy. Once you graduate from the questionnaire phase, you’ll land on a clear list of gifting options, curated specifically for your shopping list. The large, clear on-white imagery and single sentence descriptions are just simple enough to work. Thank you Refinery29, for the gift of easy gifting.

Nick’s Picks

CNET’s Holiday Gift Guide 2016

CNET Holiday Gift Guide
Credit: CNET

Why I Loved It:

They say content is king, and CNET takes that idiom to heart with this gift guide. Their content-driven guide adds one more wall before getting a customer on an actual sale page, but it also invites them to browse a much larger inventory, while still catering to their personal preferences. Better yet, if you really do just want to scan products rather than read a full post, CNET provides a “Gifts” button that opens the article’s featured deals in a slideshow format for you to preview without leaving the main Buyer’s Guide page.

You could very easily fall down the shopping rabbit hole in the CNET Buyer’s Guide, and that’s exactly how you want a gift guide to be.

Consumer Reports

Gift Guide
Credit: Consumer Reports

Why I Loved It

Unlike CNET, CR opts for a far more basic design which befits their no-frills style throughout the rest of the year. While it’s a basic guide, it makes a lot of sense. They have a smart, quick intro to the Gift Guide that reminds the reader that their entire M.O. is to “buy and test all year long, so we can tell you which excel in performance, safety, efficiency, and value.” In a hot second, they’ve reaffirmed why you want to look at this guide—they’re true authorities.

Their categories are exceedingly general and don’t always lead to productive commerce articles (See: the entire Food & Drink section) but it’s easy to peruse and maintains a friendly tone that doesn’t try to force sales down your gullet.

The New York Times

The New York Times Gift Guide
Credit: The New York Times

Why I Loved It
There are things to love and things to hate about this gift guide. On the one hand, I can’t stop clicking refresh to see the gorgeous multimedia page descend from the snowy heavens into an interactive urban cityscape of clickable gift buckets. It’s an undeniable attractive main page, and while the animations on some of the headings draw your eye, there are too many “Where’s Waldo” elements. If you can find the “Tech” bucket in less than six seconds I applaud you. “Experience” is even cut off at the bottom in such a blatant QA whiff that it cheapens the whole page just a tad.

However, click into any of these buckets and you’ve got a beautiful outlay of just straight PRODUCTS. Each page is extremely friendly to browsing—especially on mobile—with simple product images on white and quick 1-2 sentence descriptions of the product with a subtle, yet still unmissable CTA.

It’s mildly irritating to have to go through the special animation each time you want to review the buckets again, but at least it keeps you in the holiday spirit. The main page may suffer slightly from over-design, but each bucket is practically and purposefully put together for easy browsing, with smart, curated picks leading the lists.

 

Introducing Brand Studio: Native Commerce Content Creation at Scale

Introducing Brand Studio: Native Commerce Content Creation at Scale

We’re proud to announce the launch of our in-house Brand Studio, the only fully-outsourced commerce content creation service on the market! We’ve worked with hundreds of publishers and media companies over the years, and found one universal challenge across the board: lack of editorial resources.

Yes, great writers and editors don’t grow on trees (and aren’t free). And while more and more publishers are finding groundbreaking success with native commerce, they continue to struggle when it comes to devoting editorial resources to commerce-related content creation. That’s where Brand Studio comes in.

Scalability Meets Versatility

Established to create quality editorial and video content at scale, Brand Studio delivers an average 5x return and has already helped publisher partners double their number of revenue generating commerce posts per week.

To date, Brand Studio has developed more than 6,000 original pieces of written and video content for over 40 partners including The Next Web, Popular Science and Gothamist. In order to support the growing demand, we’ve added a total of 20 talented writers, editors, and video specialists to the team. This passionate team of content creators has produced a wide array of content ranging from timely, snackable pieces to SEO-friendly evergreen content.

The Continued Rise of Commerce Content

BI Intelligence predicts that native content will be the fastest growing segment of the native ad market over the next 5 years. Yet despite this growth, many publishers lack the in-house resources to develop new native content on a daily basis. We’re thrilled to be able to address this gap by offering quality, engaging and fully-native articles and videos in a cost-efficient manner — and at scale.

We’ve seen first-hand the success of native content, which converts 50% better across our network than other distribution channels. We’ve also seen that partners that post commerce articles five to seven times per week earn on average 2.5x more revenue than those that post only infrequently or not at all. There’s huge opportunity here, and we’re committed to providing our partners with the required resources.

Native Content & Digg

For example, popular news aggregator, Digg, partnered with us for over a year before incorporating native content into their commerce strategy. The addition of engaging, topical commerce content via the Brand Studio resulted in a 40% boost in Digg’s conversion rate without leveraging internal editorial resources for content production.

“StackCommerce provides us with a seamless and scalable solution for producing commerce-focused editorial pieces with its Brand Studio. We’re happy to see Digg’s audience responding positively to the content.” noted Avery Driggers, Content Strategist and Commerce Lead at Digg.

Our own VP of Business Development, Ben Gafni, considers the launch of Brand Studio as a sign of maturation in the rapidly expanding commerce market, serving as a differentiator for StackCommerce moving forward.

“With the development of the Brand Studio, we’ve enabled a never-before tapped source of commerce for our publishers,” said Gafni.  “Our content team is able to creatively tell a brand story in a voice that is unique to each publisher, seamlessly adding value to their unique reader’s experience. While options like Skimlinks and Amazon Affiliates can be time-consuming, we are making commerce easy for publishers.”

Read the full press release here and reach out to your Account Manager for more information.

StackCommerce Hack Day Spring 2017

StackCommerce Hack Day Spring 2017

As company traditions go, Hack Day is one of the most beloved events of the year here at StackCommerce. Last week, for the sixth time, we left our daily tasks behind, turned off (or down) our inboxes, loaded up on company-provided grub, and spent the day thinking big and thinking boldly about native commerce.

As with any startup, innovation is our bread-and-butter, and Hack Day is the perfect day to remind ourselves that no idea is too out-of-the-box if it helps our publishers and brands in new and exciting ways. Read on to explore this year’s highlights and look out for some of these features coming to fruition in the coming months (if they haven’t already)!

#1 All-About-The-Customer Hack

What happens when members of our supply chain, design, and customer support teams get together? They develop amazingly thoughtful ways to turn around less than ideal customer experiences. Operation ‘Customer Win-Back’ includes fun incentives like surprise gifts and special (free) e-learning bundles designed to soothe the frustration of unavoidable shipping delays and product issues. Because as we say: happy customers, happy Stack.

coding

#2 ‘Your Wish Is Our Command’ Sales Hack

At StackCommerce, curation is king. We excel at matching our publisher partners with products that their readers will actually like. But in typical Stack fashion, we believe we can always do better. Some of our rockstar Sales reps came together and built a system that would tell them exactly what products our partner audiences are talking about. By swiftly scanning the comments sections and most-viewed articles, we can better serve our partners with great deals on extremely relevant products.

group

#3 Efficiency Hack

One unique aspect of working with StackCommerce is our ability to enhance our partners’ earnings with paid advertising. Known as Amplify and Momentum, these programs help our publishers and brands capitalize on high-converting commerce posts and videos with strategic spend and top-notch management. Together, the best minds in marketing, business development, and data science were able to hack together a tool that sets up paid campaigns faster than ever. Efficiency for us equals more money for our partners. Win, win.

sarah

#4 Storytelling-in-Action: Hack Day Winner!

Let’s face it. Facebook is the new front door to the internet and this fact has huge ramifications for online publishers and advertisers. Native Social Video is a new product at StackCommerce and allows our publisher partners to use Facebook video to generate incremental revenue streams outside of homepage traffic. This year’s Hack Day winner spent the day simplifying the video request process and recruiting the best social video editing talent in the game. The future is video, and this year’s Hack Day echoed that sentiment loud and clear.

Case Story: Rosetta Stone Tackles A New Market with Native Commerce

Case Story: Rosetta Stone Tackles A New Market with Native Commerce

Native commerce offers brands of all sizes an amazing opportunity to grow revenues, enter new markets, and of course, gain invaluable brand equity. Although we often tout the success of niche brands working with our platform, we’ve also seen first-hand the significant role native commerce can play for large national brands like Rosetta Stone. Today, we’re here to share that story.

You’re most likely no stranger to the fact that Rosetta Stone is a household name when it comes to learning new languages in the digital age. But long before the mobile revolution, Rosetta Stone got its start selling CD-ROM software. Eager wanderlusts and budding linguists alike dove into hours of innovative learning lessons that looked unlike any high school Spanish class, and Rosetta Stone quickly became America’s leading language learning software.

The Digital Age Challenge  

As technology quickly evolved, once cutting-edge CD-ROMs became less and less relevant and Rosetta Stone adapted by offering its digital experience via the cloud. As with any drastic product change, this posed the massive challenge of getting their message out to a totally new, younger, and mobile-centric audience. And with shipping challenges eliminated, there was a fantastic opportunity to break into the international market.

Rosetta Stone partnered with StackCommerce with hopes of tackling these challenges through exposure across our vast publisher network. The first step was constructing a robust marketing strategy that spoke to both Rosetta Stone’s core brand message and the wide array of publisher audiences that would be engaging with the content.

By taking into account demographic, interests, and price point, StackCommerce targeted readers who would connect to the Rosetta Stone story, but may not have fit the profile of the typical Rosetta Stone customer.

The Power of Native Commerce Distribution

From Boing Boing to The Daily Dot to Gothamist, publishers from across the network posted a total of over 65 pieces of written native content based around Rosetta Stone, allowing them to successfully reach their targeted demographics in a natural way. Apart from the obvious brand exposure element, the campaign resulted in over 1,200 units sold and 96,000 sessions on their deal page across over 175 white-labeled publisher shops.

“We are delighted to be partnering with StackCommerce as they’ve been able to successfully help us reach a totally different customer, one who might not have looked for us in our traditional channels. The opportunities with StackCommerce not only helped us enter new markets, but enter new markets faster,” noted Mike Fishaw, North American Director of Sales.

For national brands like Rosetta Stone, the native commerce model aligns perfectly with lofty expansion goals and product launches — proving that sometimes impressive gains come from looking outside the comfort zone of traditional marketing channels. Sharing authentic, engaging brand content across publishers that people know and trust is a great place to start.

Introducing Native Social Video for Monetizing Your Social Channels

Introducing Native Social Video for Monetizing Your Social Channels

In today’s digital world, monetizing your audience takes more than focusing on the readers that hit your homepage. With more and more publisher traffic originating from social media sites like Facebook, there’s a clear need for fresh, innovative strategies. That’s why we’re excited to announce our Native Social Video offering, which allows our publisher partners to utilize social media traffic to build a new, video-based revenue stream.

During its first few months in beta, Native Social Video content generated over 100 million views, 500,000 shares, 400,000  likes, and more than $1M in gross sales — clear signs that there is high demand for snackable videos featuring engaging products.

By creating these videos at scale, we’ve successfully helped partners with large Facebook followings that historically struggled to directly monetize their rapidly growing social audiences. By utilizing our platform in addition to their own audience insights to drive on-site impressions and purchases via social video, Native Social Video’s launch partners have seen video commerce increase their total commerce-related revenue over 20%. Users have purchased over 30,000 products as direct result.

“Fresh monetization solutions are critical for the future of publishing, and digital publishers need to be open to utilizing e-commerce in completely new ways” said Ben Gafni, VP of Business Development. “Driving revenue through social commerce — in particular, the way we’re doing so through video — is poised to be a huge trend for publishers in 2017. By creating engaging product videos specifically for social, we’re helping publishers to monetize an increasingly mobile, and ad-averse, readership.”

We’re rapidly rolling out social video commerce across our network. To read more, see our official press release.

Stack Chat: CEO Josh Payne Talks Native Commerce on The Makegood

Stack Chat: CEO Josh Payne Talks Native Commerce on The Makegood

We’re thrilled to be included in The Makegood’s ‘People of Ad Tech’ series! In this segment, our CEO and founder Josh Payne explained the importance of ‘native’ as an essential component of the modern digital publisher’s monetization toolkit. Check out the full interview below:

People of Ad Tech: StackCommerce CEO Josh Payne from Tom Hespos on Vimeo.