Don’t Leave Your eCommerce Strategy Hanging: Why First-Party Data is Critical


  • 66% of publishers worldwide are active in the eCommerce space right now.
  • First-party data is key to creating relevant shoppable experiences.
  • Publishers can serve up targeted on-site and off-site product recommendations and offers.
  • Engagement and interest data lead to closer relationships with retail partners and shoppers.
  • According to Viafoura data, engaged users spend an average of two to ten times the amount of minutes on publisher pages compared to unengaged visitors.
  • Viafoura provides rich, first-party data that media organizations can feed into their eCommerce strategies to engage their users, boost sales and strengthen relationships with retail partners.

With more consumers turning to online shopping during the pandemic, eCommerce has been booming. Media companies are now rushing to enter this profitable space and diversify revenue streams by delivering trusted shopping experiences across their properties. 

In fact, a survey conducted by Digiday found that 66% of publishers are already generating some level of revenue from affiliate commerce. 

It’s clear that publishers are diving into eCommerce so how can media companies maximize their profits and reputation in this space?

Media organizations must serve up products that align with their audience’s interests if they hope to provide trusted shopping experiences and increase related revenue.

And that is where first-party data comes in. 

Discover how first-party data can improve the way media companies approach eCommerce below.

Producing Targeted Shopping Experiences

Just as your business’ editorial strategy can be supported with user data, you can also lean on critical data insights to personalize their shopping experiences with your organization. 

However, it’s essential that you’re leveraging first-party data, not third-party data, in your eCommerce strategy. After all, as third-party cookies are set to be erased from the internet forever, first-party data has become the obvious replacement.

Media organizations are now gradually recognizing how first-party data can replace third-party data and help create relevant shopping experiences for different groups of digital visitors. 

Take Vice, for instance.

“Vice will… focus on curating recommendations for specific micro-communities within its audience as those groups tend to spend money based on their passions,” says Vice Media’s chief digital officer, Cory Haik.  

By personalizing product recommendations through first-party data, media organizations can make smarter, data-informed decisions to grow eCommerce revenue.

Data-Driven Recommendation Tactics

Odds are, you probably already use your audience data to improve visitor interactions with your company’s website or app in some way or form. And you can do the exact same thing with your eCommerce strategy to set your company apart from competitors and build trust from audience members. 

“Even though personalized recirculation has become common across media, the number of publishers personalizing the shopping content recommendations their readers see is small,” explains Abby Campbell, the VP of a marketing agency. 

Get ahead of the game by using first-party data to power your product-recommendation widgets or shopping pages directly on your site based on the unique interests of your audience.

The New York Post, for example, is feeding data from its customer data platform into shopping recommendations that are displayed across its digital properties. 

Alternatively, you can dig into your first-party data to discover the topics that your most active users tend to engage with. You can then send them customized emails featuring shopping offers and discounts to heighten interest in your products.

Audience members will be more likely to purchase products that are relevant to them, after all.

Enhancing Publisher Properties for Retail Partners

Major eCommerce platforms like Amazon and Instagram currently provide consumers with outstanding shopping experiences. As a result, internet users expect every digital shopping experience to be just as engaging and personalized.

Retailers are now looking to deliver unique experiences to potential customers with trusted partners.

For media companies, this means that they have the chance to generate eCommerce revenue if they can impress retailers enough with a unique, data-powered strategy. 

Autovia Chairman Peter Plumb highlights how there is a whole range of “opportunities for those with the broadest and most engaged reach, the richest audience data and the most trusted brands & content.”

First-party engagement and interest-based data can be used to activate digital visitors through personalized experiences, encouraging them to spend more time on your pages looking at — and buying — products. These experiences can also be targeted to highly engaged audience members to heighten product sales. 

Keep in mind that, according to Viafoura data, engaged users will spend an average of two to ten times the amount of minutes on publisher pages than an unengaged visitor. 

Ultimately, first-party data is key for media companies to improve their digital eCommerce services and solidify profitable relationships with retail partners and audience members.

As a first-party data provider, Viafoura gives media companies a 360-degree view of their community’s behaviors and interests. Organizations can access this information and draw critical insights to bolster their eCommerce strategies and attract retail partners.

The Greatest Challenges in Media From 2020, Unpacked

For many, 2020 was a low point — especially with the pandemic, political turmoil and social injustices raging across the globe. These recent events have also sparked a set of ongoing business challenges within the media industry.

Thankfully, organizations are determined to stand strong and be a trusted resource for community members no matter what’s thrown their way. 

“After a year where everything was confusing, and the goalposts were always moving, the best we can do as [media] organizations is to be useful and supportive to our communities,” states Mandy Jenkins, general manager of The Compass Experiment at McClatchy.

So to help media companies become more resilient and build better relationships with their audiences and staff, we unpacked crucial takeaways from some of the greatest industry challenges of 2020. Organizations that keep these takeaways in mind will set themselves up for long-term growth and success.

Limitations on In-Person Experiences Reinforces the Need for Digital Social Experiences

The pandemic forced a large number of print media products, including newspapers and magazines, as well as in-person events to shut down practically overnight. 

While media companies are now unable to build relationships with audiences in person due to safety restrictions, brand relationships are thriving virtually. 

“This year, the sense of isolation caused by lockdown has pushed a lot of people toward online communities to fill the void left by the lack of social interactions,” states Francesco Zaffarano, the editor-in-chief of Will Media. “Although that isolation will eventually end, engaging with communities will still be the key to success in the post-pandemic world.”

By delighting audiences with online social experiences, media companies can encourage connections to form around their brands. These brand relationships will then lead to greater reader loyalty and digital revenue.

The Explosion of Misinformation Calls for Moderation

Misinformation and fake news have been circulating online for as long as the internet has existed. However, the monumental events from 2020 have amplified the reach and impact of misinformation, destroying trust and endangering safety.

A recent study of 200 million pandemic-specific social media posts even revealed that 40% of them were unreliable. 

In a world where people no longer know what information to trust, providing reliable news and building close relationships with audiences must be a priority.

That’s why it has become vital for media organizations to invest in making their owned and operated properties safe, trusted spaces for news and related conversation. 

Consider producing a trusted environment by tightening moderation on your website’s (or app’s) social spaces to prevent offensive behavior and misinformation. 

As Anna Nirmala, VP of the American Journalism Project, stresses, “having a relevant and trusted brand is linked to building relationships and engaging with the community.”

The Loss of Third-Party Cookies Means a Shift to First-Party Data

Despite shrinking company budgets and the global pandemic, 2020 threw another curveball to media companies: the end to third-party cookies

Most media leaders quickly realized that they would have to reconsider their audience data-collection strategies to survive beyond 2022, when Chrome phases out third-party cookies entirely.

Little by little, organizations are shifting focus from third-party to first-party data strategies to future-proof their businesses. After all, first-party data offers insight into what audiences find interesting and how companies can better meet their needs. 

“You have to triple down on data – not in the crude sense of chasing page views, but in the sense of infusing the [organization] with a visceral sense of who audiences are, why you matter and how you can matter more,” explains Lucy Kueng, a professor and senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute.

In other words, first-party audience data is essential for creating highly relevant content and experiences to boost the appeal of your company’s services.

Changing Work Environments Put Greater Emphasis on Improving Mental Health in the Newsroom

In recent years, the state of employee mental health at media companies has been under scrutiny. 2020 then unleashed a mass migration to remote workspaces along with an alarming number of job cuts across the media industry, adding new pressure on newsroom workers. 

“We are at an interesting point where newsroom cultures are changing very quickly and the pandemic has accelerated that,” states Reuters Global Managing Editor Simon Robinson. “The challenge now is to keep that momentum going as new remote workers are joining news [organizations] and relationship-building is getting harder.”

Business leaders must now take steps to improve mental health in the newsroom to maintain a positive, productive work environment with satisfied employees.

All throughout 2020, media companies were forced to tackle one challenge after another. Fortunately, we’ve finally entered the beginning of a healing period, where businesses can learn from the past to become more resilient and profitable moving forward.

Four Exciting Reasons for Media Leaders To Be Optimistic About the Year Ahead

2020 was disrupted by a deadly virus, shrinking budgets, nonstop work and misinformation, challenging even the most well-established media organizations. Thankfully, change is on the horizon. 

Media companies that have powered through this chaotic and unpredictable period are now well-positioned to embrace a brighter future.

“While the pandemic has not changed where the industry was heading, it has cut the time to get there from years to months, with the virus rapidly accelerating trends like a move to digital and working from home,” two writers state on FIPP’s website. “And even though such quick transformation has come as a shock to publishers, it presents plenty of opportunities to bounce back strongly in 2021.”

Industry leaders must now take a step back to identify and take hold of new opportunities to succeed and get excited in this strange, new world. 

To get started, here are four reasons why the year ahead will help to revive your sense of optimism in the future of your business.

Benefiting From Larger Audiences

Due to the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and U.S. election, media organizations saw their digital audiences climb in size throughout 2020. 

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center even revealed that digital news consumers now prefer catching up on the news by visiting media websites directly. 

Entertainment-focused media companies, like Netflix, also saw their audiences increase last year as more people sought to escape from reality and stay busy at home.

Between the internet users looking for trustworthy news coverage and those seeking entertainment, media organizations have larger audiences to nurture and monetize. And companies that can prove their ongoing value this year will benefit from sustainable reader revenue.

More specifically, the coming months will be an opportunity for media companies to engage and convert their visitors into long-term, profitable brand supporters.

The End of Trump’s Reign

Media companies have a love-hate relationship with Trump. On the one hand, the past four years and the 2020 presidential election were extremely eventful thanks to Trump, which made for excellent news content and led to a boom in news subscriptions. And yet, Trump popularized the belief that media promotes fake news and reduced trust in media. 

“The last four years have been marked by a deliberate and systemic attack on the press by the president of the United States,” explains Gabriel Escobar, editor and senior vice president of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It has — I suspect — contributed to the lack of trust in journalism which was not great to begin with.”

The transition to Biden’s presidency means that news media companies can finally begin rebuilding their relationships with audiences, restoring trust in the news.

The Rise of First-Party Data

Anyone who deals with audience data will know that third-party cookies are crumbling, triggering an industry-wide shift from third-party to first-party data strategies. 

However, the elimination of third-party cookie usage isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

First-party cookies allow media companies to learn more about their audience members and personalize experiences directly on their websites or apps.

In fact, Kayleigh Barber, a senior reporter at Digiday, highlights how Future plc “has seen a range of 50-70% better performance on campaigns that use its first-party audience segment data than campaigns that rely on third-party data.” 

By refocusing on first-party data, media companies can understand the identities, habits and preferences of their digital community members and serve them better in the future.

Moving Toward Virtual Events

Virtual events have completely replaced in-person events over the last few months. Gradually, media leaders have discovered that virtual events are cheaper and easier to organize, have no attendee limits and lend themselves better to interactive discussion sessions. 

“As we enter 2021, the era of virtual events — even in a post-pandemic world — is here to stay, at least as one way for news organizations to hold these gatherings,” says Rick Berke, the co-founder and editor of Stat, a news media company. 

It’s clear that even in-person events in the future will need to be supported with virtual elements to maximize attendee engagement. 

Although recent months have created a series of hurdles for media companies to jump over, organizations that have survived until this point are stronger than ever. Media leaders can now look forward to forging strong connections to their audiences with their newfound knowledge in the year ahead. 

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