Hearst Magazines Drives Commerce Business, Fueling It With Customer Trust and Inspiring Content

By Hearst InSites Archives
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Despite the U.S.'s economic doldrums, the ecommerce boom among social and publisher-driven businesses that accelerated during the pandemic may still show continued gains moving forward. And Hearst Magazines has an ambitious agenda to increase its share of that revenue.

Hearst's shopping opportunities are driven by a flow between editorial and shopping experiences. And key to it all is the trust its publications have built up over the decades. "Consumers are looking for information and inspiration from brands they trust," said Todd Haskell, Senior Vice President and CMO at Hearst Magazines. "That trust leads to commerce and valuable data flows that continually fuel ongoing transactions." He noted that Hearst's authoritative brands amplify the voice of its clients -- across print, digital, video, social and experiential.

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The Hearst shopping path involves opportunities that range from the bold self-assurance of Cosmopolitan to the resourcefulness of Good Housekeeping to its fashion bible, Harper's Bazaar. For example, Harper's Bazaar offers the immersive ShopBazaar experience for women to express their individual style. Cosmopolitan has developed CosmoTrips, a new concierge service that delivers a unique opportunity for the brand's Gen Z and Millennial audience to "travel like an editor."

Hearst has also developed a Shoppable Video Ad Unit. As a brand-provided video plays, interactive hotspots appear for consumers to learn more or shop curated products. The unit is targeted across Hearst's collection of sites and runs on desktops, mobiles and tablets.

The company has also launched a Shoppable Gallery, a custom-built, commerce-driven ad unit. It runs in editorial environments relevant to specific advertisers, and it can target distinct audience segments.

Because of that growing business, Haskell noted, partnerships that are solely focused on branded content or a new ad unit are no longer the modus operandi. "We have relationships across different dimensions: content relationships, advertising relationships, commerce relationships," he said. Partnerships with all the major social media platforms are part of that. "Making it multifaceted, integrated, and holistic is key -- with data being our critical guide."

Michelle Clemente, Vice President of Product & Technology, Ad Product at Hearst, said that "a data-driven, persona-focused lens enables both customization and scale." That scale involves 65.2 million print readers (MRI Spring report), 142 million unduplicated unique site visitors (Comscore) and 256 million social followers (public records).

Yet Hearst's media brands reach each consumer in personalized ways that drive action, Clemente added. To do so, Hearst is "leaning into attributable commerce by strategically aligning with commerce-first platforms," she said. Among the partners is Instacart, allowing readers to shop their favorite recipes wherever they are inspired.

At the same time, Hearst recognizes the importance of experimentation in storytelling, including "the use of gamified units, interactive quizzes and product sampling, all of which allows for a much more personalized, tactical conversation amongst our sites, our audience and our advertising partners," Clemente explained.

Hearst is also evolving its social platforms to encourage valuable interactions related to specific advertisers, and a primary goal is to ramp up ecommerce. That goes a long way toward providing meaningful and measurable results as well as increased personalization.

On the topic of the Metaverse as a branding and commerce platform, Haskell said his team is using a "test and learn" approach to separate out the hype from what's possible for this newest form of 3D storytelling.

Today, video is the dominant ecommerce format, in particular short form live and shoppable videos that connect with different consumer personas. Both Haskell and Clemente expressed pride in Hearst's live-streaming campaigns across multiple forms of media -- offering experiences on whatever platform users prefer.

The shoppable moments range from ad units to pre-roll video that appears on Hearst-branded sites as well as client brand sites and social media. In that way the flywheel of commerce is galvanized, fed by the incisive power of data and compelling momentum of storytelling.

As Hearst considers options related to strategic partnerships and technological innovation, it remains focused on delivering exceptional customer experiences. By adopting a customer-centric approach and harnessing data, Hearst intends to publish an ever-increasing number of campaigns for brands and retailers across the purchase journey and industry categories.

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