Content Meets Commerce: How Thrillist and Refinery29 Turn Brand Loyalty into Sales

As published on branchannel on July 5, 2013.

Founded in 2004, Thrillist started as a guide to New York City for recent male graduates. Today, Thrillist Media Group generates over $40 million in revenue , 45 percent of which comes from its e-commerce site, JackThreads, which it acquired in 2010 to complement its content offerings on its Thrillist and Crosby Press sites.  Refinery29

Unlike most media companies, Thrillist has over half a million credit card numbers on hand. The seamless shopping experience, where men can discover and purchase product on the same site, means that the user is more engaged and more likely to have intent to buy. “They’ve got their wallet in hand. They’re looking for recommendations and what to do and what to buy,” Eric Ashman, Thrillist Media Group’s strategic advisor told brandchannel. “Reading GQ, your feet are up on the coffee table, you’re leaning back. And when you’re [on Thrillist], you’re leaning forward and looking for ideas and looking for recommendations and things to share with your friends.”

Refinery29, like Thrillist, is also at the forefront of seamlessly joining content and commerce. With 5 million visitors per month, Refinery29 focuses on building brand loyalty for the brands advertised on its site, but without a major complementary online store.

Whether it’s driving sales or driving loyalty, both sites utilize and prioritize content over commerce. “At the Thrillist Media Group, we’re talking about dropping people into a full e-commerce experience, where we run everything from buyers on one end making product and curating product, all the way through to a warehouse where we do fulfillment,” Ashman told brandchannel.

Both sites support the same strategy: content drives users to the sites and engages them to buy, whether its directly or indirectly. Understanding this relationship, the sites focus on content-based metrics such as audience engagement, audience growth, engagement growth, and time on site to measure their success as opposed to solely focusing on direct purchase metrics.

With regular display advertising, a 1 percent click rate is impressive, but on Thrillist, most of the site’s content has a 25 to 30 percent click rate as users seek to learn more or purchase a product. The products highlighted on Thrillist come about through a unique and tested approach that sees the site’s editors choosing which products they want to write about. The process allows for a more natural feel to the curacted content. Through this content focus, brands highlighted on the site receive benefits across the purchase funnel, impacting awareness through loyalty.

Refinery29’s CEO Philippe von Borries said at a recent NewsCred event that, “Famous brands are 50 percent merchandising and 50 percent inspiration. Borries also spoke of the tricky balance faced by e-commerce sites in which online shops seek to minimize time on the site (pre-purchase) while fashion content sites try to maximize time.

Unlike Thrillist, Refinery29 focuses more on brand loyalty without the emphasis on direct purchase. For example, an article on Alice + Olivia’s ‘whimsical’ office has little to do with showcasing the clothing company’s products and yet, develops a relationship with the brand. The site subtly advertises the boutique Nasty Gal in the article, “20 Crucial Fashion Lessons We Learned From Arrested Development”: “All of Rita’s outfits are just amazing, and we’re only about 40 percent joking here. The heart-shaped glasses, smiley pin, Clueless-inspired beret—these are all things that have populated Nasty Gal and more of our favorite downtown-cool shops in the last few seasons.”

Here, unlike what you might find on Thrillist, there is no link to Nasty Gal’s site, only a reference. The upshot: readers may feel they’re getting the insider scoop. The only section of Refinery29 devoted to direct purchases is discount giftcards and small boutiques highlighted as “Vintage Across America,” which clearly differs from Thrillist’s full e-commerce experience.

While both sites have different end goals to monetize their content and communities—Thrillist Media is looking to launch shops on Thrillist and Crosby Press that leverage Jack Thread’s e-commerce platform, while Refinery29 doesn’t alude to any retail expansion—both remain to be trendsetters in a space that aims to marry the disjointed worlds of content and commerce.

For original, click here.

Content Meets Commerce

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2 thoughts on “Content Meets Commerce: How Thrillist and Refinery29 Turn Brand Loyalty into Sales

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