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Editor's Comment: The blurring lines between content and commerce

Keely Stocker

Just over a year ago (November 11 2014, to be precise) Grazia took its first steps into the world of ecommerce with the launch of Graziashop.com. 

Although run as a separate business to Grazia’s publications, the strategy was always to have close editorial ties and links from content to commerce. That, in fact, was the business’s USP.

As we learn this week that managing director Richard Hatfield has left the business, as well as content director Ally Pyle and operations director Georgina Poole, there is talk of where the business is going and questions as to whether it has a future in ecommerce. While the business says it is “moving in the right direction”, one of its biggest issues seems to be the lack of integration between editorial content and Graziashop. Looking on the site, it is light on content and missing the editorial voice from the Grazia team.

Popular features in the content world, such as “chat to the editor” and the ability to watch beauty demos, could be used to hook readers in and encourage them to buy, as could Grazia’s own “Luxe/Less”. Content has got to be Grazia’s strongest point of difference but it is currently being underutilised. This is, surely, an area it could own to make it stand out in a highly competitive part of the industry.

The other challenge Grazia has had from the start is where it can advertise. Unable to saturate its own publication with Graziashop promotions for fear of alienating other advertisers, it will also struggle to get promotion in competing magazines. A few industry insiders have suggested this is why the commerce site was “doomed from the start”. For a publisher launching into the ecommerce world, it would be more beneficial to have a completely different brand name that others will be more accepting of, while still using the data collected from its readership. 

The key is knowing the customer and appealing to them with engaging content as part of an overall brand-building piece

It’s a challenging strategy to get right and one many ecommerce businesses are facing as they make the opposite move from commerce into publishing. The risk is always the integrity of the content and not making shoppers feel like they are constantly being sold to. The key is knowing the customer and appealing to them with engaging content as part of an overall brand-building piece. A real standout in this area has to be Porter magazine, which uses lifestyle content to appeal to its customer without it becoming an obvious sales tool. It will be interesting to see the approach Style.com takes when it launches its ecommerce offering later this year and the lines between content and commerce continue to blur.

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