More than a few jaws dropped when Conde Nast announced in August that Lucky magazine, the 15-year-old shopping-focused glossy helmed by the charismatic Eva Chen, would be spun off as a separate company with e-commerce startup BeachMint. Both entities were, to various degrees, struggling: Lucky sold only 90 ad pages for its all-important September 2014 issue, down 34 percent from the year before; according to reports in PandoDaily in the days before the merger, BeachMint's demise was imminent. Lucky was based in New York; BeachMint in L.A. Could they make this work?
The answer may very well be yes. On Monday, the six-month-old Lucky Group unveiled Lucky Shops, its new content-meets-commerce destination. As it's only day one, the site has some way to go before it's as polished as Lucky's previous site, Luckymag.com (which will henceforth redirect to Luckyshops.com), or to online retail competitors like Net-a-Porter and Shopbop, but its vision is clear.
Content, Meet Commerce
Lucky Shops is an editorial site with e-commerce integration -- not the other way around. Though it carries close to 1,000 products from nearly 200 brands at launch, content has the best placement. Shopping, style and service articles are featured prominently in the top carousel, which leads into a story newsfeed. At the top, visitors can navigate between content in the magazine, content created for the site, and shopping pages for clothing, shoes, accessories and beauty products. More articles are advertised at the top of category pages and at the bottom of product pages.
Chen, who now holds the title of chief creative officer of the Lucky Group, says the site is designed to accommodate both readers and shoppers. "That's kind of the brilliance of the site -- you can go either way," she said in a phone interview Sunday. "Choose your own shopping adventure. I just want [them] to go into this wormhole of creative, addictive fashion content."
The site design lends itself to a content and commerce experience that is largely unique: In the hours I spent on the beta version of the site, I found myself first navigating to the shopping pages, but continuously opening new tabs to read a story about winter coats, or looks to try in February. It certainly makes the site sticky, though I can't help but wonder if some shoppers will get so deeply involved in the content they'll forget to check out at the end.
Beyond the site structure, what really sets Lucky Shops apart is the product selection. Truly, each product feels like it could be featured in the pages of Lucky. There's an emphasis on colorful, graphic statement pieces from brands the magazine regularly features: The Row, Kenzo, Opening Ceremony, Prabal Gurung, Mansur Gavriel, Sonia Rykiel, Preen and Public School among them. Price points range from $8 for a USB-powered mini fan to $1,585 for a cotton-blend varsity jacket.
According to Chen, every single item featured on the site has been chosen by herself or another editor. "At most sites, merchandisers or buyers are choosing the product," she says. "[At Lucky Shops] editors that our audience know and love are choosing the product."
Chen says that product selections were based less on data and more on intuition. "We did make a lot of selections based on instinct. I chose things I loved, things I could see a team member would wearing. We're not trying to carry everything from everyone, not trying to be a Sephora, a Bloomingdale's, where you want 600 products in front of you. For us, every item is hand-picked for a reason. We would get input from retailers, but even if it's a bestseller, we don't want to carry it if we're not crazy about it and it's not right for our audience."
Not every product featured on the site is stocked by Lucky: Some retailers, including Barneys, Topshop and Whistles have "shop in shops," and though you can pay for the items on Luckyshops.com, those orders will be fulfilled by those retailers. Each product featured was still selected by an editor, however.
The magazine will, of course, refer to the Luckyshops.com, and vice versa. "We want to have a very symbiotic relationship, so you will see a lot of integration -- call outs, features -- that's what people are looking for," says Chen. Gillian Gormand Round, president of the Lucky Group, says there is an advertiser benefit to such integration. "We're a business, selling things is important to us in terms of advertising and partnerships, and having an integration between print and digital is critical. It allows our partners to now be present at every stage, from researching it to actually making the purchase."
It's impressive that the Lucky Group was able to launch a site (and sign nearly 200 brands) in less than six months; but there are parts of the site that still need to be further developed. The site design in many areas is not optimal: Not all of the content fits neatly in the redesign, and slideshows are not as attractively integrated as they were on Luckymag.com, for example. Chen says she plans to further build out the product pages with video, and not with your typical model in a studio shots: "Expect it to be in Lucky's typical voice... i.e. video mock-casting with Jif the Pom. We want to have fun with the medium; service and style can go hand in hand." She also wants to add more original photo shoots to Luckyshops.com, which will help further sell the Lucky look head to toe. Product will be further diversified with exclusive collaborations with Public School, Birkenstock and Opening Ceremony.
The world of online retail, especially in the luxury and contemporary price categories, is already a competitive one -- beyond Net-a-Porter and Shopbop, there is also Matches Fashion, Avenue32, all of the department store websites and, on the lower end, Asos. Lucky Shops is coming in with a unique brand POV, but it will take time and investment -- to build out its shopping components, to develop a sizable customer base -- to succeed.