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Fashionable Content: How ASOS Built a Brand Mag With Over 500,000 Monthly Readers

By Darcy Coulter April 27th, 2015

We often talk about how stitching hard sells into your content marketing is a bad look, but we should probably make an exception for the fashion industry. The world’s hottest clothing brands are proving that commerce and content can live in harmony.

And it makes sense: Fashion media has always centered on shopping, even among the most artsy publications. That creates a natural opportunity for fashion companies—one that online fashion store ASOS is capitalizing on with its popular publication, ASOS magazine.

ASOS is the world’s most visited fashion website for 18- to 34-years-olds. It boasts 30 million unique monthly visitors and 8 million customers in 200 countries. Its magazine is changing the relationship between e-commerce and media, giving traditional fashion magazines a run for their money in the process.

ASOS clearly understands the model that brand magazines like Porter are using to thrive: Not only does it have a glossy print mag to flip through, but it also provides a clickable version online that allows users to shop right from the page. In the editorial spreads, each image features little squares in the corner labeled one and two. Click on the two, and you’ll see a remixed version of the first outfit, showcasing the versatility of the clothes. Underneath each photo there is a list of the items featured and the cost of each, which link to the products’ pages, where you can add it immediately to your cart.

With the addition of compelling content and a sprinkle of stardom, the magazine is thriving. Stars as big as Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, and Blake Lively have graced the cover, and the magazine attracts 486,000 print readers and an additional 120,000 online.

“The convergence between retail and media, this is it,” CEO Nick Robertson told Flashes and Flames. “The business model for magazines, that was advertising revenues, is now clothes sales.”

The content is strong, providing value that the typical catalog cannot. This month’s issue, for instance, features an interview with Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power, the duo that founded Who What Wear, and a feature on Lolawolf, the band that boasts Zoë Kravitz as their frontwoman.

“We do showcase product and that’s very important, but in ideas meetings, it’s not driven by product launches,” said associate editor Marina Crook. “It’s more about what’s important at this time of year. We work in tandem with the retail team.”

Publishers and brands alike are realizing the benefits of combining content with commerce. Condé Nast, for example, recently announced that it is working on an e-commerce effort of its own. Beginning in the U.K., the project will expand to the U.S. and then to all markets working with Glamour, its highest circulation magazine, and others.

Surprisingly, it’s the brands, though, that are seeing success. Attempts from magazines trying to cross into e-commerce have largely been unsuccessful. Vogue uses LiketoKnow.it to turn its Instagram into a shoppable platform, but the service is not particularly user-friendly. It requires users to sign up, like photos on Instagram to get shopping information, and then wait for an email from the company in order to figure out where they can purchase items—not the most convenient process, particularly when you compare it to the ease of use of a platform like ASOS or Net-a-Porter.

Cosmopolitan is making a strong attempt at the clickable fashion magazine model with the tablet version of its magazine, which features “Shop This Page” and “Shop This Ad” through Shop Advisor. Readers can click through branded buttons to be taken to the sites where they can make purchases. Brand publishers like ASOS magazine, however, have an inherent advantage: there’s no extra step or degree of separation in between the magazine and a potential purchase.

Whether magazines can do e-commerce as well as fashion brands have been doing magazines remains to be seen, but thus far, they seem unlikely to threaten ASOS magazine’s innovative rise to the top.

Image by ASOS
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