Cosmopolitan's October cover with Christina Aguilera

Hearst Magazines is getting in on the wave of doing much more for its advertisers as ad dollars keep shifting away from print.

For its October issue, Cosmopolitan is for the first time including a “virtual try-on” aspect in its beauty coverage for a partnership with Macy’s. Though currently limited to one specific beauty look, the effort is set to continue with a “try-on” look every month and expand in breadth and scope in the future. Macy’s is also set to roll out the try-on technology in stores.

For now, Cosmopolitan readers with an iPhone can get a look at how some selected cosmetics suit them through technology developed by YouCam, also a stand-alone app. If they like the look, they can click through to buy products online at Macy’s. Sure, it’s not as foolproof as trying on in person, and it takes a couple of clicks to get to the “try-on” part, and a few more to buy, but for young readers who already have their phones in hand constantly, it seems like a decent strategy for increasing and tracking sales.

Donna Lagani, who’s been publisher of Cosmopolitan for over 20 years and admits to asking younger staffers for help with technology and social apps, is feeling good about the project and what it’s bringing to the table for both Hearst and advertisers.

“It’s about how do we reimagine what print is and how to make this seamless for the consumer,” Lagani said, as she hovered her phone over a Snapchat icon in the magazine.

She noted that a survey found 73 percent of readers wanted to be able to try on pictured products virtually and cited a stat that the average Millennial is projected to take 25,000 selfies in a lifetime, roughly four a week, so they shouldn’t mind using their phones to see how they look.     

The “try-on” aspect is part of a continuation of Cosmopolitan’s efforts to get more techie and mobile-friendly, not least because its core readership is younger Millennials, between 18 and 34 years of age. Since December, the magazine has been working Snapchat Discover into its print pages, mainly through icons; when a reader hovers a smartphone over an icon, the reader is directed to a page dedicated to a product, either to make a purchase or view an editorialized ad.  

Lagani said the conversion so far has been “fantastic.” More specifically, she said conversion for products pushed through Snapchat Discover (where Cosmopolitan was an early partner and remains the number-one brand on the platform) or through a separate partnership with Amazon that takes readers with the online store’s app directly to shoppable product pages, stands at 12.3 percent. Before, it was about 1.5 percent.

“It’s so big, it’s almost unreal,” she said of the growth.

Even with a drop in users starting to hit Snapchat, which seems to be losing mindshare to Instagram Stories, Lagani said Cosmopolitan’s numbers and engagement haven’t been affected. Regardless, advertisers are happy and that’s really the point. “This is all about helping brand stewards and driving ads; I’ll go ahead and say that,” Lagani admitted.

Outside of print, Cosmopolitan’s May site redesign seems to be going over well and Lagani sang the praises of Jessica Pels, who became digital director at the end of January. Growth this year has been “explosive” (117 million readers to the site since the relaunch, up 12 percent compared to last year) and engagement with content on the site and on social has been “very, very high” (130,000 new Instagram followers since the relaunch, up 116 percent compared to last year).

Advertisers are coming for the digital product now, too. Shiseido, for example, is going to start in late October pushing its redesigned products in Cosmopolitan ads, but only wants digital and social, not print. This is a point of pride for Lagani, who boasted, “There isn’t an ad program that goes out of this office that isn’t a whole package.”

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