All industry eyes have been on Condé Nast this year, as we waited for details of the global powerhouse’s long-anticipated e-commerce revolution. This week, the world’s best-known media company finally gave us an answer: Style.com, the company’s fashion news and runway website, will be transformed into a global e-commerce destination sometime in the autumn. Announced in a Business of Fashion exclusive on Monday, the company did not disclose a specific date for the shift, but it is sure to be an industry gamechanger: set to bridge Condé Nast’s satellite titles around the world like never before. The move represents a turning point for traditional print, as the publishing company pegs its ambitions on the $1.5 trillion e-commerce market in the face of declining advertising sales.
Franck Zayan, the omnichannel director at Galeries Lafayette turned President of e-commerce at Condé Nast, heads up the dedicated division at the company that will see products sold to readers for the first time this year. He will be running an exclusive 40-seat round table at Decoded Fashion’s London summit on 21 May – but, until then, here’s the lowdown on the Style.com turnaround that’s got everyone talking.
Condé Nast’s potential customer base numbers more than 300 million people, and the shift of emphasis at Style.com will be hoping to tap into every one of them. As Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive of Condé Nast International told BoF, the venture will be structured as a separate e-commerce venture within Condé Nast and will see over $100 million in investment across the next two to three years. The UK will be the guinea pigs for the first launch, with the new HQ in London’s Camden. And the products? Shoppers will be able to pick from between 100 to 200 brands, and buy from magazine-branded websites, digitised magazine apps or by scanning codes in the printed magazine. The focus will be fashion, but also upmarket travel, beauty and technology products. Style.com’s existing content will move to voguerunway.com, taking many (but not all) existing staff with it.
For many, the move makes business sense and brand sense – Style.com, launched in 2000, was originally the online home for the publisher’s American Vogue and W, until those magazines eventually realised their own web presence under established brand names was probably a better idea (circa 2010). Running both at a duplicate cost – with overlapping content – hasn’t always seem the cleverest way to do things. But Style.com grew on its own terms, becoming a key destination for industry folk and fashion fans alike to follow all things style online. In this sense, many are sad to hear the news. Lauren Sherman at Fashionista isn’t convinced that the site will thrive as an e-commerce site, writing that commerce needs context, but not necessarily a fully-fledged editorial operation. Leah Bourne at Stylecaster reframes the question in terms of a known rivalry, asking ‘Does Style.com really have a chance of taking on Net-a-Porter?’, quoting an anonymous retail analyst’s reaction: “10 years too late Condé Nast, but good luck.” And its not just industry insiders who are shocked – Racked summed up commenters’ reactions from across several websites, calling it a “shame” and saying the move “totally sucks.”
Condé Nast will be shifting from content to commerce the only way a global conglomerate and industry heavyweight can: globally, quickly and with tons of investment behind it. Key to future success will be taking publication readers along for the whirlwind ride, rather than leaving them behind. It will be interesting to see how Condé Nast integrate their wide range of existing brands into one e-commerce site. But there’s no doubt the move is a bold one in a flagging publishing world – and tapping into their reader’s buying habits in a whole new way could be a risk that pays off for Condé Nast.
Want to know more? Hear straight from the source at our London Summit. Franck Zayan, President of e-commerce at Condé Nast will be hosting an exclusive roundtable on 21st May.
Book your ticket for the London Summit here.
Reported by Claire Healy