All Things Chicago
Posted: 3/4/2014  |  By: Nu Yang
From limited-edition press plates to beauty products, Chicago Trib Shops is a new e-commerce platform helping the Chicago Tribune generate digital revenue. Launched last February, the Chicago Trib Shops sells items produced by the media company, along with specialized products from 20 to 25 local sellers.            

“Our initial concept was how do we take the context we already have and monetize it with something that doesn’t exist?” said Joseph Schiltz, senior vice president of marketing and targeted media. “That’s how we chose the e-commerce platform, and we didn’t want to be a one e-commerce store…we have something that will cater to various needs.”            

The Chicago Trib Shops include merchandise from Chicago businesses selling products in stores such as Sports Cave, Flora Shop and Chicago Made.            

Keeping everything local was a key priority. “We wanted to maintain a strong local brand and help our local economy,” digital marketing director Karrie Sullivan said. “We’re not saying we won’t expand, but during this first generation, we’re focusing on local.”            

When deciding what kind of items to sell, Sullivan said they studied website traffic. “It made sense to go with sports,” she said, referring the various sports memorabilia the site sells. “It has a high-volume audience and there’s a passion in that marketplace. We wanted to leverage that traffic into dollars.”            

They also partnered with the editorial team for audience knowledge to understand what was being planned for the editorial calendar in order to plan future offers.            

Sullivan said the website is updated daily with new products. One of the requirements to become a seller is that the business must have the ability to ship and to provide its own customer service.            

“We’re not a warehouse,” Schiltz said. “We work as a platform.”            

Sullivan said sellers have commented this was not a typical retail relationship. “We provide traffic, retail, marketing—it’s all combined.” The shops are promoted on social media and in print.            

Schiltz called it a “partner model,” where they manage inventory and transactions. Any revenue made is split and Schiltz said the amount varies depending on the seller.            

Looking ahead, Schiltz said their goal is to launch more stores in different genres. He encouraged publishers looking into e-commerce to invest in the right platform and to have the right technology in place.

Sullivan urged publishers to be patient with a project like this. “My advice to them is to be methodical. Test the business model and understand it’s not a three-year, $5 million project.”             

Visit the Chicago Trib Shops at chicagotribshops.com.