As marketers gear up for the annual holiday shopping season and plan for 2022, expect to see a further upswing in the number of Commerce Content deals at play.

Commerce Content is the integration of products into a publisher’s editorial output. Think Yahoo’s shopping portal or’s ‘Best Of’ section which uses consumer trends and audience level data to create articles around relevant products and deals.

It’s having a moment – our new research tells us that 65 percent of brands say commerce content was an important strategy this year and 40 percent expect to increase their budget in this channel –  for three key reasons.

Firstly, we know that people working from home – or in the increasingly typical hybrid working situation – are reading, viewing, and consuming more content than ever before. According to the 2020 Deloitte Media Consumer Survey, 24 percent of respondents signed up to a new entertainment or digital communications service during lockdown and 42 percent used online news websites daily for news.

Secondly, intrusive, slow to load and unengaging ads are a turn off for consumers with over a third of Australians aged 16-64 using an ad blocker[1]. When you throw in trust issues and data privacy concerns (69 percent of Australian consumers have said they no longer trust in advertising[2]) it’s no wonder consumers are turning to recommendations and reviews to make purchase decisions.

And finally, customer acquisition costs on Facebook and Google have skyrocketed. Thanks to increased competition and privacy changes from Apple and Google almost half (48%) of marketers doubt they can provide key performance metrics without cookies – a real issue given they are soon to be phased out by Google. And that’s before you factor in the quasi-monopoly issues outlined in last week’s ACCC inquiry that found significant competition concerns with likely harms to publishers, advertisers and consumers.

Against this backdrop it’s hardly surprising that brands are turning to cost-per-acquisition (CPA)-based commerce content deals with publishers keen to monetise their inventory. When done well, content commerce is a resounding win-win for the consumer, publisher and brand, but it’s important to understand that commerce content is not advertising, and the rules are quite different.

From our work with publishers and brands, the four things that brands can do to succeed at commerce content are:

Audience comes first

If you’re a publisher, selling to your audience (commerce content) is not the same as selling access to your audience (advertising). Simply inserting links into a quickly churned out story to sell a product won’t work. Instead, it requires partnership, planning and time to create a product that audiences want to read and which meets both editorial and commercial goals. On a practical level, this means brands must factor in longer-time lines, two-way conversations and being less prescriptive about how a publication can write about a product.

Embrace full-funnel

It’s not all about the bottom of the funnel. Commerce content can include top of the funnel activations like custom branded articles that provide education and awareness all the way down to listicles, gift guides, deal bulletins and product reviews. We’ve found the most success when brands embrace the full funnel mix of content so it works together to drive both hard and soft performance metrics.

Kick ROAS (return on ad spend) to the curb

As I’ve said, commerce content is not advertising, so it doesn’t make sense to measure it with the traditional ROAS. This is because it undervalues the total benefit commerce content can deliver. Premium publisher content can drive incremental uplift in revenue, average order value (AOV) and new customer acquisitions, but it can also drive a lot of traffic that doesn’t convert right away. Consequently, there has to be a willingness to invest in multi-touch attribution in order to fairly compensate publishers to reward the effort that goes into creating good content (because if you don’t, I promise you, your competitors will).

Let the newsletter go

We work with publishers, brands and agencies and we know that editors receive an overwhelming (read crazy) number of newsletters and emails from retail partners each week. And guess what? They delete, delete, delete. This means ditching the newsletter and focusing instead on longer-term trends and priorities over the coming quarters. When it comes to commerce content, the earlier you start strategic conversations the better.

For brands who lean into the fact that commerce content can’t be approached in the same way as digital advertising then there is a real opportunity to drive authentic engagement with consumers and drive sales revenue.

Sam Morton is partnerships director at

[1] Hoot Suite & We Are Social Digital 2021 July Statshot Report

[2] Source: When trust falls down, Ipsos MORI, June 2017