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The Pillars of Ecommerce Success

One publishing brand that seems to have nailed ecommerce is Marie Claire, both in the UK and, more recently, in the US. Ciar Byrne looks at its winning strategy.

By Ciar Byrne

The Pillars of Ecommerce Success

Such is the success of “fashion editor approved shopping platform” the Marie Claire Edit that in March this year, the magazine brand launched a US version. Emily Ferguson, director of ecommerce at Marie Claire UK and USA, believes getting the technology right, ensuring a smooth user journey and always listening to customer feedback are the pillars of their winning ecommerce strategy.

The Edit launched in the UK in 2018, using the vast digital reach of the Marie Claire brand to deliver strong SEO capabilities. It now stocks 1.5m products from over 55 different stores, working with brands such as Net-a-Porter, Matchesfashion and Farfetch, and ranks for more than 23,000 key shopping and branded terms. In 2021, says Future, Marie Claire Edit doubled its revenue year-on-year, with an average order value on the site of £397.

Future plc bought Marie Claire US in May 2021, following its purchase of TI Media in April 2020 which included the UK edition of the magazine brand. In the first six months after the US acquisition, the publication generated more than $10m dollars in sales for retailers, and it now hopes to build on this success.

For the US launch, Marie Claire Edit partnered exclusively with the leading fashion retailer Nordstrom for two months before extending its offering to another ten of the best-known fashion retailers in the US. Ultimately, the brand hopes to work with 55 retailers, the same number as in the UK.

Ensuring you have the right technology in place is the first step for any publisher launching a new ecommerce venture, says Ferguson.

Emily Ferguson.

“It’s the difference between making five dollars or fifty dollars. I’ve seen over my career how good technology can really change what the ROI is.”

Fortunately, Future has its own internal ecommerce engine called Hawk which she describes as a “brilliant piece of technology”.

“It was a real privilege to have access to that and be able to work with the team to look at how we add fashion products to the Hawk technology to create the Marie Claire Edit,” she adds.

For smaller publishers without the capacity to build their own ecommerce infrastructure, there is the option to work with third parties. Ferguson believes the best place to start is getting the on-page optimisation right. Having a “test and learn mentality” and an agile approach to developing different revenue streams is also vital.

“The biggest failures come when a lot of money gets pumped into something that hasn’t necessarily been proven yet,” she says.

An immersive experience

The Marie Claire Edit promises an “immersive shopping experience” for users who want the ability to shop a multitude of different stores in one place. Ferguson and her team of four “wonderful women” are dedicated to ensuring the user journey is as smooth as possible, considering all the touch points along the way.

“Is it easy to navigate? Is the page appealing for what the person is looking for? Can they easily understand how to navigate, how to look at things, how to search? There’s lots of different things publishers need to be aware of,” she says.

They consider everything from the inspirational content and buying guides Marie Claire is known for at the top of the funnel, through to the shopping experience itself, harnessing data to analyse user engagement, right down to voucher codes at the bottom of the funnel.

Search engine optimisation is crucial, and Ferguson is pleased to report that in the first three weeks after the official launch of the US Edit, they saw up to 16,000 keywords ranking for shopping terms.

Customer feedback is another area she and her team monitor closely. She says: “I’m looped into all customer services. I want to know everything. It’s good because then I understand everything about the business in terms of customer perception, or things that could potentially be optimised. It’s always important to get customer feedback.”

After studying maths at university, Ferguson worked in banking for five years before launching her own online affiliate marketing fashion business, Free to be Supreme, which enabled her to build relationships with major fashion and beauty brands. She believes this experience has been invaluable to her current role.

“I went from running my own business to working for a fashion aggregator and then I worked for the Telegraph and then I got head hunted to work for Marie Claire and I haven’t left. Even the banking career, although it’s nothing to do with publishing, you have very tight timescales, you have fifteen minutes to trade millions of pounds worth of stock. In a fast paced environment, you need to be able to have amazing attention to detail and make decisions very quickly. That set me up in publishing and gave me a bit of an edge.”

For publishers making their first foray into e-commerce, her advice is not to rush it.

“Start small, start slow, start building up relationships, start adding links to your website, start creating buying guides, that’s the foundation. Don’t go too big too quick.”

After a period of growth and expansion at Marie Claire, her focus is now on honing the user journey, ensuring that the path to purchase is as smooth as it can be.

“It’s about the user journey on our site. How easy is it for a customer to search for something and have an onward journey to purchase that and how do we facilitate that in the best possible way?”

You can hear Emily Ferguson being interviewed by James Evelegh on a recent episode of The InPublishing Podcast, which was sponsored by Air Business, a leading supplier of distribution and subscription management services.

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.