Online Retail is Soaring; Let’s Add a Newsstand to the Virtual Checkout Lane

The nature of retail faces a similar challenge as the publishing industry: Disruption in both industries – and indeed across all industries – will only get faster

Yet consumer preferences continue to be critical factors in deciding how to innovate … and we need a new innovation around the online checkout experience for retailers who sell magazines.

“It’s hardly news that traditional in-store magazine single-copy sales have been challenged in recent years,” writes Jerry Lynch in Publishers Daily. “Yet during the early weeks of the pandemic, magazine sales increased by double digits, as traffic swelled and shoppers looked for trusted content brands for entertainment and DYI advice.

“The takeaway: Consumers — including young consumers — still value print magazines,” Lynch continues. “Print is very much alive. But it’s overdue for some transformative strategic initiatives on the retail front.”

Lynch believes that magazine publishers aren’t taking full advantage of all the channels available through their retail partners. Saying “people can’t buy what they don’t see,” Lynch feels publishers tend to focus too exclusively on the physical newsstand.

“Magazine brands should be making physical magazines available for online purchase through partnerships with key retailers,” he writes. “Print magazines should be marketed, sold and delivered to homes or picked up at stores — via retailers’ now-common ‘click-and-collect’ programs — through the e-commerce channel, along with groceries and other products.”

<<insert pause here to let that sink in… >>

It’s a profoundly simple idea; why not give readers the same chance they have at the cash register to toss in the latest Magnolia Journal or Ayesha Curry’s Sweet quarterly? Given the way publishers are leveraging social media in their own channel stream, there should be little resistance to this idea.

“If magazines are being printed, and are already carried in stores, why not try to build on that existing relationship to leverage e-commerce, retailers’ most rapidly growing channel?” Lynch asks.

“Given that magazines have always been key impulse items at physical checkouts, yielding high per-copy profit margins for retailers, why not work with retailers to employ magazines’ impulse power online, as well?,” Lynch continues. “After all, when budgets are pinched, magazines have been shown to be attractive as a guilt-free, even good-for-you, indulgence that comes at a modest price.”

This is some next-level strategic thinking. Yes, there are challenges, as Lynch points out, to properly developing the e-commerce strategy. Yet consumers already have a behavior around buying magazines at the check-out. There’s every reason to think they’ll appreciate the opportunity to do so in the digital check-out lane.

To quote another Jerry, “that’s gold, Jerry, gold!”