Refinery29 automates creation of ‘shoppable products’

Refinery29 sped up content creation by automating the generation of product listings in affiliate articles.

Refinery29 is a revolutionary digital media company that is changing the way young women live, work and play. It produces editorial content that covers a wide spectrum of women's lives including style, entertainment, health, technology and news.

Readers come first
As a major lifestyle company, Refinery29 features a lot of articles that cover products in beauty, fashion, and health. These form a key part of the company's affiliate revenue model. Currently there are two ways in which products are featured in a story. The first is through a product module embedded in the page that contains brand, retailer and price information in-page. The second is through a hyperlink to the product in the text of the article. Refinery29 found that the product module was better loved by readers since it gave them all the relevant context within the article itself. However, the challenge was that doing this required tedious task effort from the editorial team. Given the volume of content that Refinery29 produces, the development team had to find a way to create product recommendations that wouldn’t increase editorial workload and would be scalable. Ideally Refinery29 also wanted to backfill the database, i.e. enhance already published articles and embed them with shoppable products.

Creating shoppable products instantly
While the Refinery29 team tried to build a “product-scraper” internally they realised that such a solution would require constant and costly maintenance. Enter stage left, the Semantics3’s API. Instead of manually curating content, the team decided to scrape published stories for links to products and send them to Semantics3's APIs. In response the APIs returned structured product metadata, including price, brand and retailer. This information was used to automatically create products in Refinery29’s database and embed them in the articles in which they were referenced. The ongoing product creation workflow was super-charged; products were now pre-populated in Refinery29’s content management system. Now, the editorial staff embeds products directly from the CMS into articles without any extra editorial work.

Scaling ROI without scaling up costs
For Refinery29, better engagement directly translates to better revenue. Hence it was a no-brainer to choose the product module layout over the embedded hyperlink layout. The only challenge was with implementation; once they found Semantics3 the rest was easy. This straightforward integration allowed the editorial team to scale up far more easily and rapidly than any manual or internal process would’ve allowed for.