Why media marketers should take a cue from retailers’ tactics

Allison Mezzafonte, lead media advisor, Sailthru

The media and marketing worlds are living in a state of constant flux. Just as they get one plate steadily spinning in the air, another crashes to the ground.

With the start of Q4 and the holiday season, marketers are still adjusting their strategies from Apple’s iOS 14 update, which limited targeting and then iOS 15, which limited email targeting. 

On top of all of this, the deprecation of the third-party cookie is slated to begin in spring 2022. 

All of these changes reinforce the same story — first-party data collected from consumers is no longer a “nice to have,” it’s a necessity. Publishers and retailers realize that the value exchange they create with users is more important than ever. And the engagement brands have with subscribers along the way is critical to the success of that value exchange. Media companies can and should look to retail marketers, who are laser-focused on tactics to drive conversion — and there’s a lot to learn. 

The customer experience drives all decisions

At the end of the day, publishers offer content with which their audience will want to engage. However, as methods of consumption change, formats must keep up — mobile, social, desktop, podcast, video and email — they all matter now more than ever before.

The most successful publishers are conscious of orchestrating content across all channels to reinforce their brand and to deliver an optimal user experience (and for ad-supported publishers, still satisfying advertiser needs, too). While it’s a lot to juggle, segmenting those customers is one way to improve both the customer experience and that of the advertisers. 

A loyal reader has a particular series of actions that they will predictably take. They might visit the site every morning, or perhaps they open their mobile app every evening as they hang out on the couch. A search-driven reader might have another set of behaviors. They might average 30 seconds on the page, with a possible second article before abandoning the site. 

These various user profiles are different customer segments. Each offers its own set of value opportunities and paths to conversion. Many publishers have already created segmented strategies and content personalization. However, multichannel revenue-driven marketing, including email, usually takes a back seat, which can reduce the ability to re-engage, offer deeper personalization and drive conversion.

Test segmented triggers with product search and cart abandons

Retailers will often trigger a personalized email when someone abandons a product search. Publishers can do the same, tracking everything from scroll depth to which search terms drove them to the site. By testing segmented triggers to bring different readers back to the story, or to similar or different stories, publishers come across as more relevant and more interesting.

Similarly, retailers will trigger a personalized message via email or SMS to remind people of what’s in their cart. Publishers can do the same with event and subscription signups, or with articles saved for later reading.

Identify interests for better segmentation and triggered messaging

Whenever a consumer reviews a product or clicks on a link, that information is gathered to improve personalization and triggered messaging in the future. This information, whether driven by content behavior or more transactional behavior, should be collected by publishers to build richer user profiles and to inform segmentation and marketing actions. This data is also hugely valuable for editors seeking to better understand reader interests.

During peak shopping periods, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, retailers use live content to drive interest in sales, grow engagement and more accurately — and effectively — manage inventory. Streaming content that showcases employees explaining products or influencers explaining why they love them is an effective way to drive growth and additional sales. If publishers incorporate everything from breaking news and live entertainment to real-time interviews and podcasts into an email experience, the impact stands to increase exponentially.

Increase insights and improve performance by optimizing channels, triggers and touchpoints

Testing within and across every channel helps marketers understand how to get people to stay engaged based on their preferences and habits. For example, testing the success of driving engaged readers on mobile to download the app or transitioning engaged mobile app readers to in-app messages and push notifications instead of email can help publishers meet readers where they are without any friction. For brands that cover breaking news but don’t have standalone apps, utilizing SMS can take things one step further, much in the same way many D2C retailers alert shoppers about sales.

These common triggers in a retail strategy also serve another purpose: To test messages and collect more data. Adding triggers along the customer journey doesn’t just provide opportunities to re-engage, they help businesses work smarter. Combining insights and measurement across different parts of an organization can help speed up learning. Personalizing different elements of the customer journey can help speed up conversion.

While content is the primary product on which publishers focus, they must also give attention to gathering and acting on consumer data if they want to succeed in a privacy-first world. By optimizing the transactional touchpoints along the reader journey, publishers will capitalize on more chances to increase their insights and improve performance.


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