Since mid-March, the company has seen an increase in ecommerce-driven product sales across all 30 of its brands, selling 1 million products through site content that month. Hearst is on track to double that number for April, a 358% increase year-over-year.
“We started to notice a dramatic increase around the second week of March, which was when we started seeing nonessential businesses close in various states around the country,” Emily Silverman, senior director, ecommerce and partnerships, told Publishers Daily.
“We always try to keep an eye on how people are coming to our sites — from what sources, which stories they’re reading and hopefully, what products they’re buying,” Silverman continued. “That feedback loop really served us well here, because, as we saw the increases, we were able to take advantage of and notice the things our readers were seeming to need.”
As volume increased, editors began to audit and check in with some of their brand’s most-trafficked content to ensure the products being recommended were in stock and the content was cognizant of the new circumstances and sensitive to the pandemic.
“We didn’t suddenly create a bunch of new content. Instead, we started to see an increase in certain categories among what we produce day to day and month to month,” said Kristine Brabson, executive director strategy and editorial insights. “We created more content in real time to answer some of those needs.”
One successful example of a brand creating newly relevant content is Popular Mechanics. Building upon its reputation for robust product reviews, the brand saw a need for printer recommendations as readers began to build out their home offices.
Popular Mechanics’ move to bring needed content to its readers reflects how Hearst brands have approached editorial during the pandemic — taking actions that make it easy for people to make a decision.
Categories seeing the most growth include home, health, beauty, self-care and wellness.
Good Housekeeping, which has long had a robust ecommerce business, has seen an increase of 567% over the past six weeks, compared to the same period last year. Sales grew across bedding and bath, and now, as the weather warms up, interest is shifting to gardening.
As people shelter at home, many have also sought out gym equipment. Men’s Health, which saw an increase in product sales of 546% in April compared to the same time last year, has been selling everything from weight benches to barbells to yoga mats.
At Cosmopolitan, one of the most popular stories is focused on at-home laser hair removal. The brand itself saw a 388% increase in ecommerce sales over the same period last year.
“There’s been a shift to things you have to do at home now: grooming, haircuts, hair color, how to remove gel nails. Readers are also interested in hand cream, now that we’re all washing our hands more than ever,” said Silverman. “It’s not always the sexiest content, but it is what we need.”
Hearst editors rely on variious tools to help them connect readers with content, one being the real-time data tool Hans. Through Hans, for example, editors at Elle or Harper’s Bazaar are able to see how a story at Cosmopolitan is performing and pivot content to serve their readers if a topic seems particularly relevant.
“We’re in a world where we don’t always know what our future will look like, and the retail business is in a tremendous time of transition and change,” said Brabson. “Lifestyle brands will always have a place in whatever the new retail looks like, because we’re always going to be there understanding and connecting readers to what they want.”