LONDON, United Kingdom — Fashion editorial has long been a powerful generator of purchasing intent for brands. But 'intent generators' like magazines often lose their fair share of sales revenue to 'intent harvesters' like retailers further down the purchasing path. Squeezed by shrinking ad sales, major publishers like Condé Nast have become increasingly aware of this missed opportunity — and more and more magazines have learnt to think like retailers, embracing e-commerce to open new revenue streams and monetise their content.
Now, digital start-ups like Because Magazine, created by the team at Tank, are building commerce directly into their business models from day one. Soft-launched back in September of 2009 and currently in public beta prior to a “full scale” launch at London Fashion Week in September, Because is a curated, daily selection of fashion, accessories, jewellery and beauty products that’s a digital storefront as much as an online magazine.
BoF spoke with Caroline Issa, editor-in-chief of Because, to find out more.
BoF: How would you describe Because?
CI: Because is a daily dose of fashion, fun and information. It’s glamourous dim sum, a selection of things to buy, see, listen to, and of course share.
BoF: Why did you decide to launch Because? Why now?
CI: We shop a lot online and what we noticed was that there was nowhere where fashion was editorialised and packaged in a way that best suited the medium. When you shop online, you spend as much time looking for stuff as you do looking at stuff. We wanted to create a curated list, brought to life in the best way possible. Something that was done creatively, with fun and humour, that was shopable there and then. Our aim was to engage people using moving images and inspire them to buy.
BoF: Is everything on Because shopable?
CI: Yes absolutely, even the songs that go with the videos. It’s one of our founding principles to make everything available, so that if you fancy something you click to buy there and then. The word magazine is actually rooted in an Arabic word al makhzan which means 'shop,' so all magazines have been waiting for the technology to allow them to be the thing they were always meant to be — a shopfront! Of course, it isn’t a perfect world and a lot of cool stuff isn’t yet available to buy online, so we also pass our members on to the nearest physical retailer and work with retailers to put things aside for those who show an interest in an item that’s not available online.
BoF: Who curates the content on Because?
CI: I choose items, as does a full-time team of fashion editors. We have also invited a selection of editors who specialise in jewellery, accessories and beauty products to contribute. We don’t want too much information and too many perspectives, we just want the right information and opinions from the people I rate and trust.
BoF: How does Because make money?
CI: We have a multi-strand approach: lots of little streams that will join together to make a lovely river we hope. Advertising certainly will have a role, but the existing models around cost per click just don’t add up. We are looking at brand advertising and, of course, we are going to be very selective about the brands we will work with, just as we are in our print magazines. Affiliate sales are another stream, which is already working well. But more exciting is the idea of paid-for and tiered membership which brings with it layers of privileged information and support networks to find bargains and exclusive items, share tips and most importantly get advice on fashion and beauty.
BoF: What new features or iterations can we expect in the future?
CI: Because has been in development for two years and live for nearly one year. The current version is version 1.2. We are working hard for the next quantum leap forward in September with Because 2.0. The beauty of publishing online is the instant reaction you get and your ability to respond. Because 2.0 will be the culmination of one year of talking to and learning from users.
Expectations? We think consumers would love nothing more than to be able to shop directly from their favourite fashion magazines. And while we’ve seen some interesting experiments, we have long wondered why publishers have found it so difficult to operationalise and capitalise on shopable content, connecting their editorial (and not just their advertising) to online commerce. When we heard that Caroline Issa — who has a background in business strategy, as well as an impeccable sense of style — was working on a digital fashion magazine that was completely shopable, naturally, we were excited.
First impressions? The content on the site is beautifully selected. With pieces by Hermione de Paula, Philip Treacy, Christopher Kane and Marios Schwab, alongside some of the more playful offerings from established brands like Prada and Chanel, it’s clear that the product mix reflects a uniquely informed and well-articulated stylistic point of view.
Most potential? The site is nicely packaged for the way people consume content and shop online today. For time-poor professionals, with increasingly short attention spans, the fast, blog-like product stories and bite-sized 30-second fashion videos are ideal for quick bursts of “media snacking” during short and unpredictable moments of found time.
What’s missing? While Because neatly connects online commerce with digestible fashion content that’s curated by influential and opinionated tastemakers, the one thing that’s strikingly absent on the site is the voice of other shoppers. A ‘Like’ button next to each product makes the contents of the site easily sharable across Facebook, but there is no means of visualising and exploring the products other people have found most interesting.
Social shopping sites have proven that people love to see what other people are browsing and buying and that fellow consumers, alongside tastemakers, can be powerful “intent generators” who drive sales. Make no mistake, great fashion magazines are about giving people a stylistic point of view. Curation matters enormously. But as Because Magazine earns attention and grows its readership in advance of its September launch, a more transparent experience, where consumers can easily explore and be influenced by what others are doing and liking, could help the site drive engagement and build an active community of fans.
Vikram Alexei Kansara is Managing Editor of The Business of Fashion