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House Beautiful breaks into mcommerce via digital watermarking for advertisers

Hearst Corp.’s House Beautiful magazine is taking its investments in digital watermarking from the past two years up a notch with a new initiative that lets consumers shop from ads.

The home décor magazine is the first publication to leverage a technology from Digimarc and ShopAdvisor that lets consumers shop from House Beautiful static print ads. House Beautiful was also one of the first publishers to originally roll out digital watermarking in its print edition.

“In the early days of QR codes, often times the rush to use one came at the expense of the user — plainly, the pay-off could be disappointing,” said Sean Sullivan, associate publisher at House Beautiful, New York.

“Our strategy has always been to think of the user first and ask, ‘What will add another dimension to the story, how can we bring it to life, make it interactive?’” he said.

“But we also aim to add more entertainment value to the reader experience like an unexpected animated feature or a Skype chat with a designer. You don’t get many chances to do it right, and if you turn someone off it will be a long time before they come back.”

Scanned engagement
The technology is embedded within House Beautiful’s free HB Connect iPhone app.

Additionally, consumers can download the Digimarc Discover app to activate the print pages. The Digimarc app is available for free download on iPhone and Android devices.

Readers can scan an advertiser’s page to view the price and buy the product with the app open.

For example, an ad for home furnishing retailer Arhaus on the inside cover of the magazine features several products, each of which has a digital watermark that is linked with a product page on that lets consumers shop the item.

There is also an option to view the price history of an item or save the product to a section of the app called “watch list.” Watch list monitors the price and availability of a product to ping users when an item hits a certain price.

Although not connected to advertising, Hearst’s HGTV Magazine is also working with Digimarc to make its print edition shoppable (see story).

Mobile’s future
House Beautiful’s next big program with digital watermarks will be the magazine’s April 2014 issue.

Digital watermarks in the print edition will be used to kick off House Beautiful’s Shop America program that celebrates shopping districts around the country. Static editorial content will be linked to video, sweepstakes and store location information.

House Beautiful originally rolled out digital watermarks to its September 2011 issue (see story).

Since then the magazine has used the technology in several different ways. In May 2012, House Beautiful became the first publication to leverage a technology that connects print content to Pinterest (see story).

Publishers have been testing print-to-mobile tactics for years, and by sticking with one type of technology, House Beautiful readers are accustomed to using an universal app to access content.

“Previously publications only wanted to offer exclusive content on their tablet editions,” said Matthew Szerencse, market development manager at Digimarc, Beaverton, OR.

“If a consumer only read the print magazine they couldn’t get that exclusive or enhanced content,” he said. “Today, magazines are starting to use their digital assets from their tablet editions and allowing print readers to enjoy the same exclusive digital content on their mobile devices.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York