Case Studies

December 14th, 2012

Shopbop Deepens Its Book: Enriching Content Doesn’t Mean a Remake

In the world of online content, sometimesbigger is better.

One recent example of this idea is Amazon’s redesign of its Shopbop experience.

The women’s fashion site is tony but also targeted to a customer who likes to mix and match — a bit of consignment vintage, a bit of forward-looking design.

“She is a mix of markets,” said Stephanie Horton, head of communications at Shopbop. “For instance, she pairs designer clothes with denim. She’s doesn’t wear head-to-toe high fashion, but she watches the runway shoes on Style.com.”

Shopbop debuted its new look in August 2012. The online store, owned by Amazon since 2006, now features a new emphasis on editorial content. But we’re not talking about words, really.

What Shopbop has done is play to the strengths of its purpose: to give its visitors a generous, engaging visual field, filled with with practical and exciting content. In some cases, that means luxurious content, sink-in-for-Sunday lookbook session stuff.

Not that this is entirely, new, but it’s new on the level that it’s happening now at Shopbop.

“Before the relaunch we were creating an editorial post each day,” Horton said. “But now we’ve upped that to six features, or lookbooks, on the homepage, instead of one every day.”

The fresh take racks up some 10 million unique vists per month (according to Mashable), prompting us to think about how content works and what lessons we can take from Shopbop and its new design.

Shopbop: Then and Now

Pop into Shopbop a year ago and it was pretty much plain and simple. More or less, it echoed the nuts and bolts of Amazon’s aesthetic, nothing like the readers’ environs and the sleek magazine-y experience to which, say, Net-a-Porter‘s customers are accustomed.

But while that look and feel has been replaced with something different, you’re still not going to find yourself in the page-collage world of an online periodical. No, Shopbop is still about getting you right into the merchandise.

Click on a pair of skinny black jeans and you don’t get a blurb about where skinny jeans fit into the arc of what’s hot (and not) this winter, but instead you get a model. She fills the center of the screen, turning and showing off the threads in a live piece of motion-picture personal service.

Bigger and Richer: Solving a Shopping Problem

As Lucky points out in its own recent consideration of Shopbop, size matters. The sheer generosity of the images on Shopbop implies a kind of shopper-oriented approach that simulates something like the up-close experience at a brick-and-mortar store.

Because while quantity tends to be the common denominator when it comes to advice about Internet-based content (keep ‘em coming back for something new), quality is still a moving target — especially when it comes to shopping sites.

What makes for quality, though?

Is it editorial observations by fashion designers? Shopbop does provide some, as Horton notes, in its Editors’ Picks section, but the copy is restrained to a couple dozen words per photo. Or is it the ability for a shopper to understand how a piece actually fits against flesh, how it interacts with light and movement? Content online, at a site such as Shopbop, should tell you just those things.

These are details that a shopper at a physical-world boutique ascertains fairly easily. But a single square image with a modest zoom feature doesn’t approximate that experience on your tablet or laptop. Shopbop’s approach to content is on the path to solving that problem.

Content and Shopbop: Lessons Across Formats

For content creators, what we’re talking about, when it comes to Shopbop, is also what we mean when we talk about content on any platform. That is, posting a dozen short pieces a week may give your visitors the impression of density, but if your material is consistently composed of lists and quick-hits, that impression can dissipate — replaced by the shadow of shallowness, the hint that the effort is really paper thin.

“When we think about our customer, we think about this convergence of editorial and e-commerce, but also about a site that is fun and makes shopping easy,” said Horton, adding that that means over time, not just in the moment. ”We archive the lookbooks so, if you didn’t get to Shopbop yesterday, you can still see them and shop from them.”

What Shopbop teaches us — it’s been well received by critics, even at the New York Times — is that an immersive, feature-rich environment brings an element of interaction and staying power that may well translate into a sales-driving story.

In Shopbop’s milieu that means lookbooks, and not necessarily 2,000 word articles, but the lesson cuts across formats.

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