Hoon, who moved to Immediate Media from Tesco, says he struggled at first with understanding how to connect with and engage customers with multiple interests. Coming from Tesco, which has such a huge brand presence and such a well-known name, there was always a unifying theme, he explained. But he soon began to see the upside of having niche interests, referring to the great relationships Immediate has with the BBC, for example, and in the children’s market.
The power of special interest
Building on this, Hoon gave some examples of Immediate Media’s deep engagement across a whole range of different subjects: 10 million TV-watchers, 1.5 million brides, six million cyclists. These are customers that come back and frequently purchase products, he added, explaining that because Immediate’s brands tend to be special interested focused, their products are not overly commercial – which adds to their appeal.
The company now has 37 million uniques per year on digital platforms, with its large scale coming from the culmination of all its brands. Nonetheless, Hoon stressed that individual brands each play a very important role.
“A phenomenal digital story”
Next, Hoon went on to discuss what he called Immediate’s “phenomenal digital story”. For the financial year 16/17, the company is forecasting revenues of around £40m. The majority of users are mobile for its MadeForMums brand, and its cyclist audience is increasingly turning to video content
While Hoon emphasised that Immediate is still a print business as much as anything else – the Radio Times, for instance, still sells an enormous number of magazines – like everyone else in the publishing industry, they’re always looking for ways of getting their products out there digitally.
“We’re now heavily focused towards transactional revenue,” Hoon said. “Our model used to be very much in favour of digital advertising, but it’s swung towards transactional revenue now.”
Given the widespread migration to mobile, Hoon said, Immediate’s strategy is definitely mobile-first – however, they’re still looking at other ways to give consumers what they want. One example of this is the recently-launched ‘Secret Garden’ section of the Gardeners’ World website. Containing high-quality additional content for subscribers, such is its appeal and success that it has attracted 30,000 members, and growing. This reflects a strategy of ‘scaling out and meeting with the demands of our audience’, Hoon explained.
And this is just one instance of Immediate Media’s diversification. Indeed, the company is expanding rapidly: unique visitors to MadeForMums have doubled in just one year; Hitched is an increasingly popular online wedding marketplace, complete with listings; and TV shopping continues to be a huge part of their business, and Immediate recently got into TV shopping with the acquisition of Jewellery Maker – a great craft brand but also its first foray into TV and online shopping, allowing the company for the first time to own the transaction.
All this diversity brings challenges, though, as Hoon laid out.” We are ultimately a collection of individual brands,” he said. “But we want to avoid the fragmented approach, because our smaller brands will suffer as the large ones attract resources.”
One major challenge for the future is to keep up the pace and scale, he added. Immediate is actively moving towards commerce, trying to keep up with the scale, which is moving exponentially. “We will struggle to keep this up if we don’t integrate fully our brands,” Hoon said.
Looking to the future, and how to overcome these challenges, Hoon highlighted Immediate Media’s commitment to great content creation. He expects their biggest growth area to be in subscriptions and commerce, hopefully in part by extending ecommerce product categories.
Hoon was keen to point out the contributions of every small team under Immediate’s wing. “Every single one of our teams is contributing towards our future strategy, which is based on five key building blocks,” he said.
These five blocks are:
- Publishing – they’re standardising the use of WordPress as their core publishing platform, and looking for uniqueness in other areas, such as their databases (eg. listings on Radio Times or sports events, and rider profiles on cycling sites).
- Commerce – they are very verticalised at the moment, tied to individual brands using different technologies. The challenge now is to turn features like the shopping “basket” feature into services.
- Customer – Following on from this, of course a fundamental part of the ecommerce strategy is recommendations, for instance “people who bought this also liked…”. Hoon betted that there is no ecommerce site that doesn’t use features like this now.
- Data – customer data is used to promote subscriptions, and will continue to be used in this way.
- Capability – Immediate will carry on investing in its people and building on its brands.
The extension of their product range and the standardisation of publishing tools through WordPress are key strategies for Immediate Media moving forward, then. To end, Hoon reiterated that once you join up the commerce world and the content world, you’ve got customers coming to you for all sorts of reasons – whether that’s planning a wedding, or doing a craft project – and that’s when they’re coming to you for products. This is the direction Immediate hopes to go in.
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