How digital magazines can bolster online sales by up to 80%

Nov 11, 2014

The future is online shopping, and what better way to inspire and inform customers than to give them a digital magazine that fronts the online store. This is how it’s done around the world. By Robyn Daly.

The Internet has become a real scratch patch for old gems. I had a giggle over one from 2007 on the future of digital magazines. It’s an interview with Marcus Grimm of NXTbook Media in the States. At the time it was pretty cutting edge, but seven years on it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come. Well, some have. The gist of Marcus’s argument was that digital magazines are worth considering if they’re an offshoot from print. PDF versions of print magazines with a bunch of videos and flash elements were his idea of a digital publishing Pavlova.

Following this vision, consumer publishers the world over are eking out sales by slapping a PDF of an entire mag into digital format and offering it at a fraction of the price. Media 24’s gone one up and is bundling digital versions of their mags and selling to consumers as a monthly subscription.

But the potential for digital publications is way beyond the PDFers. They’ve evolved into interactive extravaganzas, conceptualised and built from the get-go for the platform. And in the content marketing world there is so much opportunity for this medium I’m hopping up and down with excitement as I write this.

From an editor’s perspective, digital magazines give instant feedback because they’ve got a back-end like a treasure map. The best-in-class platforms give deep-dive metrics pointing to what content readers are actually consuming, what’s ho-hum, and what’s off the mark. There are stats on what’s being shared and to which platforms, how much time people are spending and so on. Think Google Analytics on steroids. The vagaries of a print publication reader survey with tick boxes and respondents muddling Getaway and Men’s Health magazines (yes it happens! Readers can be a very confused bunch) are gone. Online, Big Editor is watching every mouse move.

International title Tennis Tuesday was doing okay until the editors started snooping around the metrics. They used platform insights to radically improve readership from one issue to the next, simply by noticing that readers were honing in on stories about tennis players’ lives and the funny, silly things they get up to. This changed their cover strategy (leading with celeb style stories) and shifted the content bias. The results were almost instant: readership rocketed by 72,8% in just one week, interaction was boosted 250% and social shares went up 76%.

Once marketers and their content teams know what customers want, they can tie it up neatly with product.

These insights are gold in the brand world too, because once marketers and their content teams know what customers want, they can tie it up neatly with product. Have a look at iFly magazine, the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines magazine which, as its tag suggests, gives readers “reasons to travel”. And while you’re browsing the travel stories, drooling over the visuals, gratification is just a click away: see a destination you like and you can nip through to ticket sales, or hire a car for the journey.

Built-in Flash, this must cost a bomb, but from the get-go KLM reaped the rewards of the investment. Early research three issues after launch revealed it was the best marketing tool the airline had ever used to sell repeat tickets and that the click-through rate of iFly was higher than any other online campaign from KLM. The airline is still sticking with this tactic, now on its 37th issue.

In the UK, digital magazine platform hosts are riding the online shopping wave and churning out interactive, shoppable digital catalogues and magazines for brands. These are great for fashion brands and the digital look book is a biggie. If they like something, readers click on the product and they’re hooked into the shopping portal. As they browse their magazine, they can add and remove items from the basket, then check out when they’re done.

Battle-of-the-bulge retailer, Spanx, which is well known for its armory of corsetry, found that an online, shoppable catalogue bolstered sales conversion rates by 81% and gave the total order value a boost. Some issues of the Spanx catalogue have added content such as bra-fitting tips, but they are really just the online shop re-skinned. Certainly there can be a tighter connection between content and sales: Sweat Shop’s summer look book, for example, adds useful content such as how to prepare for race day or how to choose a running watch.

I’m just giving you a toe-dipping of what the digital magazine world looks like: as online shopping gathers momentum in South Africa, the next big opportunity for content marketing is around the corner.

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