Why digital media and magazines are moving into retail

If you’ve been playing close attention recently you’ll have seen that more and more traditional editorial sites are hedging their bets with new retail e-commerce offerings.

This month, for all of March, lifestyle and fashion site Man Repeller, run by founder Leandra Medine has an offline space. The pop-up Man Repeller space is called #MRBazaar and held at new retail space, Canal Street Market in Chinatown. The space offers the editorial site the chance it meet its community in real life, and sell product from Man Repeller stickers ($5) to Man Repeller hats and even shoes, thanks to a Net-a-Porter fashion collaboration. The digital savvy brand launched the month long initiative via a party on Instagram Stories. 

In November 2016, New York Magazine launched a one stop e-commerce portal for its print catalogue style section that appears in the magazine each week called The Strategist, now you can shop their editor’s edit of select products and gifts on the Internet.

And, back in September ahead of Fashion week, Fashionista.com the digital fashion content site launched a range of fashion merchandise, which you can buy from their e-shop. The editors at Fashionista realised that they were reporting so much on the new retail trend for tour merchandise (which created a bigger buzz than traditional brick and mortar retail this summer), that they should capitalise on their knowledge of the topic, and rising consumer hunger for this product category, by creating their own merchandise.

“Because #merch is all we seem to write about these days, we decided to make some of our own, just in time for New York Fashion Week,” explained editor Alyssa Vingan Klein in this post. “We created a small, tongue-in-cheek collection that brings together the best of pop culture with the most hot-button topics in both fashion and politics — from the “See Now, Buy Now” debate that’s rocking the industry, to the upcoming election in November.”



Refinery29, the online lifestyle destination site, has launched their own emoji keyboard called AltMoji.

R29's Very Own Emoji Keyboard: AltMoji

R29’s Very Own Emoji Keyboard: AltMoji

And New York’s Know-Wave pirate radio station debuted its line of cult logo t-shirts last year.


Finally, of course, the biggest example of this is Style.com, the former runway review site, turned content hub with a luxury e-commerce focus.

The reason for this shift to e-commerce? Digital media outlets are building their own personal brands, finding new and innovative ways to stand out in the ever-saturated market. It makes sense that as retailers have made the shift in recent years to offer content alongside their product (look at retail blogs such as Topshop’s InsideOut Blog to Nasty Gal’s Nasty Galaxy blog), it’s not unexpected that content providers are moving into product and merchandise. And this is actually nothing new, while the product might be selling out now, thanks to Instagram worthy logos and Internet buzzword slogans, the methodology is quite old school.

Elle (the magazine and brand owned by Hearst) has long had a clothing line stocked at Kohl’s in the US, and then there’s fashion brands like Abercrombie with its nostalagia filled “A&F Quarterly” catalogue/magazine hybrid offering, and more recently JCrew’s catalogue has come packed with Q&A’s from fashion influencers. These examples prove that there has always been a relationship between print, content and selling product- and now both brands and content providers are working harder to engage with fans and potential consumers as they build their brand communities.

“In the saturated space of digital media, brands must creatively capture and engage consumers with original content. Storytelling grows more important,” says Sarah Owen, WGSN Senior Editor, Digital Media & Marketing.

The difference this time is that product is more exciting than in the past, from cult tees to emoji keyboards.  Berlin-based biannual magazine 032c, has perfected the balance of a high-end content product, its magazine has contributors that include renowned photographer Steven Meisel and its line of sweatshirts and tees are in demand menswear pieces.

Traditional content providers are also working harder to ensure that they’ve built a dedicated community before launching product to make sure that the community feels part of the process and supports its success. Just look at Glossier, the make up brand that developed out of online beauty editorial site Into The Gloss. Emily Weiss, who had worked at Teen Vogue and W Magazine saw the power of a strong editorial platform, with committed readers, and built up that same community with her site, so when it came time to launch products she already had potential consumers on hand, as well as product testers and fans (aka her readers).

And, this special relationship between content providers and e-commerce is only going to grow and grow especially since the next consumer, Gen Z wants a transparency from brands, and heavily researches brands before she buys into it, so successfully mixing good, informative, well-researched content with e-commerce is the all-important new retail calling card.

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