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Content and commerce as a double act: a big new trend emerges in ecommerce

E‑commerce ana­lysts and web con­tent man­agers would do well to note an emerg­ing trend which is attract­ing the inter­est of investors, big time: com­merce and con­tent are no longer ships that sail indif­fer­ent­ly past each oth­er in the night but an audi­ence-build­ing, rev­enue boost­ing dou­ble act.

That’s the les­son of huge­ly suc­cess­ful star­tups like One Kings Lane,, Bour­bon & Boots and Refin­ery 29, the lat­ter being one of the first ecom­merce ven­tures to prac­tice con­tent com­merce from its launch in 2004 onwards.  These firms are blog­ging about how to get the best out of their prod­ucts, pro­fil­ing design­ers, and gen­er­al­ly pro­vid­ing their e‑commerce sites with a dis­tinct­ly more edi­to­r­i­al slant.

A les­son for ecom­merce ana­lysts: killer con­tent draws big investment

The invest­ment these ris­ing stars have attract­ed speaks vol­umes.  One Kings Lane, which offers huge dis­counts off the retail price of home décor, has raised more than $113 mil­lion since its launch in 2009, while its younger cousin (which was found­ed in New York in 2010) has raised the prince­ly sum of $171 mil­lion – and $120 mil­lion of that came in 2012 alone. Bour­bon & Boots, which sells curat­ed, south­ern-tinged art, music, cloth­ing, home décor and food and drink, has raised seed fund­ing of $250,000 since launch­ing in 2011.

These are the kind of sums to make e‑commerce man­agers and e‑commerce ana­lysts sit up and lis­ten.  These firms are all sport­ing impres­sive rev­enues and, with­out doubt, their cre­ative use of con­tent has played a piv­otal role in their suc­cess sto­ries.  Social net­works like Pin­ter­est, Insta­gram, Twit­ter and Face­book have rev­o­lu­tion­ized con­tent cre­ation and even though these new gen­er­a­tion ecom­merce firms do have a focus on sell­ing online, they’re increas­ing embrac­ing con­tent as a very effec­tive way to build audiences.

Con­tent engages under­served communities

What they’re dis­cov­er­ing is that strik­ing con­tent helps them reach under­served but very pas­sion­ate niche com­mu­ni­ties, and it seems to keep them con­sid­er­ably more engaged than search adver­tis­ing could ever hope to do.  And there’s no doubt that the con­tent com­merce mar­ket is surging.

As Bour­bon & Boots co-founder Matt Price put it:

“There are a lot of things that have hap­pened over the past 2–3 years that have led in this direc­tion. It’s the result of the rethink­ing of retail and the rethink­ing of con­tent at the same time.”

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