This summer, Food52 used information from Collections to make inventory and content decisions. Readers were saving cake recipes and fish recipes at an unusually high rate, so the site added columns addressing those topics and shored up offerings in its Provisions store.
For advertisers, Collections offers the chance to get in front of customers who have expressed interests in products or topics that are relevant to those advertisers. Food52 plans to give advertisers access to this data in 2015.
In addition to the data-sharing plan, Food52 just started a loyalty program that will target its best customers with new products and tie email marketing to a person’s behavior on the site. If someone saves a Provisions item or puts it in his cart, for example, Food52 could follow up with an email offer for free shipping to try to close that sale.
Just as Food52 does not create content just to promote an item in its store, it makes sure sponsored content offers relevant information for its audience. “All the content [in sponsored posts] we would be doing whether or not there was an advertiser,” Hesser said.
For the china company Noritake, for example, the site created a post and video titled “How to Throw a Stress-Free Brunch.” The video “brought together a lot of things. It was a recipe we’ve been wanting to show in a video format, and it uses Provisions items,” Hesser said.
The sponsored posts improve the performance of display advertising buys. The click-through rates for banner ads next to sponsored content are 300% higher, on average, than ads that aren’t contextual.
The site brought a similar spin to an Instagram campaign it did with Annie’s Mac & Cheese. A series of posts brought in a few thousand likes each. The best-performing post, which garnered more than 3,600 likes, featured the boxed pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage mixed in.
For another campaign, the site ran a contest with Bob’s Red Mill that encouraged users to submit their best quinoa recipes. Even a year after the contest ended, the site and the recipes continue to draw strong traffic. “The conversation we’re having with advertisers is about engagement, but it’s also about the fact that it will stay forever,” said Lauren Locke, Food52’s director of sales and partnerships. “Because there’s such content alignment, we’re never going to take it down.”
With content, commerce and advertising so close together, achieving that alignment is paramount. “The most important thing we do is partner with brands that are a good fit for our audience,” Locke said.