REFINING REFINERY29: Up until now, Refinery29’s business model has relied heavily upon advertising to drive revenue, with approximately 80 percent of it coming from ads and 20 percent coming from commerce. The fashion site is looking to change that ratio with the launch of a new commerce platform, R29 Shops. This new online shopping experience, debuting today, includes boutiques from designers including Keds Apparel, Norma Kamali, Steven Alan, Dolce Vita and Rebecca Minkoff, as well as exclusive collaborations with Cosabella, Jack Rogers and Carolyn Suzuki stationery. In the past, the site has dabbled in offering exclusive merchandise, most recently around Valentine’s Day. All commerce partners will handle the drop ship and Refinery29 gets a percentage of the revenue. “Being a part of the boutique just takes one more step off the process, making it even easier to shop,” said Minkoff. “We work so well with them, because their customer is the same as our customer.”
Co-founder Philippe von Borries described the new Refinery29 experience as “shoppable entertainment.” “We’ve seen a significant appetite for direct product sales and with this new iteration of commerce we have a much bigger platform to blow out these rich narrative experiences.” This means even more original photography and creative story-telling that will lead visitors to purchase. This includes a new feature where readers can shop directly from the closets of Refinery29 editors (in this case, the site will handle shipping).
Refinery29 is quickly expanding its ecommerce offerings but this move won’t be at the expense of its popular voucher program. Vouchers are still in favor with its visitors and with the brands the site partners with, as a marketing tool. Commerce subscriptions have grown more than 730 percent during the last year alone, based on voucher partnerships. At launch today, vouchers and product for Cynthia Vincent, Dylan’s Candy Bar and Catbird will be available.
Brian Murphy, chief financial officer of Loeffler Randall, said the voucher program has been important part of its business. “They have this critical mass and the audience is super similar to the Loeffler Randall customers,” said Murphy. “You feel like you’re going to tap into something original on the site and that’s one of the reasons we like being there.”
The site is positioning R29 Shops as a extension of its sharable content and they want to strike while the iron is hot: Twenty percent of its audience of more than five million monthly visitors come back more than 50 times a month. “Our most loyal readers are definitely our largest commerce supporters,” said a spokeswoman.
Soon, those loyal readers will also have a redesigned site to visit. Editor in chief Christene Barberich said she’s working to make sure the site’s well of content is more easily accessible. “We will have richer space to share stories, along with more opportunites to directly purchase the items you see in our stories. We work with brands to find creative ways to get at the heart of what it is they want to say. And we’re letting these great stories lead people to purchase.”