Consumer interest buoys e-commerce beat

The hype surrounding e-commerce climaxed about a decade ago. But media interest in online retail remains fairly strong, simply because online shopping is now a large part of most consumers' experiences.

The hype surrounding e-commerce climaxed about a decade ago. But media interest in online retail remains fairly strong, simply because online shopping is now a large part of most consumers' experiences.

“There's actually more coverage overall [now] because online is a much bigger part of retail, and also because of trends like multichannel retailing, with consumers researching products on one site but not necessarily buying on that site or even buying online,” points out Don Davis, editor-in-chief of Internet Retailer, a Web site and magazine covering the industry. “So we cover the gamut of everything from how to organize your warehouse and fulfill orders to supply chain issues.”

Although Web retail is still a tech story, Davis suggests there is an emphasis on proven companies, solutions, and software when he considers stories for publication.

“We want to know about everything, so I'm willing to give someone 90 seconds on the phone to hear [his or her] pitch,” he says. “But before we write about it, we're going to want to talk to an online retailer who is using it.”

Online retail has also become an integral part of holiday shopping coverage, especially with the advent of “cyber Monday,” the first workday after Thanksgiving when many consumers go to commercial Web sites to buy holiday gifts.

“Most outlets still have their quota of holiday shopping [stories] to do, and so ‘cyber Monday' is still really big,” says Tuesday Uhland, SVP at Access Communications, which represents PayPal. “But you're also seeing plenty of interest in online retail stories surrounding other shopping periods.”

Yet this year, with the recession, the reported interest is also integrated into general consumer cost-cutting stories, says Andy Getsey, CEO and cofounder of Atomic PR.

“With retail-oriented clients like Coupons.com... we've seen a surge of... shopping coverage focusing on savings,” he says. “Just about every major TV show has a money-saving segment, and AP has a writer working... on savings tips and trends.”

Brendan Hurley, SVP of marketing and communications for Goodwill of Greater Washington, agrees, noting that media interest in ShopGoodwill.com has surged in recent months.

“Consumers and the media have been buying into the concept of Goodwill as a fashion option, and the [story idea] is getting a lot of traction,” he says.

And even with the cutbacks at many editorial outlets, Uhland explains that reporters are still looking to cover Web angles in their stories.

“The good news is everyone is still interested – the retail reporter... the personal finance reporter, and the small business reporter,” Uhland says. “Everyone believes firmly that you get better deals online, so every time there's a shopping story, most reporters are going to want an online angle.”

Pitching... Online Retail
The e-commerce hype is now long gone, so reporters want known Web sites, technologies, and real numbers before they commit to covering an online retailer

Leverage the current economy to pitch stories on how online sometimes offers better deals for cost-conscious consumers

Right now the retail buzzword is “cross-channel marketing,” so make sure to pitch even traditional retail reporters on how stores are using the Web to increase sales and drive consumers into brick-and-mortar shops

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