7½ Must-Consider Tips for B2B Publishers’ Ecommerce Business
I have heard more than one business information publisher define their digital sales as collecting money online. In other words, the fact readers were paying for renewals online as opposed to receiving checks in the mail was enough to be counted as a digital sale. To me, that is simply digital caging.
Subscriptions and renewals are still the number one usage of ecommerce on B2B publishing sites. Plenty of other content products are part of the shopping cart mix. Paid webinars are probably the next most popular. Yes, that’s right all you ad-sellers; people will pay $295-$495 for webinar products. Other sales I see in different markets include workbooks, near real-time data, training and continuing education credits, market reports and in-depth regional reports, archive site licenses, and of course, books and CDs.
Hopefully you are selling more and more stuff on your sites, maybe even t-shirts to your devoted readers. With the needs for ecommerce growing, I have compiled 7½ tips to keep in mind while growing yours.
- Is ecommerce integrated seamlessly wherever it is needed? If you are sending buyers to Amazon or any separate shopping cart, you are behind the times. Each additional step buyers must take will lose you some of them. Seamless also means that when I pay for my new ebook, the moment my credit card clears I should be able to download the book without having to deal with emails.
- Discounts are key. Make sure you can provide them to various “interest groups.” If you have “members” of any kind, member discounts are a must, but don’t stop there. Maintain the ability to create other discounts as well.
- Speaking of special deals, you will want to have a way for marketers to easily create “offers” – i.e. “buy these two and get a …” or whatever. This also needs to be integrated with that seamless ecommerce on the website(s) selling products.
- Learn from the masters like Amazon. Definitely include in the shopping cart “you may also like” or “those who purchased this also purchased” I have not seen statistics lately, but was told in the past more than half of Amazon sales come from these recommendations. I would think even a mere 10-20% boost in sales ain’t bad.
- Speaking of contextual selling, there is nothing more important. Make sure you have a strong taxonomy so when people are viewing related content on your site they will see the most relevant offers. If I am reading about cooling systems, that is when I may be most receptive to your thermal management webinar and CD combo. With one click.
- Consider selling some of your publication content by article or book chapter, rather than the whole publication. I may not want your market report for $1,995, but the section on telematics may feel like a bargain for $395. For lower priced sales, like those articles for $9.95 or $14.95, lock some of them down only for non-customers as leverage to encourage subscriptions or registration.
- User self-management is definitely a best practice. Give your members and customers the ability to manage their purchases. Let them sign in to pay for renewals, to follow when subscriptions are due to expire, and to view product purchase history. If you sell downloads, maintain the ability to permit them to come back and re-download again later. You may not want to do this at first, but nice to know you can.
7½. If you do not have this now, next time you redevelop your websites consider adding the ability to lock down your archives or certain high-value, ongoing coverage to sell via site licenses. Enable corporate, university, or library buyers to access the content for an annual fee, either organization-wide or by seat. It is best if you have the option to secure this not just with username and password, but by blocks of IP addresses. Let them manage their own internal users for the ultimate in self-management.
The majority of consumer publishers, especially those that are online-only publishers, do not have nearly this many options. Certainly they do not have similar price points. Other than specialty enthusiast markets, content has been cheapened too much at this point. So use your B2B advantage to open revenue streams beyond advertising and subscriptions. And if you are indeed able to sell those t-shirts or mugs with your logo, then in my book you have crossed the threshold from customers to fans. What could be better than that?
Related story: A Look at the Many Models for Publisher Ecommerce
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.