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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.

How to Create Compelling Commerce Content for Mother’s Day (No Matter Your Audience)

How to Create Compelling Commerce Content for Mother’s Day (No Matter Your Audience)

Mother’s Day is around the corner, which means shoppers are scrambling to not disappoint come May 14th. Whether you write commerce content for a tech publication or a female lifestyle blog, you should be using the holiday as an opportunity to cash in with native commerce.

Afterall, tech enthusiasts need to shop for Mother’s Day, too. So why not shop on the sites they read every day? Plus, Mother’s Day is the third largest retail holiday in the US, and also seemingly comes out of nowhere (wasn’t it just Valentine’s Day?). Help your readers out and share some awesome gift deals with these four tips:

Stress the Discount

Prices on everything from flowers to chocolate are notoriously inflated for Mother’s Day, and consumers are not ignorant to this fact. Write about amazing discounts (like this one) and help your readers get through the month without getting ripped off.

Think Out-Of-The-Box

Practically every mother enjoys fresh cut flowers, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy a GoPro or new headphones more. It’s 2017 – let’s not pretend that every mother has the same taste. Help your readers come up with some truly unique gifts that his or her mom will actually enjoy. As they say “it’s the thought that counts, but great gifts count for a whole lot more”. Nobody actually says that, but you get the point.

Target (Or Help Out, Rather) Procrastinators

Mother’s Day tends to sneak up on us, and this leaves many people scouring the grocery store for the last bouquet of flowers. Help your readers out with some great last minute gift options for moms near or far. Ideas likes wine subscription boxes, local flower delivery or a subscription to a service like Audible can be great, last-minute options.

Stay Mindful with Your Commerce Content

Rule number one for creating commerce content for Mother’s Day is remembering that every family is different. Don’t be quick to make assumptions about the reader. Chances are there is a mother, whether it be a wife, sister, friend, etc., in the reader’s life, but it may not be in the traditional sense. Holidays bring up emotions – so be sensitive with your language.

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.

3 Ways for Brands to Get the Most Out of Native Commerce

3 Ways for Brands to Get the Most Out of Native Commerce

The elusive black box of marketing plagues brands of all shapes and sizes. No one enjoys spending money on advertising and customer acquisition without knowing the ROI ahead of time. Yet, many agencies require steep introduction fees to establish relationships.

That’s what makes working with StackCommerce so unique. Whether your brand is new-to-market or well-established, you’ll have your choice of multiple pay-for-play solutions for customer acquisition, brand awareness, and revenue growth without paying upfront fees.

Here are some of the ways your brand can quickly expand its digital reach:

#1 Advertorial Content, Exclusive Offers & The Art of Storytelling

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It’s no secret that entering the native advertising playground can be extremely pricey. In fact, digital advertisers are forecasted to spend $28.2 billion on native advertising by 2018 according to eMarketer. However, unlike traditional native ad or sponsored content media buying, StackCommerce allows brands to get maximum brand exposure without any of the upfront costs.

With consultation from our merchandising team, our brand partners curate promotions or CPA offers that are exclusive and newsworthy, giving our network of publishers an opportunity to design authentic content that engages their readers. These brand stories are specifically created to add rather than distract from the reader’s’ experience. The result? The publisher, the reader, and the brand win.

While exposure on publishers like AOL, Gothamist, Digg, and The Daily Dot can often be purchased on a CPM basis, we offer this to brands free of charge as part of our structured promotion. The benefits of brand exposure are obvious for new-to-market brands, but even well-established brands can utilize StackCommerce’s content creation abilities to strategically enter new markets and reach new audiences.

For example, leading national language software company Rosetta Stone used StackCommerce’s platform to break into a new younger and mobile-centric market. With over 65 editorial pieces published across the network and over 96,000 eyes on their product, Rosetta Stone successfully created a presence amongst a brand new audience through engaging content. “We are delighted to be partnering with StackCommerce as they help us reach a different customer, who might not have looked for us in our traditional channels,” noted Mike Fishaw, North American Director of Sales.

#2 Handcrafted, Custom Email Placement

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Email placement is another great way to accelerate your brand exposure. Featuring your brand’s logo, image, or full product line in a dedicated email send is one option available to all brand partners. Our in-house creative team is available to create custom emails to showcase your brand or product line specifically for your targeted market. We segment our email list of over 3 million subscribers to deliver increased value and drive engagement. We always tailor our sends to be 100% unique, and customized quotes are available upon request.

#3 Accelerated Dollar-for-Dollar Ad Spend Matching

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We’ve discussed the power of native content when posted by influential online publishers, but what happens next? Does the content simply disappear forever? StackCommerce’s Amplify program allows brands to double down on their content strategy by attracting more eyes to their brand via social media. The Amplify program is consistent with our commitment to eliminate the black box of unknown fees and unclear ROI. Matching ad spend dollar-for-dollar, we are able to scale targeted, strategic Facebook Ad Campaigns with up to 6x return on ad spend (ROAS). With innovative methods to  showcase content as ads, we are blazing a path for social commerce at scale.

Before we even pitch our brand partners on the Amplify program, we put our money where our mouth is and build a proof of concept ourselves. StackCommerce takes on the full risk during an initial trial period, meaning we only offer this program to a select few brand partners who have already been shown to benefit concretely with actual data. With agency to generate custom, flexible solutions, we are able to drive value and deliver results, without compromising brand integrity.

StackCommerce Monthly Update: January 2017

StackCommerce Monthly Update: January 2017

There’s no question that 2016 was a great year at StackCommerce. We’ve gone from pioneers, forging a new path for publishers and brands in native commerce, to key players in an established and growing monetization category.

Over the past year, we’ve empowered brands of all sizes to expand their reach, enter new markets, and surpass their revenue goals. Collectively, our brand partners sold over 870,000 units and were featured in over 6,000 pieces of editorial across the web.

Our network of publisher partners saw 41% year over year growth in 2016, earning higher earnings from native commerce than ever before. And we were thrilled to have welcomed over 1.1 million new users to our community in the past year alone.

So what does 2017 have in store? We’re only 13 days into the new year and already making huge strides towards our aggressive goals. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Introducing….Apple Pay

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It’s been 6 weeks since we enabled Apple Pay on the StackCommerce network, and the results have surpassed expectations. We’re committed to providing our partners with the latest e-commerce technologies, and Apple Pay was high on our list of priorities. So far…

– 10% of all iOS users pay with Apple Pay

– 5,000+ total transactions executed with Apple Pay

Just Launched: Loyalty Program

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One of our primary goals for 2017 is to increase AOV (average order value) for all publisher partners. Our brand new Loyalty Program was created and deployed with exactly that in mind.

By incentivizing customers to spend more by offering credit back in return, we’re working to not only increase AOV, but improve the likelihood of return purchases. One of the advantages of native commerce is that it enables publishers to gain the lifetime value of a customer, and the Loyalty Program is one more way in which we’re helping publishers do just that.

We’re Growing: Support Team!

With more and more users joining our community daily, we’re investing even further in the care of our customers. That’s why over the past month, we’ve added 6 more members to our Support Hero team. Our customers are already reaping the benefits with faster response times, streamlined resolutions, and higher overall satisfaction ratings.

We’re committed to the continued improvement of our support efforts in 2017, as we strive to make sure every purchaser across our network is left with a positive experience.