has been experimenting with a social layer on top of its growing commerce operation. The results point to the potential for social media to increase conversion rates in online stores.
Earlier this year, F+W teamed up with social commerce provider TurnTo
to integrate a social widget into two of its online stores, the North Light Shop
and the Writer's Digest Shop
. When clicking on a side tab that says “friends,” the widget expands to allow shoppers to sign in and see which of their Facebook friends are shopping in the store.
“It's basically merchandising with a social wrapper,” explained George Eberstadt, CEO and founder of TurnTo. “We’re trying to give a little bit of that sense of buzz that you get from being in a crowded store.”
When purchasing, shoppers are asked for permission to share the information with their friends shopping in the same store; the opt-in rate is about 15 percent, Eberstadt said. TurnTo also powers the ability for people to share what they just purchased back to Facebook friends, which receives a smaller number of takers.
While those who actually use the widget make up a small percentage (7 percent in October), the feature demonstrates the potential to help publishers increase conversation rates. In November (which F+W reported as the largest month its had for e-commerce), shoppers who interacted with the TurnTo widget converted at a rate roughly four times higher than the baseline.
TurnTo's next step is to add a Q&A product to the sites, which will connect shoppers not just to friends but to other customers who have bought the product they're interested in.
F+W's growing commerce strategy
The TurnTo widget is only one aspect of F+W's community-driven commerce strategy. Chad Phelps, executive vice president of eMedia at F+W
, said engaging on Facebook and Twitter also plays a role. “First and foremost, our social commerce strategy is to be a member of the community,” he said.
The company's 22 online stores provide the opportunity to bundle content plus product. For instance, a consumer can read a piece of content about watercolor and then buy the supplies to execute watercolor. “What we really envision ourselves is a one-stop shop for enthusiasts,” Phelps said. “We really believe in that mantra of content-community-commerce.”
F+W's model illustrates how publishers have become product providers
, attempting to integrate more commerce into their business models. Since 2008, F+W has made a big push to grow its commerce business
, managing to increase e-commerce revenues by 113 percent in 2009. This year, Phelps said they are up more than 50 percent on year-over-year revenue.
F+W wouldn't reveal the percent of total revenue e-commerce comprises, as the company excludes online circulation and online event registrations from e-media revenue, which might skew the figures, Phelps said. But commerce in general accounts for a substantial chunk: Earlier this year CEO David Nussbaum said commerce offline and online makes up close to 80 percent of total revenues (compared to advertising, which makes up about 15 percent).
No doubt thanks to holiday marketing pushes, Phelps said December will be an even better month than November for sales. The next commerce push is expanding to not just selling their own branded inventory, but including more third-party inventory. The company is investing in acquiring and selling third-party products, he said.
Phelps also envisions social commerce continuing to play a bigger role in retail, particularly in conjunction with mobile. “The social element definitely increases conversion, increases trust — particularly for a new retail establishment,” he said.