NEW YORK , United States — In recent quarters, online sales were the only bright patch in a grim luxury retail landscape. But interestingly, in January of 2009, LVMH-owned eLuxury announced that it would cease e-commerce operations entirely and relaunch as a luxury destination focused completely on content.
Fast-forward one year and the luxury industry still can't seem to get enough of the internet. Social Media is the phrase on everyone's lips. And so, it was with great interest that BoF took a sneak peek at the web experience that takes eLuxury's place — NOWNESS — which will officially launch to the public on Thursday 25 February.
Tuning into a special online preview and connecting with EVP Digital of NOWNESS, Kamel Ouadi, we got the lowdown on what to expect from NOWNESS in the months to come.
BoF: What is the NOWNESS? And what does it mean?
KO: Simply, NOWNESS will inspire and turn you on to the latest developments on fashion and culture in a highly curated and thoughtful way. NOWNESS is about carrying a moment in time with you. It sums up a certain feeling when you get a moment of inspiration that lives in your imagination during the day.
BoF: Some might say the fashion world doesn't really need another content site. Why launch NOWNESS and why now?
KO: This site will be about the art of living and involve luxury well beyond product categories. It will inform and inspire. It will bring excitement to the everyday. And, it will feature only exclusive content — a key factor distinguishing it from other luxury websites. It will be an inspirational and experiential site.
BoF: Which artists and other content creators are you working with?
KO: The site is dedicated to collaborating with the world’s foremost designers, creatives and thinkers in the luxury industry. Visitors can enjoy featured work by leading artists such as Wong Kar-Wai, Patti Smith, Lucien Freud, Francesco Vezzoli, Rodarte, Raf Simons, John Galliano for Dior, and Nick Cave.
BoF: What feature should we check out first?
KO: "Love/Don’t Love" recommendations. The site is about inspiring people. It’s also about personalisation of luxury inspiration. A "Love/Don’t Love" button allows users to interact with the content. The impulse to love will drive recommended content to the user, the impulse to love will also tell us how people are responding to the experience.
BoF: So NOWNESS learns and evolves based on user behaviour?
KO: Yes. Content is recommended via intelligent algorithms and user responses to Love or Don’t Love. The site will recommend content that reflects the user's point of view.
BoF: Is there a revenue model in place? If so, how will the site make money? If not, why not?
KO: Revenue is not the primary focus of the site. It is an editorial site designed to provide information for luxury enthusiasts. However, as the site grows, we do expect interest from advertisers, and we will be open to working with luxury brands — and other high-level advertisers, consistent with the luxury theme of the website — to find ways for them to have a presence on our site that reinforces the experience we offer.
Expectations? To be honest, we weren't entirely sure what to expect. The new site had been kept top secret for months. The only clues about the future were tweets with links to a NOWNESS prelaunch site, which in recent months offered frequently evolving, but limited content.
First impressions? The site's design is simple, clean and modern, in line with the concept of NOWNESS itself. Curating excellent, exclusive content is powerful concept at a time when consumers are bombarded with information and other websites and blogs are cluttered with undifferentiated content, often fed to them by brands and PR companies. Despite being owned by LVMH, NOWNESS operates with an independent and open mindset, actively linking to fashion brand websites, including those outside the LVMH Group. The site is rich with sharing tools, allowing users to spread bits of NOWNESS content across the internet and has already developed a robust following of more than 6,000 followers on Twitter.
Most potential? The "Love/Don't Love" feature with algorithmic intelligence is compelling. The ability to directly gauge consumer reaction to content themes and products could prove to be a powerful tool for listening to consumers and gathering insights. Perhaps NOWNESS will grow into a virtual hub for online consumer conversations around luxury products and services.
What's missing? Today, integrating content and commerce has proven to be a powerful way to drive sales. We think there could be a commercial business model somewhere in the future of NOWNESS and we are excited to see how it develops.