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[8 comments]

Lucky Magazine and BeachMint: The collision of content and commerce

August 28, 2014

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research's weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.

Retailers and brands looking to create a more content-driven approach to the market have been snatching up editorial staff and using them to beef up the stories they tell to consumers.

That's why the news that Condé Nast is merging Lucky Magazine with online fashion retailer BeachMint, creating the Lucky Group, seemed like the next leap forward. It's one thing to hire away a few writers; it's another thing entirely to merge together a magazine with a retail site.

Except, actually, that's not what's going to happen. It sounds like the two properties will continue to operate side by side but also independently. Lucky Magazine benefits from a real commerce platform that makes it easier for the site to enable commerce — they feature a lot of products that people want to buy, and it would be great to make that process frictionless. And BeachMint may benefit from Lucky's editorial fashion sense and content mastery. But BeachMint won't get any special attention from Lucky on its pages — it will be treated just like any other advertiser in how it gets featured.

BeachMint could definitely benefit from Lucky's content skills. I had not shopped the brand's sites before now, so I signed up over the weekend. StyleMint is one of the company's sites that promises you products tailored to your fashion sensibilities, so in order to get anywhere you have to run through a Cosmo-style quiz about where you would shop or which look bests defines you or which shoes you would wear on a date. When you finish that, you get dumped into a landing page that showcases products selected "just for you." Sure, you can access the whole selection if you want, but I've run into other sites like this and, somehow, they never hold my interest enough to bring me back.

StyleMint's selections for me were not that exciting — a bunch of t-shirts, really — and there was no transparency in how they decided that these items were for me. And we won't even rate the site at all on its integration of community into commerce, which exists but is also sorely lacking. What they need is a story — a story about them, a story about me, and a story about why they picked the products for me and who else out there in the world shares my fashion tastes. Unfortunately, I don't think they're going to benefit enough from this merger to get any of these stories. But Lucky, at least, will get its commerce.

Let the content and commerce collisions continue!

Discussion Questions:

Do retailers and brands need to do more to better integrate commerce and content? Which retailer does a particularly good job telling their story and what stands out in their approach?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

What's the likelihood that most consumer magazines will be integrated somehow into e-commerce over the next decade?

Comments:

All brands need stories to help sell their products. With this merger, BeachMint gets some credible, trusted storytellers. All print media need digital outlets to expand their revenue bases. With this merger, Lucky Magazine gains a proven e-commerce partner. Initially, this seems like a win/win situation, provided the two entities can meld their cultures for the betterment of each company.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Lucky has been selling products from its site for years. The partnership with BeachMint sounds like the first of many such partnerships that could benefit from additional exposure.

Having spent a lot of time in a farming town in Iowa, I've always thought that there was a huge untapped fashion market in smaller cities. They don't have style-leader stores, and shoppers may not know that they exist online. A partnership like this brings fast fashion to everyone, including people in rural areas.

This could be big.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Content and commerce are on a collision course, but the collision is happening very slowly. :)

Most e-commerce experiences are still pretty uninspired digital catalogs, while most digital content sites have a ton of friction in the buying process (if they allow buying at all). Most companies have either commerce or content in their DNA but not both, so the evolution is very slow.

When firms do emerge with both skill sets (usually through acquisition), they all too often are still segregated experiences. It's still entirely common to see sites whose top-level navigation is "Read | Shop" and the implication is clear, you need to choose content OR commerce before you go any further. Thrillist/JackThreads, Porter/Net-a-Porter, etc. It sounds like Lucky and BeachMint are likely to follow this hybrid model. The problem with this model is it's based on the companies organizational structure and not the customers needs.

A great example of content and commerce (and community) truly integrated is Houzz. Editorial content, user-generated content and commerce are seamlessly integrated all under the users' topic of interest (e.g., "outdoor"). I expect we'll see this pattern become more common as the growth in pure digital catalog experiences starts to slow, and retailers are forced to truly innovate to differentiate themselves and earn an audience.

I'm eager to see what Amazon does with its Mattel partnership around the "Sam the Fireman" franchise (HIT Entertainment). Amazon obviously knows friction-free commerce, and is now becoming a significant content provider. "Sam" is a perfect example of a great content repository and monetizable products. It should be a perfect scenario for a great integrated commerce and content experience.

It's also interesting that platform tools are mirroring this progression. The major e-commerce platforms are rapidly adding content management features, while the CMSes are adding e-commerce features. At the moment, many big sites use a CMS and an e-commerce platform, but the integrations are not very seamless. I suspect we eventually won't be able to tell CMS and e-commerce platforms apart.

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Jason Goldberg, VP Commerce Strategy, Razorfish

An emphatic yes. With the Internet chock-full of product, e-commerce players need to do something to alleviate decision paralysis. Curation backed by content can really help time-crunched consumers navigate the latest trends (so long as the curator is a trusted authority/credible). Net-a-Porter, NastyGal, and Shopbop all do a great job of this.

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Kelly Tackett, Research Director, Planet Retail

I think Zappos does a great job of telling their story while reaffirming their values by having their employees model every thing they sell online, as well as having 360-degree views and close-ups of all their products.

Tom Smith, Principal, Insights From Analytics

Yes, there clearly are huge opportunities to better integrate commerce and content. Amazon is clearly the king of this, and shares, tells, and enables such a broad array of products and services, as well as their providing a platform for other retailers that their model is clearly the one to follow, copy and use.

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

It will become increasingly more important to integrate commerce and content. Selling online, especially in fast moving consumer products, requires a compelling story and a very friendly user interface. Agree that Houzz is one of the best. The design concepts are excellent, easy to reference and then complete the search.

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Anne Bieler, Sr. Associate, Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions

I do think it is high time for commerce to collide with content, but the couple seems to have stopped just short of the party. I agree with Nikki about Stylemint. I too tried it and was left cold and with so much possibility.

If you haven't met Villa yet, I would encourage you to take a look. Talk about a brand that tells a story. They actually build stories around their new products and have waiting lines when the new products come in.

And that's my 2 cents!

Lee Kent, Brings Retail Executives Together to Meet.Learn.Profit, RetailConnections

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