Much has been made in the US of Hearst magazine’s new “ShopBazaar”, a website linked to their high-fashion flagship title that allows you to effectively shop most of the pages of the book online. While such editorial-commercial links are not new – both Lucky and Allure, of rival Condé Nast, have similar initiatives – what I hadn’t realised, is that it is only one of Hearst’s “experiments” in the space – or so explained Duncan Edwards, president of Hearst International.
I had gone up to Mr Edwards’ glass windowed office in Hearst tower to hear about the publishing group’s plans, as one does, when etail came up. We discussed ShopBazaar briefly, and then Mr Edwards mentioned that the company had a few different such “trials” going on around the world. Trials?
Well, said Mr Edwards, in Japan for the past few years they have had an actual Elle shop, which exists independently of the magazine, has its own buying and merchandising teams, and actually holds stock – the first such set-up for a magazine-spawned estore I’ve heard of. He said the store had finally broken even after about two years. “That is a tough business,” he said.
Meanwhile, in China, they are testing a different structure: one also linked to Elle, but wherein their mother site links to different vendors, but unites them for check-out. Again, this is tangentially, but not uniquely, tied to magazine-featured products.
The question, he said, is traffic: “On average, of the 1,000 users who visit an esite from a magazine, only one converts into a buyer.” So which structure is most effective? This is their question.
Mine too – though I also wonder how much you can extrapolate from one test to the others, given differences in cultural purchasing patterns and predispositions. Etail is often held up as the perfect global world – all access to all people all the time – but it may be more limited by socio-cultural borders than we know. Also, I have that whole editorial/commercial blurring-lines queasy feeling, but that’s just me.
Still, I’m fascinated by the above approach. It’s so… scientific. It’s also rather clever, I think.