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Launching (and Maintaining) a Successful E-Commerce Platform

How publishers are creating and managing their digital retail operations.



By Stefanie Botelho
12/07/2011

As the e-commerce craze gets hotter, publishers looking to get into the game are faced with many questions. Some of these include how the business model of the e-commerce operation will operate; how it integrates seamlessly into editorial while avoiding advertising influence; and perhaps most importantly, what platform the e-commerce operation will live on.

E-Commerce Platform Partners

At Dwell Media, president Michela O’Connor Abrams said her team had been looking at a full-blown e-commerce service for some time. “Studying for the last couple of years what we should do, and how we should do it, led us to the belief that we needed to have our own branded store that was contextualized.”

That research culminated in a branded store partnership with OpenSky, an e-commerce site offering products curated by celebrities, well-known chefs and now, media companies. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia also recently signed on to OpenSky, officially launching on November 28.

O’Connor Abrams says the Dwell storefront “was closely and carefully created together. The template is theirs, while treatments like colors and fonts were up to Dwell. We chose the [retailing] items, we told them what brands are authentic to Dwell and had ongoing discussions with their buying team to properly represent Dwell.”

The storefront exists on opensky.com, and is also linked to dwell.com.

When Hearst Magazines moved to launch an e-commerce offering for Esquire, the publisher tapped J.C. Penney as a partner in the endeavor. Of this decision, Esquire editor-in-chief David Granger says, “Esquire has been exploring commerce options for more than two years and the J.C. Penney opportunity—which is part of a larger corporate deal created by the CEOs of Hearst and J.C. Penney—offered us more creative input than any of the other options we explored.”

CLAD is the result of this synergy. Built by Gorilla Commerce, CLAD was ready for operation on the Magento platform after six weeks of development. Transactions are processed through PaymentTech, and data collection and traffic monitoring is managed by CLAD and Coremetrics.

Special features were of top priority during the construction of the site. CLAD president Will Swillie says, “CLAD wanted to be able to suggest ‘head to toe’ occasional wardrobe dressing through a feature called LOOKS. We also wanted to be able to showcase our partnership with Esquire and be able to align useful content through the site as well as in the DAMN GOOD ADVICE section.”

In-House Maintenance

At Contexo Media, a division of b-to-b publisher Access Intelligence (which also owns Red 7 Media, publisher of FOLIO:), its retail business for information products and software for the medical coding market is run from an in-house, CMS-based web store.

Online director Jonathan Ray recalls the struggles of Contexo’s previous CMS, “Some of the frustrations included needing to admin multiple pages within the CMS just to get a new product page live. The organization of the products in the CMS was horrible and over time made it difficult to clean up. There was also a number of ‘hacks’ we had to do just to assign a discount to a product.”

Now, in AI’s proprietary web store environment, customer security and information are more easily managed.

Customer profiles are built from basic information such as company and job function. Ray explains that the data is stored in Contexo’s server and cookies are set in the customers’ browsers, enabling a more streamlined checkout process for the next purchase.

“We’re also looking at offering a guest checkout option down the road for those who just want to buy something quickly, though we run the risk of losing the important data from our customer. We are also looking to create a more robust customer profile page,” says Ray. By improving customer pages, Contexo will be able to track product purchases, as well as community features applicable to the consumer.

Ray hopes to make the buying process simpler for customers. “The goal for all future developments is to provide a very streamlined experience for our customers, one where they can easily find products to feed their cart,” he says. “It’s also important for the customers to feel good about doing business with you. This can be improved by offering quality customer service options and tweaking your communication to develop more of a personal and less of a robotic relationship with your customers.”

By Stefanie Botelho
12/07/2011







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