Featured as a Flash of Genius in L2’s Intelligence Report: Content & Commerce, Barneys content hub The Window is one of the best content experiments done by a brand. The Window posts a mix of designer interviews, trend highlights and behind the scenes stories (all with links to Barneys items) that are syndicated across multiple social properties and the Barneys iPad app.
The Window launched 2011, but gained a new focus once editorial director Marissa Rosenblum joined in May this year. She is credited for increasing The Window traffic by 20% and page views by 70%. In addition, over half of Barneys app users are spending ten minutes on the portal and converting at higher rates that non-app users. We did a Q&A with Rosenblum to find out how she creates the right blend of entertainment and promotion:
You were previously at Refinery29, and prior to that Seventeen. Did you ever see yourself taking a position at a retailer or brand?
Yes. When I was at Seventeen, the link between editorial content and commerce was something I was beginning to explore. As a fashion market editor for a print magazine, putting together gift guides and other product-focused roundups was an exercise in creativity, market research, and discovery. You put the best stuff out there for the reader, and there is a lot of thought that goes into the edit, but it ends on the pages.
Once I started working on the website in addition to the print publication, the whole experience of the edit became 360. Content-driven commerce went from something that seemed like an aspirational nebulous of curation to a tangible matter, trackable with every click—which is sort of ironic to think about—paper becoming somewhat diaphanous and the web taking on an absolute form that you could dig into and analyze. Except that back then, affiliate linking technology was still an emerging market so the first digital gift guide I created was a nightmare. Instead of working with one affiliate program I had to set up contracts with each individual retailer and follow up after the program ended to collect revenue.
It was a long process, but it was the first taste, when I realized there is something there. It’s helping people discover product, which I loved, and leading them to purchase. Inspiration and utility combined in the role of editor. And Hearst, the publisher, was getting a little bit of a kickback in a new form of revenue which for me, as an employee, was great. To propel yourself and expand your role helps you grow within a company.
Have you ever asked Barneys to carry a merchant or brand that you came across?
I work very closely with the merchant team, Communications, and the Fashion Office (Tomoko Ogura, Senior Fashion Director and Laura Stoloff, Assistant Fashion Director) to align on the designers and brands they’re bringing in, and we talk about what’s exciting about each one. I’ll take all the information gathered from the teams here and decide how we’re going to feature it on The Window. There have been a few special opportunities that have come my way, which I’ve sent over to the merchant team. And it’s nice at a company like Barneys to have such open communications, but the merchants here are the best in the world, so that is their expertise. I get to have fun editorializing it.
At L2’s Content & Commerce briefing last week, it was mentioned that content has replaced social media as the newest must-do for brands. Any thoughts?
I don’t think content is taking the place of social media—smart brands are using compelling content to enhance it. One has no reason to exist without the other and if anything, investing in one more than the other could sacrifice the balance needed to connect with and captivate your audience. Both are a “must-do” especially in the luxury space.
Content acts as another portal to the store. This should be an inviting door to open and smooth and light to the touch. And if we create entertaining or informative editorial that’s shareable, something you want to pass along to friends or followers, that’s creating many entries for lots of people to open for one another.
Creating and sharing original content is a way for retailers to strengthen their voice and tell their unique story, with a focus on the customer and communicating what’s on offer that will enrich their lives.
The next wave will take that further in a visual, mobile-focused way. It’s the whole package—the feeling of walking through the Barneys Madison Avenue flagship even when you’re miles from NYC, the thrill of discovering, and immediately being able to access and purchase that gorgeous exclusive designer piece that makes you feel special—and it will be easy.
You’ve increased The Window’s traffic by 70% since you joined Barneys. Any tips for brands and their content creators?
A few of the things I did to improve traffic:
1. Pair editorial intuition with SEO and you come up with something that’s very clickable. And I think that’s important. Even though I now work for a retailer, I still have to apply the same train of thought as I did when I worked at a fashion editorial and news site. People don’t have a lot of time and you have to catch their attention as well as the search engines’. With headlines I constantly access, what’s the most compelling part of this story and then I due diligence fitting those keywords in to the equation without sacrificing the clickability.
2. I manually add in relatable links to other Window stories and curated category pages on Barneys.com. Of course there are algorithms and tagging that does this but backend rules don’t always know that someone entering the site to read about Yohji Yamamoto may also care about a live Patti Smith performance at the store for the new Ann Demeulemeester book or a culled page of Dirk Standen’s fall picks, so I don’t leave it all up to technology to get people moving around the site.
3. We feature on-brand talent, and work with the social, communications, and email marketing teams to optimize their stories making sure they are being shared through many outlets, including those people we tap into for the feature. We’re always looking for new unique users and captivating someone else’s audience, especially if they are a like-minded set, is a good way to do so.
4. Make sure the content schedule is balanced between all of our categories: men’s, women’s, beauty, lifestyle features with product-focused features.
5. Working with the social media team on optimizing the times we are going to post, and what we are going to say, going back to clickability.
6. Offering content that only Barneys can access. Many times this stems directly from exclusive product we carry and designers we work closely with which is a wonderful organic form of the magic exclusive-to-inclusive mix.
How do you balance your editorial eye with driving people to the site?
I’m lucky—I love Barneys—the heritage, the DNA, the designers that we carry. Working somewhere you truly believe in makes it a lot easier to do so, because when I write about brands, I (and the whole team) are truly invested in those brands. It’s like telling a story you are really, really excited about to a friend or letting them in on insider info they want to know. I think of The Window audience as my shopping buddies. Sophisticated, educated, fashion-obsessed comrades.
We’re careful to be both educational, sharing the insider details that make shopping at Barneys special, and conversational, in a way that’s engaging. When you tell a good story, it’s important to divulge all the details—not just the who, what, and where, but the when and how to buy. Otherwise you create a frustrating shopping experience.