Will it be a good London Fashion Week for the hybrid ecommerce/editorial model?
We hear a lot of talk in our industry about the need for brands to become publishers and creators/curators of content. The implications behind this kind of talk are huge, not least the capital and time investment required to make it happen, and whilst easy to say, just how easy is it to put into practice?
Luxury fashion e-tailers have been blazing a trail in this space with the likes of Net-a-Porter and Matches attracting high profile editorial talent away from Harper’s Bazaar publisher, Hearst, to scale their content capabilities as a digital shop window for their e-commerce businesses. The world of luxury fashion retail is one traditionally predicated on “the experience”, where the store, the service and the product coalesce to convince us of that premium price tag. It’s a proven and potent combination that luxury e-tailers must somehow match. This is where editorial comes in, and the context of ecommerce, which helps drive success in three key ways:
Identity – online retailers don’t have the advantage of a prime location physical store to bring the brand to life for anyone who walks in. Furthermore, locations like Bond St. confer a sense of reputation that helps establish newer luxury brands. For the online retailers, editorial is an ideal alternative way to convey personality and articulate their proposition. The brand’s style and tone can be brought to life through magazine-style content, in ways that are far richer than simply showing product and price.
Inspiration – everyone likes a good story and selling through storytelling is a technique that’s been used for years by magazines. The classic location shoot has been adopted by luxury e-tailers, but the difference is you’re just one click away from buying a single item, or better yet, the entire look. Clever copy and rich, interactive imagery brings the product to life without the viewer being able to touch. It keeps visitors on the site longer and, if the content is good, people are more inclined to share it.
Expectation – the likes of Mr Porter have raised the bar in terms of what we expect from a high-end e-tailer. Their journal not only gives me the latest look for summer on the Med but also the book and the music to accompany me on my sun lounger. I value their recommendations. While this kind of editorial content isn’t explicitly selling, it’s keeping me connected in a more meaningful way. It’s interesting stuff and next time, they may just pique my interest enough for me to click through and shop.
So if editorial is the key to ecommerce success through more meaningful connections, why aren’t the fashion magazines heading in the same direction and adding ecommerce capabilities to their editorial expertise? Firstly, it’s easier to come at it from an ecommerce-first position, rather than an editorial starting point. The time and investment required to build a fully functioning, successful ecommerce business is significant. In comparison, editorial capability and supporting site functionality is less time and resource heavy, and can be expedited with some tactical hiring.
Secondly, magazines should tread carefully. Years of building a loyal readership through quality and objective editorial could be jeopardized through a poor ecommerce experience. After all, people have come primarily to read rather than to shop. It’s still content first, and publishers must absolutely avoid making their audience feel they’re being disingenuously cajoled in any way.
Still, it hasn’t put them off and there are notable examples of magazine brands moving into this hybrid ecommerce/editorial world. With the help of a third party to handle fulfilment, Red Magazine has Red Direct, and ELLE UK recently launched a beauty shop, hoping to leverage journalist expertise, acting as curators and reviewers.
Perhaps the most interesting move has come from Condé Nast with two $20 million investments so far this year; first in luxury e-tailer Farfetch.com, and second in Vestiaire Collective, an online marketplace for luxury second-hand clothes. Whilst there are no immediate plans to integrate either of these businesses with any of its online properties, the potential is clearly there. No doubt, Condé Nast is on a huge learning curve, as it starts to develop new revenue streams at this exciting nexus of editorial and ecommerce. Convergence is bound to gather pace, but in the rush to keep pace, generate new revenue streams and offset declining business models, we should never forget it’s the customer experience that must remain paramount throughout.