Shoppable content: St. Joseph’s on why this is just the start of the e-commerce journey for publishers

There was once a time when retailers and marketers spoke of the eCommerce door test. The accepted wisdom was that only products that could be squeezed through letterboxes would ever be purchased online.

It’s a perspective that now sounds ridiculously outdated with consumers buying everything from clothes through to bikes often via a click of their mobile phone.

It is also a process that was accelerated by the pandemic as consumers, often unable to leave the home, got into the habit of completing the entire purchasing journey online.

Part of our: Meet the Speaker Series 

Jacqueline will be speaking at the 44th FIPP World Media Congress in Lisbon-Cascais, in June, and you can find out more here.

Yet where do they get the information that they use to make a purchase? The explosion in online retail created a significant opportunity for publishers to deliver content that aids consumers in making their buying choices, and reap the rewards via affiliate deals.

One company that was innovating with content-driven eCommerce prior to the pandemic was Canadian media group St. Joseph Communications. The company, which boasts an extensive range of fashion, pop culture and lifestyle brands, has long been a champion of ‘shoppable content’ and it has become one of its key revenue sources.

We caught up with St. Joseph’s EVP Customer Innovation, Jacqueline Loch, who explains more about the impact of Covid on the company’s eCommerce strategy, as well as touching on the challenges of publishing in a bi-lingual country and why she’s excited about the cookie-less world that could soon arrive.

What has been your career trajectory to date?

I am an art college-educated media lover specialising in delivering multi-platform content marketing solutions and ROI for audiences and advertisers across social media, digital, video, print, SEO, custom research and e-commerce. In my current role as EVP Customer Innovation, I work closely with SJC’s largest clients to create innovative and compelling cross platform content solutions that deliver on company revenue goals.

My current focus is the digital customer journey and on content that converts to eCommerce. I am also Board Chair for The Content Council in New York and a Board Member at the National Media Awards Foundation in Canada.

Previously, I held the roles of VP & Group Publisher at SJC Media and TC Media where I oversaw a portfolio of consumer media brands including FASHIONELLE CanadaCanadian Living, and Style at Home, and held the roles of VP Content Solutions and VP Client Solutions at Rogers Media, where I launched and led Rogers award-winning Content Solutions division and worked on media brands including ChatelaineMacleansCanadian Business and Hello Canada!.

 And what does your average day at St Joseph’s look like?

There really isn’t an average day. I spend a lot of time with clients which is something that I love. Many new projects spring out of those conversations and I am almost always working on something that is new and first-to-market — which keeps things interesting!

There are some unique challenges to publishing English language content in Canada. Can you explain what they are and how you try to overcome them?

One of the unique challenges of publishing English language content in Canada, is that if you work with large national advertisers — you need to also publish that content in French. And publishing in French is not a matter of translating the English content, you need to create a French language adaptation of the content, and you need to make it culturally relevant to French Canadians. That can mean everything from pop culture references, to social attitudes and beliefs all the way to the aesthetic.

The other challenge with publishing English content in Canada, is that the competitive set isn’t just other Canadian English language media companies, it also includes all English language content from the US that is in our market. It is a very big playing field across all platforms.

And has the pandemic proved to be a help or a challenge, or indeed both? Did it force you to change any business plans?

I am so excited about the opportunities that have come out of the digital transformation that was accelerated by the pandemic. The role of content has now expanded across the entire digital customer journey as consumers adapt to mobile usage and eCommerce across all categories from buying groceries to insurance to banking and buying cosmetics. The new customer journey has resulted in a massive increase in content — and specifically in service content.

We changed a lot of business plans both internally and with clients immediately upon the onset of the pandemic. Overnight how to produce content and how to publish became more of a focus than what to publish. We became experts at remote content production for complex photo and video shoots and we re-engineered everything from pre-production planning, to digital collaboration for publishing all the way to client approvals and reviews.

I believe that many of these changes have made us better and what we do and have opened up a lot of opportunities for accelerated growth and content consumption.

Branded content has become an important part of SJC’s strategy. Do you feel that its prominence will increase? Will this be at the expense of display advertising?

Branded content is an extremely important part of our strategy at SJC — we are a company made up of three divisions, SJC Print, SJC Media and SJC Content. The 2020 content marketing research conducted by The Content Council and the Association of National Advertisers in the US reported that spending on content related activities represented nearly 40% of advertising budgets and a large amount of that budget was moved to content from traditional media advertising buys.

“Branded content is the largest growth opportunity for advertising revenue generation — and yes it will be at the expense of display advertising.”

As our media brands expand into social platforms, eCommerce and audience development, branded content is the largest growth opportunity for advertising revenue generation — and yes it will be at the expense of display advertising. The prominence of branded content has grown exponentially over the past two years and is a direct result of our accelerated digital transformation.

A few years ago, you said that you thought eCommerce was a huge opportunity for publishers, Do you think that is still the case?

Absolutely, and publishers are just getting started. The entire customer journey has changed with so much of the retail cycle happening on mobile devices and online and there is an incredible opportunity for publishers to focus on content that converts to eCommerce. Publishers have highly valuable opt-in audiences and exceptionally high engagement, relevance and conversion opportunities in the eCommerce space.

Shoppable content from SEO-optimised articles to video to social media to e-newsletters will uniquely position Publishers in the eCommerce space. Publisher brand digital content is high ranking and highly discoverable, that combined with the ability to communicate with consumers via first-party data and large opt-in audiences makes for an exciting future for eCommerce

What does the future hold for you personally and St Joseph’s in general?

We will continue on our journey of producing high quality and best-in-class content across our media brands and for our advertisers and on audience development. My focus is on two things: Content that converts to DTC eCommerce; and content marketing in a cookie-less world and the opportunities that will come out of the end of the third-party cookie in 2023.

With the acceleration of digital transformation, the customer journey has changed along with best practices for brands that have made the switch to direct-to-consumer e-commerce and mobile platforms. Content that converts across platforms and strategies including magazine brand integrations, content for Amazon and e-commerce portals, retail e-stores, websites, SEO and Martech apps.

To see the latest speaker line-up for this June’s FIPP World Media Congress, along with details on ho to take advantage of our exclusive Early Bird booking offer, click here.


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