Ecommerce has been moving up the agenda lately. As publishers seek to further reduce reliance on advertising and capitalise on strengthened relationships with readers brought about by the pandemic, innovative formats like embedded commerce are helping to generate new revenue.
But many media organisations still don’t know what they’re missing out on – effectively leaving a lot of potential income on the table, according to Chris Reilly, CEO of new FIPP member The Savings Group.
We spoke to Reilly about how TSG is using its extensive experience and state-of-the-art technology to connect publishers with commerce, creating valuable new revenue streams, enhanced data, and insights which can supercharge subscription efforts and help in the shift to a healthier revenue mix.
Could you please tell us a bit about your own professional background and interests? How did you get your start in the industry?
I’ve worked in the performance marketing space for over 10 years, mainly in roles in the voucher space. I was the MD of Global Voucher Group and took them to their exit to Go Compare in 2017. Since leaving the business post acquisition I’ve been focused on building a market leading vouchering platform that offers unique benefits to our partners. That’s what we have now deployed across over 125 sites with The Savings Group.
What are your priorities in your role as CEO of The Savings Group?
To help publishers make money and consumers save money. We have created a very straightforward passive revenue stream for publishers that enables them to realise material long term EBITDA from half a day’s development work and costs them nothing – we are completely free to integrate. For consumers we help thousands of people save money on their everyday purchases. What we’re looking at now is how to extend that beyond a traditional coupon experience – we have some incredible products in development that we’ll make available to our publisher platform partners in 2021.
We can help publishers build new advertiser segments, understand ecommerce retargeting strategies and supercharge their efforts to build subscriber communities.
How did The Savings Group come together, and what specific problems for media/publishers does it solve?
At The Savings Group, we realised that many of the strategies we’d developed with publishers in the UK market (probably the most sophisticated for vouchering in the world) were not being deployed elsewhere. So, we set up The Savings Group to fix that and bring best practice vouchering innovation to publishers around the world.
We realised that to do that properly we had to understand publishers very deeply. That’s why we have publishing experts on our board. They’ve run major global publishing operations for organisations like the BBC, Bauer Media and Reuters. This means we understand publishers and their go forward priorities – particularly in areas like first party data, reader revenue and programmatic. Combining that with our deep sector experience of couponing gives us many new ways of developing revenue streams that enable them to support their journalism. Beyond providing passive revenue we can help publishers build new advertiser segments, understand ecommerce retargeting strategies and supercharge their efforts to build subscriber communities as they change the revenue mix to reduce their reliance on advertising.
Publishers are leaving a lot of potential income on the table.
What tricks are media organisations missing when it comes to ecommerce?
In short, a lot. To give a few examples, very few publishers are monetising the full extent of their lifestyle content in terms of affiliate links and hardly any are thinking about offering their audience opportunities to save more generally as part of a wider advertiser engagement strategy. That’s partly because sometimes there’s a feeling that performance marketing activities dilute the editorial experience or their integration in the advertiser proposition is challenging.
Fundamentally that perspective is a bit out of date and publishers are leaving a lot of potential income on the table. We can monetise the vast majority of brand references on a page without it feeling like a jarring experience and enable new ways to enhance the advertiser conversation. If you’re writing about the best loungewear for lockdown we can help you get the commercial recognition you deserve for driving those purchases.
Can you give us some examples of media companies The Savings Group has worked with, what they needed, and what the outcomes were?
We have been working with Stuff in New Zealand and Seven in Australia since 2019. They were both looking for light touch passive income streams that delivered value for their audiences. We delivered couponing experiences to both, were live within six weeks of contract signature and they will both see very significant revenues in the year ahead. We’re now looking at programmatic and first party data extensions of our current experience.
How important is the tech side of ecommerce? Should media organisations be hiring more people with tech-expertise, as well as other skills?
From The Savings Group perspective we are obsessed about technology. Alongside our web platform, we have a voice and messaging solution, a browser extension and a market leading business intelligence suite that returns insights and tracks revenue for our publishing partners with additional innovations in development.
Publisher wise, whilst our platform needs minimal operational support from media technology teams it is always helpful to work with tech savvy teams on the publisher side. To be fair we have had brilliant working relationships with publisher technologists at our existing partners. As platforms like ours continue to expand it’s going to be particularly interesting to align with publisher side data teams as we’re driving lots of actionable insights around commerce content and brand transactions that can optimise editorial workflows as well as broadening the advertiser conversation.
Direct-to-consumer (D2C) is something we’ve noticed has been gaining attention lately. What opportunities do you see in that area?
From a pure couponing/voucher standpoint we have seen D2C brands grow exponentially in terms of their appeal to consumers (which we can measure in coupon issuance and redemption). Platform wise D2C brands are not treated differently to any other voucher. However, we have opportunities for D2C brands that are challenging more traditional and established partners to gain more on platform prominence and potentially even use our platform to enable sampling of their products when more traditional routes to do that are either not available or hard to execute – particularly in lockdown.
You are working with a lot of major Australian and New Zealand-based brands, as well as other regions. Do you have plans for expansion?
Yes 100 per cent. In April we will launch our first major European partner (a market leader in their territory) and are close to announcing new agreements in America and Asia as well. We want to work with leading publishers around the world and can have them earning revenue within six to eight weeks of the first meeting. We are operational in over 40 territories today and have publisher couponing propositions ready to go in all of them – so please FIPP members – get in touch.
We also believe subscriber only offers can help publishers enhance their reader revenue proposition.
Which sector or niche do you think has the most potential for growth of discount vouchers in the future?
As mentioned above we have developed voice and messaging solutions for discount vouchers. We believe that as more of search moves to voice and as messaging platforms open up to more commercial applications there will be opportunities for forward thinking publishers to leverage their promotional capabilities in these new contexts. We also believe subscriber only offers can help publishers enhance their reader revenue proposition. We’d love to talk these through with FIPP members in more detail.