Publishers are the new storefront. It's therefore essential that retailers forge deeper relationships with them to tap into the full potential of content commerce.

Matt Smith

Matt Smith, managing director of ecommerce at Future PLC

The pandemic-induced surge in online buying has led to some record numbers in ecommerce sales. Black Friday, long associated with brick-and-mortar retail, quickly became a significant online shopping day, and sales grew more than 20% last year. Meanwhile, Cyber Monday 2020 was the largest U.S. ecommerce day ever.

Amazon’s Prime Day and Alibaba’s Singles Day remain substantial revenue drivers for publishers leveraging affiliate partnerships. To a lesser extent, events like Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, Presidents Day and Valentine’s Day remain big days for online orders.

If you’re an ecommerce seller or publisher, those days are circled on the calendar and planned for months in advance. There’s just one problem: we’ve named just eight days. Even under the most optimistic counts, there are 10 to 15 “tentpole” ecommerce days each year that drive big sales. These days have lost importance amid the pandemic, contributing less to retailers’ overall online revenue.

As the competition for ecommerce dollars (and associated partnership revenue) heats up, publishers and sellers can’t rely on these tentpole days alone. Thus, the key to successful content commerce revenue is evergreen sales, which publishers and sellers must work on together.


Always-on ecommerce

While advertisers continue to spend online, publishers have faced an uphill battle to control a higher percentage of each ad dollar spent. A proliferation of platforms and intermediaries has cut into revenue, forcing publishers to find alternatives.

This is one reason content commerce has grown considerably in recent years. It’s also highly profitable, delivering high margin, and through evergreen content, predictable revenue streams. Unlike ad revenue, publishers don’t have to wait for new deals to be signed the same way they wait for ad insertion orders.

On the retail side, content commerce cuts through the noise of display ads. Because editorial content that independently reviews or ranks products includes links, there’s a valuable halo attached to the recommendation. The publisher’s reputation and trust are bestowed upon the reviewed products and the recommended places to buy. Through this, content publishers send qualified customers through to retailers, and more often than not, these are new customers or new to category customers.


Activating evergreen content with publishers 

Evergreen content works well on big-spending days. However, countless “best deals for Prime Day” articles come out there every year. New products, like phones, tablets, and laptops, get heaps of coverage in the week around their launches. But what about the rest of the year? What about content that can still drive sales the months and years after it is published?

For example, an article that talks about how a smartwatch fits can be valuable for prospects who research the watch around its launch date. But that article can then continue to drive sales the next month, the next quarter, and even the next year. Evergreen commerce articles are the new storefront for retailers.

Where previously customers would walk into a store and speak to a sales assistant for advice on what to buy, they now turn to Google and expert publishers to ask the same questions, such as “what’s the best gaming laptop?” and “which mattress is best for side sleepers?” Because of that, brands and retailers must work with these publishers to ensure that your brand is front and center, enabling them to capitalize on that purchase once a recommendation appears.


Working with publishers on evergreen content doesn’t just drive revenue now. Such articles, if maintained and updated regularly, can deliver revenue for years to come.

Tips for standing out

Content commerce is a competitive space. Publishers are inundated with requests from retailers wanting to work closely with them. Here are some tips to help your brand stand out:

  • Optimize your online conversion funnel: A publishers’ primary responsibility is to provide a good user experience to their readers. When recommending products, they are putting their reputations on the line. The same goes for recommending retailers. Publishers want to work with retailers who echo their values and provide their readers with helpful and easy-to-navigate buying experiences.
  • Pay competitively: Deals that funnel website users to coupons or cashback sites won’t cut it with content publishers. Amazon and other major retailers set a high benchmark. Brands must understand that being featured alongside authoritative editorial content demands a premium.
  • Provide real-time pricing updates: Many publishers use real-time on-site price comparison tools. These tools rely on accurate and regularly updated product feeds from retailers. Having available and maintained Google Shopping Feeds (or similar) will make it easier for publishers to work with your brand.
  • Measure the customer value publishers send your way: It’s important early on to measure the value of the customers coming from content commerce. Likely, you’ll see that content commerce sites are one of your top acquisition channels. By measuring this early on, you will quickly see the value in working with content publishers, and it will make for an easy business case for further investment and higher payouts.
  • Provide additional support to publishers and look at integrated campaigns: Publishers view relationships with retailers as a partnership. Partnerships that work best involve across-the-board investments. Investments in display advertising and sponsored content alongside a traditional affiliate relationship can significantly improve brand perception and performance metrics.

Future-proofing revenue

There has perhaps never been a more critical moment to deploy evergreen ecommerce strategies. In 2022, Google’s Chrome browser will stop supporting third-party cookies, changing how advertisers deliver targeted advertising.


Meanwhile, the pandemic has accelerated ecommerce adoption, perhaps forever altering how consumers shop and forcing retailers to adjust their plans dramatically. The tentpole events are only going to get more competitive. Expecting these few days to carry the revenue each quarter is a fool’s errand. The best bet for the future of ecommerce is for sellers and publishers to work together to ensure that they are selling consistently throughout the year, bringing in a steady stream of daily sales and revenue.

Publishers are the new storefront, offering detailed and authoritative buying advice across almost every imaginable product category. It’s therefore essential that brands forge deeper relationships with publishers, partnering with them to tap into the full potential of content commerce, helping them acquire and retain new customers.

Future creates multi-media products—including magazines and websites—that reach their audiences online, via mobile devices and print. Brands include Country Life, Guitarist Marie Claire US and Marie Claire UK magazines.