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What We Learned At This Year’s Stack Company Offsite

What We Learned At This Year’s Stack Company Offsite

Here at Stack, we look forward to our annual off-site every summer. It’s a time to reflect, celebrate wins, and brainstorm how to provide the best possible experience for our partners. As we close the books on this year’s event, we’re feeling more aligned as a team than ever before. Oh, and did we mention there’s a talent show involved?

This year, we hopped over to beautiful Manhattan Beach, and were excited to have our remote employees join us for some quality face time. Read on for some of our key takeaways and highlights.

There’s no room for ego.

There’s a reason One Team is a StackCommerce core value. After listening to a dozen of our employees, from our first hire to our last, share their experiences at Stack, there was one common thread: we are one team. From mistakes to successes, we grow together and leave our egos at the door.

Focus on the solution; not the problem.

Guest Speaker Edwin Arroyave kicked off the day by sharing insights from his journey to success. One consistent theme? Don’t dwell on the problem. As a fast growing tech company, there’s no shortage of curve balls thrown our way. But by transitioning our focus to the solution, we’re forced to take action faster while cultivating a more positive work space. 

Listen More.

Our CEO and Founder, Josh, who recently welcomed his third child, shared a few insights from his time with family as well as his goals for Q4. First on his list: listening more. We’re always eager to jump into solutions here at Stack, so taking a moment to pause and lean in helps improve cross-team communication and empowers employees at every level to share their ideas.

Stack’s got talent (in and out of the office).

We’re always striving for a workplace culture that encourages balance, so we were thrilled to top off the day with an epic talent show. From singing to break dancing, we’re grateful to be part of a team that inspires us to grow personally and professionally every day.

Here’s to the best Q4 yet! 

StackCommerce Wins Digiday Technology Award for Best E-Commerce for Content Platform

StackCommerce Wins Digiday Technology Award for Best E-Commerce for Content Platform

We’re thrilled to announce that after being named a finalist for the Digiday Technology Awards, StackCommerce was chosen as a winner for Best E-Commerce for Content Platform.

The Digiday Technology Awards are especially meaningful to us, as they recognize “technology modernizing media and marketing” — a mission we pursue as a team every day. Most importantly, this award speaks to the way in which we’ve helped key publisher and media companies drive significant revenue and engagement through e-commerce.

Our commerce and content platform is unique to the industry, and all-encompassing for publishers looking to supplement their current commerce efforts or start something completely new. In short, we create and operate white-labeled e-commerce marketplaces that live as an extension of publisher sites. 

But they aren’t *just* marketplaces. Our full e-commerce solutions include shop UI, product sourcing, merchandising, logistics, creative, customer service, and more. 

Publishers also gain access to custom commerce content written by our Brand Studio team, which leads to purchases in the hosted white-labeled shops. But it’s about more than just a single purchase. We help publishers establish a long-term commerce relationship with their users, bolstered by targeted re-marketing efforts. Learn more by clicking here.

This is our second time as a finalist for a Digiday award, previously recognized for top eCommerce Strategy at the Digiday Publishing Awards, and our first time chosen as a winner. 

7 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Plan That Maximizes Results

7 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Plan That Maximizes Results

In recent years, content marketing has become the go-to strategy for generating a positive ROI. Why? It (usually) requires a modest budget, and yields significant results. But as the sheer volume of online content continues to blow up, businesses are looking for ways to find an edge with their content marketing strategies.

Don’t get us wrong: the demand for quality content remains high and the value of a lead primed for a sale insurmountable. But a robust content marketing strategy should make the most of every piece of content — heck, even every word. Check out seven steps, based on loads of my own successes and failures, to ensure you maximize results and keep readers eager to consume your output.

1. Research Your Audience

Researching your audience is a solid first step, no matter the type of marketing effort. Take a look at the type of people buying products from you. Who’s joining your email list? Reading your blog? Where do they live? How old are they? The most common way to go about this is to develop customer avatars or buyer personas. Using analytics and survey results, you can define  your typical customer — and then move onto how to attract more of them with your content.

2. Analyze What Is Working

It’s 2019. Data is everywhere. Rather than just relying on a gut feeling, look at what your competitors are currently doing. You can utilize a number of tools that will highlight the most popular content in a certain niche, for a particular keyword, or on a specific platform (this Moz, Google Trends, scraping tools, etc.). This research will often signal what content is working, while also indicating areas that don’t get high levels of engagement.

3. Build Your Content Plan

Planning ahead ensures you have a long-term schedule for content creation and distribution — and holds you accountable for hitting firm deadlines. Whether you’re working with a team or with freelancers, a content calendar will keep everyone working in sync.

4. Determine Your Primary Content Channels

With any well thought-out content plan, comes a well thought-out distribution plan. Different types of content will suit different platforms by nature, so some concepts may need to be tweaked and adapted for a particular site. You may, for example, have a concept that can be adapted for text or video and plan to distribute via YouTube and the blog. Your earlier research will also help you decide which platforms will get the best results, using factors like shares, comments, and likes to determine best practices.

5. Create the Content

While you may occasionally have a totally unique piece of content in mind, most niches have a number of broad concepts that are discussed. Thus, your approach is what will make you stand out. If you are trying to rank on Google, start by looking at the top results for your target search terms and brainstorm how to improve on the existing offerings. Search engines generally want to offer the best quality content to users, whether that involves more detail, an engaging point of view, a combination of media types, or an updated take based on current news.

6. Publish and Promote

Content marketing is most effective when you publish the right type of content, in the right place, at the right time. When you hit all three points, consumers should be easily primed to take the next step towards a sale. This requires you to develop a network for promotion, including a number of social media sites and a number of partners to promote your posts.

7. Assess Results and Optimize for Future Campaigns

Content marketing is an ongoing process, with each campaign helping to grow your data and knowledge. Have a number of goals in mind before you even start so you can consistently track results against them as you go. You may consider goals like social likes and shares, website visitors, and new leads or sales.

So why go to all the trouble to launch a content marketing strategy? Engaging potential customers with content gives them the chance to get to know your brand before purchasing, inevitably making them more likely to make that purchase. While many other forms of advertising are struggling, with online consumers reluctant to engage with ads, quality content continues to work. If you can develop a system to ensure your content is top-notch and distributed in places where people pay attention, you can expect a high ROI on your marketing spend.

Need help with your content marketing strategy? StackMedia is your solution. Find out more here.


Commerce Imagery 101: Our Unofficial Guide to Choosing Product Photos for Native Articles

Commerce Imagery 101: Our Unofficial Guide to Choosing Product Photos for Native Articles

Quick: How long do you think it took your brain to form an opinion about this webpage?

If you guessed less than two-tenths of a second, please come collect your prize. That’s according to researchers at the Missouri Institute of Science and Technology, who evaluated users’ rapid-fire first impressions and found that they’re often the determining factors in a site’s overall favorability (or lack thereof).

Let’s think about these findings in terms of commerce content. If you want your readers to stick around in the hopes of getting them to make a purchase, there needs to be something on your page that hooks them in immediately — something like a decent product image.

We could write an Odyssey-sized book on all the reasons why it’s important to prioritize strong imagery as part of your native commerce strategy: Compared to its text-only counterpart, visual content is easier for our brains to process, helps viewers better remember your message, and receives tons more views. (In the most basic sense, it’s just more interesting to look at.) But what separates a bad product image from a good one, or a good one from a great one?

We’re glad you asked. Here’s a brief primer on choosing photos for native articles that answers that question and more:

First off, what differentiates commercial versus editorial imagery?

The key distinction between the two lies in their subject matter, as well as the ways in which they treat these subjects. Visuals that have been taken for editorial purposes feature real-life people, events, or places, which are typically newsworthy. Their subjects are captured in a truthful, unbiased manner in order to tell or give context to a story.

On the flip side, commercial photos are designed to promote a business or sell something, and typically spotlight recognizable logos and brands.

So then what’s product photography?

Product photography is a subtype of commercial photography in which specific goods and services are modeled and/or demonstrated in an appealing way for the purpose of being sold. Basically, it shows customers what exactly it is they’re buying — what a product looks like, what it’s made of, how it works, etc.

What are some different kinds of product photography?

There are two main styles you need to know, the first being white background product photography. This is exactly what it sounds like: An image of a product, taken in a studio, that’s sitting or floating on a plain white background.

On-white photography

The second kind of product photography is known as a lifestyle shot, or a photo that shows a product in the context of its intended use. This type of imagery shows potential customers what they could be doing if they owned the featured product.

Lifestyle photography

Which style of product photography is better for native commerce?

Both have their pros and cons, but generally, lifestyle shots lend themselves better to native commerce. Sure, those white-background photos are clean and easy to shoot, but they look really advertorial, which sort of defeats the purpose of a native article that’s supposed to blend seamlessly with the rest of your editorial content.

How can you tell a good product image from a bad one?

No matter their style, good product visuals are always high quality (i.e, they aren’t blurry or pixelated). We’ll let eCommerce guru Gregory Beyrouti explain: “With HD images, website visitors get to see the quality and details of the product in full,” he told a product photography firm last year. “It reassures them and might convince them to make the purchase. By contrast, a low-quality image looks amateurish and makes it much harder to get conversions when your competitors are doing a better job.”

Furthermore, a good product image will always jive with a publisher’s brand. For example: If you’re a luggage company that’s promoting your newest suitcase model on Mashable, you’ll want to use a lead image that features a young, hip person using said suitcase.

Want to learn more about honing your native commerce strategy, or how you can promote your products with StackCommerce? Click here to get in touch with our team.

4 Common Mistakes Publishers Make With Native Commerce (And How to Avoid Them)

4 Common Mistakes Publishers Make With Native Commerce (And How to Avoid Them)

In a perfect world, everyone would love native commerce as much as we do — and for the most part, that’s true. (Just ask our partners!) But occasionally, this increasingly popular approach to content marketing doesn’t work as planned.

Think about it: native commerce works because it allows publishers to recommend relevant, niche products to their readers on the comfort of their favorite sites, sans disruptions. This tactic relies heavily upon the idea that a sense of trust has already been established between the brand and the reader, who looks to the former as a source of authentic endorsements. So if those product recommendations don’t effectively mingle with other content in some way or another, it simply doesn’t work.

It should come as no surprise that our modus operandi here at StackCommerce is to help you avoid such blunders so both you and your readers get the most out of your native commerce strategy. With that in mind, let’s go over four trust-eroding mistakes publishers commonly make, and how to avoid them so that your deals thrive alongside the rest of your site:

Mistake #1: Offering the reader a discount and nothing more.

Your commerce content should provide value to the reader beyond saving them money on an interesting item or service. That way, they won’t see it as a one-sided deal strictly for advertising purposes in which only the publisher benefits. Add an intriguing statistic or two, a compelling anecdote, or other useful information to your narratives to make your product recommendations just as enjoyable to read as your editorial content.

Mistake #2: Displaying your commerce content in special fonts and colors.

It might be tempting to make your commerce offerings pop with flashy formatting and whatnot, but if the content is visibly different from the flow of your site, it’s going to seem distracting. By keeping all of your content looking stylistically similar, your user experience is going to be far more seamless.

Mistake #3: Not clearly labeling your commerce content as such.

It’s a problem that’s also encountered quite frequently within the realm of sponsored content, and one that got the Kardashian-Jenners in trouble a couple years back: Failing to disclose the fact that copy is, in fact, promoting a product can be misleading and confusing to readers. (It’s also a pretty unethical choice on the publisher’s part, but you already knew that, right?) Even just a simple, one- or two-sentence disclosure before or after your posts can provide the transparency you need to maintain your credibility as a resource.

Mistake #4: Recommending products that aren’t aligned with your brand.

We touched on this briefly in our guide to Valentine’s Day commerce, but the idea applies to virtually any deal: Implementing a successful native commerce strategy starts with choosing deals that complement your brand — deals that you yourself would take advantage of. They shouldn’t seem intrusive; rather, they should be extra perks that double-down on the same perspective or mission that brought readers to your site in the first place.

Want even more tips on how to hone your approach to native commerce? Click here to find out how you can partner with StackCommerce.

We wouldn’t be here without our creator community of publishers and brands — and nothing makes us more proud than hearing of their experiences. Here are some highlights from our top partners:

“StackCommerce is a great revenue partner for us. From their quality content and product selection to their super responsive team members, working with them is a seamless and enjoyable process.” Amy Schellenbaum, Online Director of Popular Science at Bonnier Corp “StackCommerce’s Brand Studio consistently delivers quality, well-written content that speaks directly to our readers. Their full-service content solution lessens the time and manpower typically required by a commerce program, and allows us to focus our team’s efforts elsewhere.” Justin Wohl, Director of Operations at Salon.com “StackCommerce’s Brand Studio delivers consistently high quality content that both fits our editorial voice and drives meaningful revenue.” Baybars Umur, Head of Sales + Marketing at Interesting Engineering

“Rosetta Stone has partnered with Stack Commerce since 2016 on a regular basis.  We have enjoyed some spectacular results as well as seen some some “test and learn” opportunities.  We continue to work together to build promotional opportunities that work for both of us. Thanks for the business!” Andy Mead, BD Director at Rosetta Stone “We work with about a dozen partners, and Stack is our favorite! Perhaps more than any other partner, Stack lives up to that term: engages with us on a constant basis, listens to us and talks to us, helps with content ideation, getting a feel for audience tastes, and also gets us great exposure. It’s an absolute pleasure working with Stack!” Janani Ravi of Loony Corn “We are thrilled about our partnership with StackCommerce. It brought us an additional unexpectedly high revenue that revealed a new market vision for us and opened new horizons for development.” Vasiliy Ivanov, CEO at KeepSolid “StackCommerce has been an integral part of our distribution and PR strategy for Aura. Not only do they make it easy to get the word out, but they also provide a great revenue stream with minimal effort on our end.” Daniel Lee, Aura Health “StackCommerce has not only helped us to sell a lot of our Infinity Blankets, but more importantly raise awareness for the Yaasa brand. We have had many people ask for the product even months after the deal launched on Stack Commerce and continue to do so. Doing business with StackCommerce is easy and straightforward and I really enjoy the can-do mentality. We are looking forward to many more events with Stack this year.” Johannes Sauer, CEO at Yaasa Studios “When we started exploring partnering opportunities with StackCommerce in early 2016, we were skeptical to work with them. The facts and figures they presented to us seemed too good to be true, but we decided to give it a shot. Within two months they not only met the expectations they had set, but they exceeded them! More than 2 years later, our synergistic relationship is stronger than ever.” Jan of iCollege