Where do you start when building a Commerce Content Strategy? We spoke with Stephen Chen, Site Director at GQ Taiwan, to hear about his experience in building and launching their Commerce Content strategy with the help of the Skimlinks Editorial Team.
Why did GQ Taiwan decide to invest in Commerce Content?
In 2019 Condé Nast HQ approached us and gave us the opportunity to work with Skimlinks to monetize our content. Although we were still not aware of how an affiliate program works, we wanted to explore a new revenue opportunity. Monetization of content is becoming more important than ever, especially since we get a lot of traffic.
We’ve already been writing product reviews and guides, we know what our audience likes to buy, and that our content is credible and trustworthy. We were only missing the last step which is monetizing it. So we thought if we can generate revenue from our quality content, it would be the best business model for us, and we were excited to start our journey with Skimlinks.
Why was Skimlinks chosen as your strategic partner?
First and foremost, we are not a tech company so a platform that was easy to use was one of the most important factors for us, especially for our editors. Skimlinks has a very easy to use dashboard, a very simple set up, and we haven’t encountered any difficulties in the whole process so far.
People will always be opposed to change but Skimlinks has made our lives easier which is a great outcome.
What was the strategy that you took in building out your Commerce Content?
One of the main things we did is transformed our content into a credible shopping guide, which would resonate with our audiences based on their time, place, and location.
We’ve had a very positive response from our readers who make purchases using our shopping guides, and the traffic has been very strong. It has now become part of our overall offering.
What are the benefits of working with the Skimlinks Editorial team in helping with your commerce content strategy and article production?
Working directly with a Skimlinks Commerce Content Editor has been extremely helpful to us. We currently don’t have a designated commerce content editor in our company so thanks to Skimlinks we can produce such great content on time.
With a Skimlinks Commerce Content Editor, we can ensure that our commerce content ideas match the themes of our content calendar and plan ahead, so we can produce high quality, relevant commerce content throughout the year.
Without a Skimlinks content editor it would’ve been very time-consuming for us to research and communicate with local and international merchants on our own, which would prevent us from producing quality content each month and reduce our revenue.
Can you take us through the steps you take with the Skimlinks Editorial Team to build that Commerce Content strategy together?
There are 3 main stages to building our strategy.
Firstly, we have a monthly regular meeting with our editorial team and the Skimlinks Editorial team, where we discuss our content calendar and decide on the themes for the upcoming month, for example fashion content, gadgets, makeup. In between the meetings, we use LINE chat to share timely information, so when we see something trending online we speak to the Skimlinks content editor about it to have a continuous flow of communication. Whenever we think of a new theme, we always consider if we can create shoppable content from that and consult the content editor as well.
Then the Skimlinks content editor looks for merchants which would be the most suitable for our themes, and produces the content in the form of a shoppable guide.
Our editors will take a final look at the content written by the Skimlinks commerce content editor to ensure that the tone of voice and writing style matches GQ’s, however it is usually done perfectly and our editors spend very little time on corrections. The Skimlinks content editor has really become part of the whole editorial process now.
It sounds like the Skimlinks content editor has really understood your audience, since the content that they produce is very much in style with what you do.
Yes absolutely, they understand our audience very well, but we also have very open communication. We share our point of view, our experiences, and our audience preferences, and most importantly we don’t treat the commerce editor as an outsider in our company. This is what helps us achieve the result we are looking for.
What type of articles appeal most to your readers?
I would say it’s very important for us to create content which resonates with our readers at that exact time. For example, we had very heavy rains a few months ago, so we created articles about waterproof sneakers and clothing which had a positive response from our readers.
What is your strategy during the key shopping events of the year?
Our three key elements for our audiences are: ease of use, sufficient information, and good product selection.
We have recognised that our audience aims to gather information and make a purchase very quickly. During key shopping events, we create a single parent article where we curate all the commerce content and therefore make it easy for the reader to see the types of offers and discounted products each merchant is offering and make a purchase directly from the article.
It is also a good opportunity for us to introduce new international merchants to our readers and show the type of products they have on offer. It can be more difficult for our readers to find a good product on an international platform, but if it’s recommended by GQ, readers can trust that the product is of high quality.
It’s great that you mentioned trust. What criteria do merchants have to meet to be able to appear in GQ?
We want to feature merchants who are popular, who have a good reputation, and whose products are desired by the general public.
Our editors have a list of merchants who they prefer because they know they have good quality products, they have a good variation of products, and they provide good discounts. However, we work in collaboration to optimise the merchant list and add new merchants to have a wider selection.
GQ is one of the leading media brands in the world, what can merchants do to stand out and be featured in GQ if they hadn’t before?
I believe if the product or service catches our attention, or if the brand provides a good discount, we are likely to feature them in our commerce content regardless if they are a domestic or an international merchant.
Do you treat domestic and international merchants differently when selecting them? And what is the difference between what domestic merchants can do to be featured versus international merchants?
Previously, we had a stronger preference for international merchants. We saw that our audience knew a lot about domestic merchants but finding international merchants was more difficult due to language barriers, delivery and custom fees, and so forth. Therefore, we curated the information to make it easy to understand and shop.
However, now we have a mix of international and domestic merchants since we are trying to expand our merchant list, and provide local recommendations for restaurants, travel, and much more.
We mainly focus on the products and price when choosing the merchants for our commerce content, so our readers will always get the best products at the best price.
How do you distribute your Commerce Content to your readers?
Facebook is our main source of traffic, but we have also found that our audience is happy to receive Commerce Content on LINE, and we have been generating a lot of traffic on that platform. Although we have a lot more followers on Facebook, these are the two most important channels we use to promote our Commerce Content.
Is your distribution approach different to any titles across Condé Nast?
We share a lot of knowledge among our Condé Nast family, we learn from each other and try to implement these strategies in our own markets. We learned from the US market that commerce content is distributed well through newsletters. Therefore, we decided to optimise our newsletter strategy and consider creating a dedicated commerce content newsletter in the future. However, we need to remember that our market is different, and we need to determine if we have enough newsletter subscribers to reach our target, and which other channels should we consider.
We always try different approaches, for example recently we have been testing Instagram as a channel for content distribution. Instagram has younger audiences who are interested in stylish items at a lower price, so we had to adjust our content strategy to better suit their preferences.
What have you learnt during the last two years of producing Commerce Content?
We learnt how important it is to adapt the commerce content to our general content. The audience is drawn to our platform because of our brand and the way we portray information, so it’s very important to keep the tone of voice, style of writing, and overall quality of the work the same. We are also open with our audience about doing Shoppable Guides, so we make it clear that we are recommending products for them to buy.
How has Skimlinks helped you during this time?
Working with a Skimlinks Commerce Content Editor has been fantastic because we discovered new merchants to write about and we were able to explore an additional revenue source. We were also exposed to some great business opportunities, able to meet merchants face to face and discuss what they’re looking for, what kind of content would fit their requirements but also resonate with our audiences. Skimlinks has been an advisor to us, or more like a trustworthy friend, who helps us walk through the path of affiliate marketing and bring us great revenue.
We’re getting into the key part of the year where there’s a lot of big shopping events. What strategies are you taking this year?
We will be taking a very similar content strategy this year, by focusing on the key events and mid-year discounts, and creating a parent article where we curate all the useful information from other articles into one.
What key events will you really focus on over the next few months?
We have a few large brand events coming up in the next few months, such the Urban Camping Festival, which is focused on outdoor activities.
Then there are the large events such as Singles Day in November, Black Friday, and Christmas. Surprisingly, Black Friday is not a popular event in Taiwan, but we still get a lot of traction during that time. Possibly because the topics and products we curate are interesting, or the discounts are attractive, so people end up shopping on this day too.
During those events, we create a parent article, but also a dedicated article for each merchant and their individual sales, and a round up for the audience.
How many brand events do you run a year?
Our brand events are what distinguishes us from other publishers on the market, and it’s a great opportunity for merchants to be featured around those specific GQ events. We run a number of GQ events each year, including a Suit Walk in March, and the Urban Camping in October. We have plans for new events in 2022 and will be looking at the Commerce Content opportunities around them.
What are your Commerce Content goals for the next twelve months?
Our ultimate goal is to increase our revenue from Commerce Content. We are looking to expand our Commerce Editor Team so once we find the ideal candidate, we can increase the number of articles we produce and the revenue we generate. So far it has been a positive trend so we are excited about our future with Commerce Content.
What advice would you give to other publishers who are considering a Commerce Content Strategy?
Understanding your audience is very important. Find out what their preferences are first, where they like to shop, and what are the key factors that will attract them to your content. It can be discounts, exclusive product selection, and interesting titles that attract them to your content.
We know that our audience loves to shop and they trust our content so we knew that going into Commerce Content with Skimlinks would be a successful strategy. We also try to attract them with interesting Commerce Content themes and titles because our audience can be picky.
You will also need to allocate enough resources to expand your affiliate budget. You will need dedicated editors and spend more time communicating with Skimlinks Commerce Content editors for a better result.
What do you love most about Skimlinks?
Skimlinks is very much like GQ, you are a partner with a global scope, which was very important to us. Every process is done efficiently and up to a perfect standard.