E-commerce Holds Challenges for Traditional Media

Fast-rising commerce companies like Groupon have positioned themselves at the top of the online marketing food chain, staring down not only at newcomers but also at older media institutions that are now looking to make money in the digital arena.

Relatively young businesses, such as Groupon, have embraced the advantages of mobile platforms and social marketing since their formations, shadowing the traditional methods of even the most dominating media companies.

What are these more established institutions to do?

Though top-tier traditional media players have been merging content and commerce since the beginning, their transition into the fast-paced world of online marketing has often been less than smooth.

In 2012, do they still have a chance to control the space, or are they merely treading water? Thought leaders in the digital marketing field offered their opinions earlier this month at the Daily Deal Summit East panel “Traditional Media — They Came. They Saw. They Conquered?”

Jonty Kelt, CEO of Group Commerce, said at the April 17th forum that there is plenty of room for older companies to succeed in e-commerce, but it requires focus, commitment and, of course, great content. Established institutions have leverage with international audiences and have proven their abilities to produce fantastic content. Since they’re already well positioned in terms of brands and acquisitions, they just need to learn how to wield that power in an unfamiliar space.

Prashant Nedungadi, CEO of NimbleCommerce, said that established companies tend to lack tech platform on which to monetize business and content. “It was only 15 to 20 years ago that we received the bulk of our information from one channel,” Nedungadi said. In past decades, content completely controlled commerce, he continued. But now, myriad avenues exist through which to produce and consume content, so it older companies have some catching up to do.

In the meantime, even the most longstanding and revered publications need to be proactive about their digital marketing. Charlie Vecchio, vice president of Digital Media for MailSouth, Inc., said that the transition is so dynamic that businesses need to be restructuring their sales forces.

“You only get out what you put in. You need to have people whose jobs depend on making this work.” Kelt chimed in, agreeing about need to reallocate resources. “Do something that’s on brand and not ‘me too.’ Commit to it with resources and leverage your assets — divided into audience and offers.”

Businesses entering the e-commerce competition can’t just copy Groupon’s model. The panelists agreed that as the industry evolves, brands and merchants will need to take big risks together.

Panel moderator, Kristopher B. Jones, founder and CEO of, asked, “How do you juggle the heritage and prestige of traditional media with the demand for the hype and fast pace of new deals?”

The consensus was to use those entrenched assets. Traditional media is bringing stable groups of trusting audiences into an unpredictable space, and despite the rocky transition, the digital marketing arena provides opportunities for these loyal consumers to use established outlets that they love in new ways, panelists said.

Once traditional companies get past the intimidation of jumping into the new world, then they can get their hands dirty — providing healthy competition for the online newcomers and perhaps even partnering up for some hybrid innovation.

Images courtesy of Helder Almeida/shutterstockSVLuma/shutterstock

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