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The Art of the ‘Commerce Content’ Headline

The Art of the ‘Commerce Content’ Headline

Considering the deluge of articles on social media, email, and RSS, headlines are integral to our efforts at optimizing native content for publishers. A good headline acts as an attention grabber; it humors, excites, compels, and/or shocks, promising readers a major payoff should they click through — and for publishers, a sale contributing to their revenue.

However, while best practice-type guides like this one and this one abound, resources are pretty limited for commerce content in particular. With the rise of affiliate and native commerce as essential components of most modern publishers’ monetization strategies, this topic is sure to garner more attention in the coming year. Do the same rules apply to commerce content as to traditional content? Not exactly. At StackCommerce, we’ve dug deep to determine best practices unique to commerce content, and have compiled the best of them below for anyone interested in a quick primer:

1. Shorter headlines aren’t necessarily better

Virtually every headline guide online trumpets the same rule: keep headlines as brief as possible. While we do generally aim for shorter headlines (~8-10 words each), we’ve found that many of the best performing headlines from across our partner network are on the longer side:

  • (15 words): This may be the world’s smallest camera drone, but it packs some serious flying power
  • (16 words): 3 meals from Blue Apron make a delicious last minute gift & are now over 50% off

We do approach this rule with a few caveats. Only use longer headlines if:

  • It’s absolutely needed to communicate important details about highly multifaceted deals.
  • They are written meaningfully while still reading concisely (no fluff!).
  • They are fully displayed on publishers’ sites.

For a publisher whose headlines are often truncated, best practices say to stick almost exclusively to short headlines. 

2. There is no universal headline formula for commerce content

When you’re working with publishers with vastly different audiences, like we do, headlines must be approached on a case-by-case basis. This means tailoring the voice and formatting of each so it embodies that of its publisher, and ultimately getting readers to engage and enjoy the content.

For instance, commerce content typically falls into two categories: deal-focused and story-focused. Whether a publisher may opt for one or the other in headlines really depends upon whether a publisher’s audience is simply deal hungry or prefers more informative articles:

  • Advertorial: A Complete Computer Science Education—Minus the Student Loans
  • Informative: Here’s how you can master AI and machine learning in 2017

3. Strategically frame discounts so they’re most compelling

Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it will interest readers at face value. Each deal should be analyzed individually to determine whether to highlight the percentage markdown, dollar off amount, price point, or none of the above — generally following these rules of thumb:

  • Highlight the % markdown if ~40% or more
  • OR mention markdown as a $ off amount
    • works well with ‘hundreds off‘ discounts
    • avoid under $20 off (even this is low) or $1K+ off (seems unbelievably high)
  • OR say we’re dropping the price from $X to $Y if the $ off discount is significant
  • OR mention the sale price in the context of how much the featured product usually costs

Here are some headline examples honing in on markdowns:

Typically most headlines should focus on a mixture of the discount and deal feature, but in cases where the discount isn’t at all compelling — it’s most effective to focus exclusively on the deal feature:

  • Loot Crate’s Mystery Box is a great holiday gift for your favorite gamers and geeks
  • Make your own cold brew anywhere with this portable coffee maker

Above all, commerce content should tell a story – whether it’s a discount, an interesting feature, a surprising result, etc. – every product, publisher, and moment is unique. Great commerce content is beneficial to all parties: readers discover great products on their favorite publications and publishers make the profits they need to succeed. The year ahead promises to bring to light best practices on how to navigate the complex world of affiliate and native commerce, and we will continue to share our findings to help publishers surpass their expectations and delight their readers daily.

Content Is King: 5 Incredible Stories from Our Partners in 2016

Content Is King: 5 Incredible Stories from Our Partners in 2016

2016 marked a transformative year for publisher monetization. Facebook’s algorithm shift was a lesson in ‘expecting the unexpected’, and The New York Times’ acquisition of The Wirecutter a lesson in ‘doing as the giants do’. The decline of traditional display ads continued steadily, and the rise of native advertising content accelerated above and beyond predictions.

We’re proud to be at the forefront of this evolutionary time, and excited to see what 2017 will have in store. To celebrate the end of a year marked by spectacular native content, we’re sharing 5 incredible stories from our publisher partners.

Engadget: The essential VPN buyers guide



This deep dive into VPN usage delivers an informative look at the increasing importance of these protective services. From how a VPN actually works to how to choose the right VPN for your online habits, this article successfully delivered an important message to their readers at a highly relevant moment in digital security.


The Daily Dot: Semi Automatic Rubber Band Guns



Content, of course, is not limited to words and punctuation, and the Daily Dot proved the unbridled potential for Facebook video as a medium for publisher monetization in 2016. This “snackable” video showcasing the use of a retro-style rubber band gun has drawn over 2 million views, proving one should never underestimate the appeal of an old fashion office rubber band fight. 5 reasons you shouldn’t drive without a dashcam



With an influx of dashcam footage surfacing in the mainstream media, AOL tapped into this growing trend with a piece centered around practical use cases of a dashcam. From recording fender benders in the parking lot to fighting insurance fraud, this article speaks to even the least tech-savvy of drivers.


Digg: 8 Stocking Stuffer Gifts That Do Not Suck



Digg successfully mastered the art of the listicle with its unique holiday ode to the stocking stuffer. A much needed breath of fresh air from the typical gift guide, this holiday roundup offered up Magnetic Space Putty and a Toilet Bowl Light as clever alternatives to the typical socks and dental floss.


The Huffington Post: This Wine Club Is Starting a Revolution



In 2016, President Obama raised a glass of Pezo do Rei Ribeira Sacra, instantly popularizing this Spanish wine and its region of origin. This piece from the Huffington Post touches on the importance of a wine’s story (in addition to its taste) and introduces a wine club that’s out to do just that with every delivery.

3 UX-Friendly Ways To Upsell Your Customers

3 UX-Friendly Ways To Upsell Your Customers

Upselling or cross-selling customers with relevant products is about more than boosting revenues (although it does that, too). From the user’s point of view, it’s an effortless way to see complementary products without browsing aimlessly. When done properly, upsells can truly enhance the user experience, while simultaneously increasing average order value (AOV) and generating incremental “free” money that the company or publisher would otherwise miss out on. Everyone wins, right?

Unfortunately, not always. Some e-commerce sites make a habit out of constantly shoving upsells in the user’s face, taking away from the user experience and leaving customers with a sour taste in their mouths. Successful upsells start and end with a carefully thought out product selection, but they also require a tactful UX strategy. Bypass common mistakes and read on for my top 3 methods of flawlessly implementing upsells across your site.

Product Page

Across StackCommerce’s 100+ publishers shops, users consistently spend the majority of time on product detail pages, and almost always, this is the first opportunity to provide an upsell to the user.

At this moment in the purchase lifecycle, offering a higher priced, upgraded model of the product at hand is beneficial for both user and seller. One strategy is to promote the cheaper version of a product and then provide options for the higher priced versions during the product selection process.


In the example above, the user is viewing the cheaper plan, but is also made aware that bigger discounts are available for longer subscriptions. The options are laid out clearly but not aggressively for the user, maintaining an overall positive user experience.

Shopping Cart

The shopping cart is another great place to offer upsells. A user with an item in-cart has already expressed an intent to buy, and if executed well, a cross-sell can provide a relevant addition to the user’s purchase. Buying a drone? Perhaps the user is interested in a crash pack. When testing cross-sells across the StackCommerce network, the team was shocked at the immediate success of this technique.


To date, this has been our most successful cross-sell placement, and we’re continually enhancing it with improved automated recommendation logic and updated visual layouts. 

Note: the cross-sell item remains separated from items intentionally placed in the user’s cart to distinguish it as something different. As with the upsell strategy, the cross-sell recommendation can be easily ignored by the user and does not interrupt the purchase flow. We fixed it to the bottom of the cart nearest the Checkout button for optimal visibility.

Order Confirmation Page

The order confirmation page is one of the most underutilized pages in e-commerce. It’s typically the last page a user views and generally consists of nothing but a simple receipt.

One method for monetizing your order confirmation page is by cross-selling a relevant product with a limited-time discount applied. You may be surprised at how many people are willing to immediately make a second purchase right then and there.

By applying the user’s payment method, you can create a one-click checkout flow on the order confirmation page itself. We offer a selection of relevant products at a discount across the the top of each order confirmation page, all equipped with a seamless one-click checkout solution.


Upsells and Native Commerce

Unlike typical affiliate commerce which redirects customers to a third party e-commerce site and yields a portion of the profits, native commerce branded shops allow publishers to benefit from techniques usually reserved by the e-commerce sites themselves. Upsells and cross-sells are amazing examples of this. With StackCommerce’s platform, publishers are able to seamlessly offer relevant upsells to their readers and collect on an additional incremental revenue stream as a result.

Whether you’re a publisher or e-commerce site looking for new user-friendly ways to monetize, remember that upsells and cross-sells should be implemented tastefully, carefully, and with a UX state-of-mind.

Stack Speaker Series: 5 Lessons from Omaze Co-Founder and Co-CEO Matt Pohlson

Stack Speaker Series: 5 Lessons from Omaze Co-Founder and Co-CEO Matt Pohlson

What would you give to be an extra in Star Wars: Episode VII or “blow sh*t up” with Arnold Schwarzenegger? These once in a lifetime experiences are how local LA startup Omaze raises funds and awareness for the world’s best nonprofit organizations – and we were lucky enough to spend an hour with Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Matt Pohlson.

The Stack Speaker Series is a quarterly event here at StackCommerce, during which the team has the opportunity to pick the brains of amazing leaders, innovators, and angel investors in the Silicon Beach area. Read on for the the top 5 lessons we learned while lunching with Omaze Co-CEO, Matt Pohlson:

  1. Experiment with multiple platforms

    Like many startups, Omaze didn’t find its success right out of the gate. Their first campaign with the show “Cupcake Wars” didn’t yield the proceeds they had expected. So what turned the corner? Getting the word out in the right places. Facebook, radio, video, PR: all of these platforms proved essential for growth from that point forward.

  2. Don’t underestimate the power of humor

    Infusing humor into content, whether it be campaign videos or blog posts, is a great way to increase shareability and the chances of virality. The key: make consumers want to engage with your content – it goes a long way.

  3. Don’t assume each audience is the same

    At Omaze, each campaign beckons a distinct audience and strategy. For example: if you’re running a campaign targeted at gamers, try gamifying the entry process. Running a campaign with a TV show? Put resources into video content. Know your audience and speak their language.

  4. Hire mindfully

    If even a small part of you doesn’t feel a hire is right, chances are it won’t be. When it comes to the formative years of a startup, the team is everything.

  5. Keep Learning 

    Cultivate a growth mindset. Surround yourself with advisors and continue to learn and evolve with every challenge.

5 Ways to Win This Black Friday On Email

5 Ways to Win This Black Friday On Email

Thanks to the rise of e-commerce, epic, crack-of-dawn Black Friday lines are becoming a distant memory future generations may joke about. Today, email is king on the biggest shopping day of the year and as a retailer, it’s your most efficient way to target masses of deal-hungry customers.

At StackCommerce, we execute Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns for over 100 publisher shops, and have learned invaluable lessons from reaching out to a wide variety of audience types. Last year, Black Friday marked our biggest shopping day of the year but upon reflection and after diving into the data, it is clear that we can deliver even better results for our publisher and brand partners this time around. How? Check out 5 rules we live by while preparing our Black Friday email marketing strategy.

Be prepared and plan early

Everyone knows the saying, “the early bird gets the worm,” and it rings especially true in email marketing. There is nothing worse than preparing to leave the office on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving only to realize that you didn’t plan a promotion for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Let the scrambling begin.  

That’s why it’s essential to start planning your calendar, promotions, and merchandising in advance. This allows for plenty of time to coordinate with all necessary teams, analyze previous promotions, set up campaigns, and ensure seamless execution.

Stand out from the crowd

E-commerce companies and retailers are all fighting to gain customer attention on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season. Remember, there’s a lot of noise in each and every customer inbox, and it’s your job to stand out from the crowd.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make your promotion pop, but keep your strategy simple and easy for customers to understand
  • Be aware of the competition, but don’t discount beyond what makes sense for your company
  • Create unique subject lines that won’t be overlooked by your lapsed or less-engaged customers
  • Target your customers when they’re most likely to open an email in order to hit the top of their inbox with personalized send time optimization

Grow your email list in advance

As you ramp up for the holiday season, you should also be thinking of unique ways to grow your email list. For example, try promoting a special giveaway to new audiences or partner with another company on a giveaway to expand your reach. Engaging in paid advertising across social channels like Facebook is another great way to beef up your list. Once Black Friday promotion begins, you’ll have a new, engaged audience to target.

Re-engage lapsed customers

Now is the time to win back segments of customers that have lost enthusiasm for your brand! In the months prior to Black Friday, start slowly integrating these customers back into email communications with a “win-back” series and weekly sends. This will help to protect your IP and unsubscribe rates during the holiday season.  

If you continue to see a lack of engagement from these groups leading up to Black Friday, restrict the number of sends to just major Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. The key is to not forget about this group, but keep in mind that less is more!

Recommend products your customers will love

Black Friday is the perfect time to guide customers with targeted product recommendations and shopping guides. Integrate with a product recommendation tool like Jetlore or segment your customers based on purchase history to market relevant products. In addition, we suggest you  set up an automated cart abandonment email with included product recommendations to double down on this strategy.

There’s so much detail that goes into each and every one of these tips, but the key is to keep them all in mind when launching your Black Friday strategy. Above all, be authentic to your brand and customers will continue to choose your emails and your site for their holiday shopping needs.