It has split industry opinion, but Condé Nast’s long awaited ecommerce website has finally launched after two years of bated fashion breath!
In an age when readership is moving online, enhancing their magazine’s offering to keep a forever growing online audience engaged and not dwindling, has been heralded as a great strategic move; a movement that makes total sense. But, after £75m investment and promises of “revolutionising” retail from Wintour herself, we’re still debating if we think it’s going to add real value in the long run.
OUR INITIAL THOUGHTS…
Well, what’s not to like? We’ve all been there, struggling to find what we want, so we head to the magazines, lifestyle websites and blogs that we love for inspiration**. Through their ‘shops’ or articles we find our ‘edit’ to help narrow down our choices, which is all well and good when you’re at your laptop or desktop, and can easily hold down CMD or Ctrl to open a multitude of new tabs, setting up your preview wardrobe before committing to buy. But this just isn’t possible on mobile, which is where we thought Style.com would come in to save the day, having learned from its marketplace competitors Grazia and Lyst, and providing something new that solves at least some of our mobile shopping melodramas. It doesn’t.
We were also anticipating Vogue articles to be shoppable and directly integrated with Style.com. They aren’t, or maybe not for now as luxury brands in partnership with the Style.com venture are seemingly lacking at the moment. (The Times)
The website does however resolve the initial problem that we’ve highlighted, which is that we commit our time to trawling through websites for fashion influence that suits our needs, style etc. What Style.com does is learn from what products and styles you prefer, to build you a more personally curated catalogue. That’s a big box tick!
Speaking to the FT, Style.com’s president Franck Zayan, formerly head of internet and e-commerce at Galeries Lafayette, said: “We have invested a lot in technology that can build a very powerful recommendation engine….we will be able to drive the customer experience and bring relevance to their journey. It’s about combining artificial intelligence with human expertise. We’re mining experts in fashion and style.”
Which leads us nicely into what we thought about Style.com from a Design and UX perspective.
DESIGN & UX PROS
A new feature that will allow users to save pieces and view them anytime and anywhere, like “The Dropbox of wish lists”. But the most important thing is that it allows Condé Nast to understand your tastes and preferences, and be able to make personalised suggestions using their new technology (as above).
Left & Top Navigation (Design trend!)
– Separating the shoppable navigation and moving it to the left, keeping bag/wishlist/search/registration up top.
– The amount of shoppable content on the site is huge, so it makes total sense having a Landing page for each category: Womenswear, Beauty, Menswear, etc
In general, the experience is clear and comfortable. They’ve certainly not skimped on applying ‘Marginal Gains Theory’ (which we’ve talked about in other blog posts) to certain elements of their site, applying relevant micro user experience elements, like loading icons, information nuggets, animations, focussed overlays and strategic hover states, for example. Desktop, in particular, has a strong user experience, but mobile and tablet versions have some readability and responsive adaptation issues.
DESIGN & UX CONS
– We do like the look and feel of smaller text, but on mobile it’s just a little too small. Grab the magnifying glass!
– Basic functionality like Filters and Sort By cause errors and often don’t work on mobile. Plus the buttons are a little too small.
– It seems that an attempt has been made to fit in as much as they can onto mobile view ports, but this has sacrificed the overall aesthetic, particularly on Listing.
– Some product images need to be improved as they are not prepared for retina or are too small for bigger screens.
Considering the sheer size of this marketplace-come-new technology venture website, these aren’t the worst things that could have gone wrong though…
THE LONG TERM PLAN
Condé Nast has joined a string of publishers who have opened their own stores, Grazia, Harpers Bazarre, Elle Japan to name a few, but what are they doing going forwards to ensure they’re not just jumping onto the ecommerce band wagon? After all, they can’t live off their behemoth status alone.
Well for starters, we’re hoping they integrate Style.com with their publication websites soon to streamline the whole reading to buying process. But reports have confirmed that they’re going down the ‘exclusivity’ route, with special designer partnerships in place to launch products on Style.com that you can’t get elsewhere, like Vetements.
What will keep readers coming back and spending though, returns to our previous comments about our need for fashion inspiration. Yasmin Sewell, Fashion Director, says: “That’s what Condé Nast is about — inspiring the reader. And Style.com will be about authenticity. We aren’t going go to say ‘Buy these jeans, they’ll change your life’, because they won’t. We’re building the connection between inspiration and transaction.”
Let’s hope this £75m venture pays off!