In 2008, e-commerce was far from the buzzword status it enjoys these days. But that’s the year enthusiast publisher F+W Media launched its e-commerce business, which has now ballooned to include more than 30 digital shops serving its audience that spans from the U.S. to the U.K and beyond.

Functionality continues to be a top priority for this publisher, whose portfolio includes more than 46 magazine titles and 3,800 eBooks, and F+W is looking more and more at data and infrastructure to grow its e-commerce business. Over the past three years the company has put together a concentrated effort to expand its knowledge surrounding the F+W customer base to utilize that data to the benefit of not just its users, but the company’s product creators as well.

Driving Commerce With Data
“We collect data on the typical demographic information, but we also collect data on subscriber status, event attendance, competition entrance, online transactions, and most importantly, user behavior on our websites and in email,” says Chad Phelps, the company’s chief digital officer. “We have a repository of data that is connected to our various marketing tools, enabling us to target users on an individual level and deliver highly relevant content and products. This has proven to be a very successful strategy, increasing engagement metrics and ultimately revenue.”

Phelps says the company breaks up sites into key categories, breaking it down further into different product levels to offer a traditional online shopping experience similar to that of major retailers like Nike or Amazon. The company says that keeping the shopping experience familiar with consumers helps with conversion.

He adds the company has focused on highly curated products combined with editorial marketing, which has helped to overcome the challenge of competing in the crowded online retail space.

Enhancing Commerce With Content
“We work with our editorial teams to develop product road maps and those are really based on key indicators for each community,” says Phelps. “If we’re developing out these product roadmaps we’re not necessarily looking at specific types of products as much as we’re looking at industry trends and how to best serve those trends. From a product development standpoint, we may come up with key topics we want to focus on for the first six months of 2013 and then we’ll look within those topics and decide to develop a video workshop with it, in addition to an eBook and other downloads, for example. We look at it more as a category and we appropriately build products to meet the needs of consumers within that category.”

With that idea in mind, Phelps says print continues to serve as an important outlet for customer acquisition, engagement and retention, with magazines serving as an extension of F+W’s e-commerce strategy.

“[We’re] offering content written specifically to drive product sales, marketing targeted to our print readers, and incentives to enable online transactions,” he says. “Our print vehicles also serve as a showcase or catalog for our product portfolio.  Our subscribers are our best customers, meaning they transact more frequently than the general audience and generate a great deal more incremental revenue versus non-subscribers.”

Open source, combined with select third party platforms, has enabled F+W to rapidly expand at a low cost and support multiple vertical markets.