During the Great Recession, the three founders of the Webgears Group originally formed the company when they saw an opportunity to seize the moment and help people save money by sharing deals and online coupons, while monetizing their site using affiliate and other performance-based channels. At the time, the industry looked a lot different than it does today: larger media brands mostly sat on the sidelines when it came to affiliate marketing initiatives, and advertisers had fewer outlets to share their latest deals.

Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic devastating the economy today, and the performance-based solutions we championed 10 years ago are more relevant than ever. Publishers who previously depended on programmatic and other traditional ad revenue can now use commerce content to build incremental revenue streams, and advertisers can entice online shoppers to their sites using promo codes and coupons online in order to recoup lost sales from physical stores.

Meanwhile, e-commerce growth is only accelerating as consumers turn to the internet to find ways to save. Based on our projections, we anticipate that our platforms and sites will see two or three times as much organic search traffic by the end of 2020 than we would have experienced during an ordinary year. Any prominent media website not already publishing or thinking about introducing some degree of commerce content offering to tap into this significant shift of consumer behavior and marketing spend will miss out on a phenomenal revenue diversification opportunity.

What’s different: Quality matters more now than ever

As the savings industry has matured over the past decade, so too have the number of players in the space. It’s safe to say that compared to the online savings landscape during the Great Recession, today there is no shortage of places for people to find deals and promo codes, but unfortunately, many of these new providers are focused on revenue over user experience.

Inevitably, some consumers have been tricked into visiting spammy sites or click-bait-oriented content in the past and will get frustrated when they come across a coupon that doesn’t work or is out of date. That’s why our mentality when it comes to collecting promo codes for our sites, plugins and platforms has always been the same: “if it’s out there, we have it; if we have it, it’s working.”

In a market saturated with so many deal offerings, credibility becomes a key indicator for success. Publishers looking to build or expand their commerce content solutions during this economic downturn are wise to go light on banner-style advertising, videos or other distracting elements, instead prioritizing a professional layout allowing users to browse quickly and with full confidence that the deals are vetted for accuracy.

The case for working with a strategic partner

The goal for publishers pursuing commerce content solutions should always be for the platform or site to become the go-to source or destination for savings or recommendations for inspiration. That said, some publishers won’t have the resources or bandwidth to build these kinds of diversified revenue streams in the midst of an economic crisis, or simply lack the specific technical expertise or resources needed to get something like a customized deal platform off the ground. In these cases, strategic partnerships are the best way to go.

Working with a strategic partner to build high-quality commerce content comes with little risk and no upfront cost to the publisher while creating a fresh revenue stream and added benefit for the site’s readers. At Webgears, our partnerships have been extremely lucrative for our media partners. While potential revenue varies depending on the size of the publisher and the solution pursued, the most successful partnerships are capable of generating significant six-figure commissions per month, pre-revenue share.

Needless to say, seeking out a partner who can identify, propose and set up a solution aimed at an alternative revenue stream while you handle other important operational matters at hand is an essential tactic for survival during this difficult period for digital publishers.

If you do it right, it’s all up from here

The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting publishers hard, just as the Great Recession did 10 years ago. If we can offer one silver lining in these tough times, it’s this: the pandemic may throw a wrench in this year’s business as usual, but the online savings industry is ultimately changing in several ways that will benefit those who are prepared to seize the moment.

Just as we found success launching Webgears in the midst of the Great Recession, media publishers and brands today can use this moment to recognize the opportunity of building new revenue streams designed to adapt to changing consumer behavior and shopping patterns. Those who do will find themselves uniquely positioned for success far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.