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Part 2: Evolving Strategies and Collaborative Teams: A Closer Look at SCMP Hearst Hong Kong’s Affiliate Marketing Approach

Posted 9 months ago by Naomi Kono

This is the second part of the case study interview with Ada Wong, the Product Director at SCMP Hearst Hong Kong, where our focus lies on their approach to affiliate marketing strategy.

How has your strategy developed in recent years 

Our commerce strategy has undergone significant development in recent years, driven by the dynamic nature of the industry and the impact of the pandemic. Initially, our focus was on expanding our editorial content to include product recommendations, aiming to guide our readers from simply consuming the content to engaging in purchases based on our recommendations. This phase marked an experimental stage for us, as we explored various approaches.

During this experimentation period, we realized that the luxury fashion category, which had been our primary focus, was not as popular for e-shopping. Therefore, we made the strategic decision to shift our attention to another category, such as Beauty. However, this transition required careful consideration, as our editors, though knowledgeable in fashion, needed time to conduct product research, learn to insert tracking links, and navigate the Skimlinks network to find relevant products. It was a learning process for us to improve the efficiency of creating shopping content.

To streamline our operations and gain insights into our readers’ purchasing behaviors, we invested in setting up data pipelines and creating dashboards. These tools provided us with valuable information that guided us in encouraging our editors to create more shopping content. This phase can be characterized as an experimental stage that lasted for more than six months as we kick-started these efforts.

The outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 brought about a drastic shift in consumer demand and shopping behavior. People in Hong Kong focused more on essential items such as groceries, health products, and COVID-related supplies like supplements and masks. Unfortunately, these product categories were not our primary areas of expertise. Therefore, we had to adapt our strategy once again and redirect our focus to meet the changing demands of our audience. Also, our efficiency at that time was not high enough to scale up productivity and revenue from affiliate marketing. Thanks to Skimlinks’ API, we were able to increase the product exposure on our website more effectively and witnessed scalable revenue growth during this period.

Now, as the situation evolves once again, with more consumers engaging in offline activities and in-person shopping experiences, we acknowledge that online shopping remains a prominent trend. As a publisher and content creator, we believe that enhancing customer experiences through offline activities, such as product reviews and workshops, can complement our online presence. By bridging the gap between online and offline, we aim to provide readers with more shared experiences and valuable information to facilitate their purchase decisions. This presents us with new challenges, and as a result, we are actively developing our membership services and platforms to serve our communities and offer enhanced online shopping experiences.

Tell me about your commerce team and their function

Our commerce team operates in a cross-departmental manner, with members from the digital product team and editors from four magazine titles. The digital product team maintains close communication with the editorial team to ensure the effective delivery of marketing and promotional information from our affiliate partner, Skimlinks. Additionally, we have a community and commerce team responsible for managing our community site, Cosmart. This team comprises the editorial members who are passionate to share their knowledge and buying tips, report latest trends and engage with our readers.

While the magazine brand team primarily focuses on creating editorial and evergreen content to share shopping information, the editors from the community and commerce team specialize in editorial content with a promotional or member benefits angle. The brand editorial team avoids featuring topics related to promotions or member benefits due to branding concerns, but the community team is more actively involved in assisting our readers during important shopping seasons and promotional events, facilitating their online purchases.

As part of the digital product team, our role is predominantly technical. We handle tasks such as setting up data pipelines to retrieve information from Skimlinks and creating various dashboards specific to their data. We hold monthly team meetings with all editorial teams to assess their productivity and performance in generating shopping content. During these meetings, we provide insights regarding their product selections and occasionally encourage them to explore new categories of products to gauge performance. We also maintain a dedicated Slack group with the editorial team to exchange promotion information and share content. This collaboration allows us to identify articles that may benefit from additional promotion. Essentially, our commerce team operates as a squad, leveraging technical expertise to support and enhance the overall effectiveness of our commerce initiatives.

Part 3: Planning for Peak Season: SCMP Hearst Hong Kong’s Commerce Strategy Unveiled

Nominees announced for The CAPS 2023

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