How data-driven automation can enhance publisher-to-consumer communications

The ongoing shift from digital advertising to reader revenue-based solutions has once again propelled publisher-to-consumer communications back into the spotlight. Maintaining good relations with readers and then being able to take them on a journey from casual browsers through to paying subscribers is now at the heart of many publishers’ monetisation strategies.

JD Engelbrecht

Optimising those communications, managing the data, and choosing the right channels and approaches is a major headache for many publishers. Among the companies that are offering a solution is Everlytic, one of South Africa’s leading tech companies.

In this interview, Everlytic’s MD JanDirk (JD) Engelbrecht talks about the challenges facing publishers as they develop communications strategies, the potential of scaling those communications, and how Everlytic has evolved from a South African startup to a company with customers across the globe.

Tell me about Everlytic’s beginnings. How did you start the company and what problems were you trying to solve?

The founders were computer science grads who found themselves in a post-dotcom bubble world where developers were not exactly treated like royalty anymore. They built software for customers in the publisher space first, trying to solve publishers’ problems of communicating at scale with their readers. In solving the problem for customers, they realised that the solution had universal potential and started building what evolved into the Everlytic platform. Everlytic remains a fit-for-purpose solution for publishers – having been at the heart of our journey.

How has the state of technology, startup culture, and the media in South Africa impacted your journey?

Many stories of heartbreak, anxiety, relief, excitement, fear, and every other emotion you can imagine paved the company’s path from a start-up to becoming one of South Africa’s most promising homegrown tech successes and the local leader in its space. You could say Everlytic was born from publishers and such will be a large focus area for international expansion.

Most businesses face similar challenges: building a solution that makes a difference, finding or creating an addressable market, hiring the right type of people to move the business forward, generating liquidity to pay said people and fund growth, developing an agile culture, re-evaluating and taking some strategic risks along the way – some which work and others that don’t. 

Succeeding more often than failing in these pursuits has supported Everlytic in growing into the market leadership position in South Africa it holds today with immediate global expansion plans. We place the customer front and centre and focus on bringing as much value to marketers and content teams at accessible and fair prices.

When did you first have global ambitions?

International expansion has always been on our minds, but the timing and method of expansion would always be critical. As we took stock of what we’ve achieved in South Africa and having built a globally competitive product that often outcompetes multinational giants, and considering what we wish to achieve in the future, we designed a multi-year roadmap early in 2020 that both further penetrates the local market, and also gives us scope to replicate our local success abroad through strategic alliances.

We are excited about the future and look forward to creating value in the ecosystem by providing a globally competitive platform with unmatched customer service at accessible prices. 

Which challenges do you foresee on your growth path?

We know the South African market well and growing here means doing more of what works, quicker. As internationalisation is a new journey for us, finding the right partnerships that would allow us to find product-market fit, which would signal us to add support and sales specialist clusters to markets where we see potential. There are many risks and challenges related to growth – particularly when seeking material portions thereof abroad. A potential challenge that we foresee is establishing the credibility of a homegrown South African-developed product in the international market and competing with deep-pocketed global rivals.

Because we know we are great for publishers, we see this as a potential beachhead in new markets as we prove our value.

What do you see as the key challenges for publishers in developing communications strategies in the future? 

Publishers face a unique challenge in its choice of communication platform: distributing tailored, contextual messages at scale to millions of readers to engage and inform, but also executing complicated workflows that require advanced automation functionality to drive subscriptions. There are many pure-play vendors offering advanced automation features aimed at managing conversion funnel towards subscription, as well as other platforms focusing on delivering bulk newsletter content at scale without the frills of advanced features.

These two platform models are fundamentally priced differently. Bulk newsletter and transactional messaging platforms are priced at a discount, whilst automation platforms are priced at a significant premium based on the R&D expense related to building such systems.

This cost challenge is compounded by the need to have full visibility of all communications to a reader to unlock the synergies that data signals based on engagement plus interest, as well as intent and conversion flow provide when considered holistically. The challenge of course being that sending bulk through an automation platform is vastly expensive, whilst affordable engagement messaging platforms don’t support advanced automation.

This places publishers in an unenviable position… choosing between spending precious cash on an expensive communication platform to drive conversions that could have been used to fund the newsroom or grow their audience, or to opt for an affordable, bulk distribution platform without the features to drive conversion and tactical engagement.

As a communications platform, what would you say is your chief benefit for publishers? And how do you help publishers to scale their communications output?

A cost-effective, automated communication platform that allows them to strategically target their customers with  the right message at the right time to drive conversions.

We believe in the power of a single platform that both allows publishers to send beautiful, personalised, and responsive messages at scale, but which also caters for the complexity of publishers’ marketing automation requirements. All this at market-beating rates.

At the virtual FIPP Congress 2020, JanDirk (JD) Engelbrecht hosted a seminar on how data-driven communications can improve conversion rates for publishers. You can watch the presentation here.

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