From media to retailer: The Graziashop story
Zeno will be one of more than 60 speakers and some 700-800 worldwide delegates at the FIPP World Congress, for what promises to provide attendees with a gateway view of the magazine media world. He will also be at the Worldwide Media Marketplace (WMM), the day before the main Congress.
The FIPP World Congress takes place from 13-15 October 2015, with the WMM on the 13th. Register here.
1. Graziashop launched in the UK in November 2014. How is it going?
We approached Graziashop as a startup, going in with an MVP (minimum viable product) and a simple but compelling UX (user-experience) with the goal of then building on top of it.
We deliberately launched in November, which was in the middle of the autumn/winter season, when stocks are generally lower and people have done a good portion of their seasonal shopping. This meant we were a little less exposed than had we launched at the start of the new season.
Of course, a soft launch is quite hard when you are a brand like Grazia, with the equity that comes with it, so we had action from Day 1!
In February, ahead of the spring/summer season we increased marketing spend a little, which gave us a nice jump in visitors to and transactions on the site.
While I cannot disclose specific metrics, all of them are moving nicely in the right direction – we are certainly above where we initially expected to be around this time.
What’s more, we haven’t even properly engaged the Grazia (brand media) network and their audiences yet. So, yes, while we expect it to be a long and continuing journey, we are certainly happy with where we are.
Above: Screenshot of Graziashop.com
2. As part of the launch in the UK you acquired London-Boutiques.com. Explain the rationale?
The story of Graziashop actually started well before that when we were challenged by Mondadori’s board to think about how we can expand the Grazia brand. It is a great magazine media brand with phenomenal and ongoing international success, but it was a question of where additional growth opportunities are.
So me, Dragana (Andjic, head of new media at Mondadori International), Sandra (Gotelli, International Publisher at Mondadori International) and our two trusted advisers, Dharmash Mistry (an entrepreneur and former venture capitalist with a wealth of experience in media, retail and e-commerce) and Fiona McIntosh (launch editor-in-chief of Grazia UK and editorial adviser to Grazia International) got together to think about development opportunities consistent with the values of the Grazia brand – we had many lunches, dinners and wine in the process!
We came up with a few ideas, including an e-commerce play that eventually received the green light in June 2013. We immediately set about looking for hires in London: no media people please… retail and e-commerce background was mandatory!
Then the opportunity came along to acquire London Boutiques.
They had launched and although there weren’t revenues to speak of, the acquisition was all about time to market – significantly reducing our timelines. It wasn’t a technology deal (Graziashop uses its own bespoke, customised platform), but rather about commercial partners and people.
They already had some 50 partners signed up to their platform and they had a team with experience in the market and the business. Most of the team were integrated into the Graziashop team, while the founder and CEO Tina Lake is still involved with Graziashop in a senior advisory, business development capacity. Overall the acquisition probably saved us at least a year, if not two!
It proved a very smart deal for us at exactly the right time. Had it been 6 months later it probably wouldn’t have happened. It really made everything easier.
3. What has the reception been among your media brand partners and the industry?
First, our international Grazia network (of international magazine media brands): people have to remember Graziashop is a global platform owned, operated and managed by Mondadori International (while most of the media brands are operated by local publishers on license from Mondadori).
When we set out to build the concept for Graziashop, one thing we had clear in our minds from the outset: it had to be consistent with the brand and complementary to the local proposition of our ”local Grazias”. We wanted to give our partner an extra-weapon in their fight in their respective markets – and not compete with them. And we wanted to give our audience a true “Grazia experience” – I believe we definitely delivered on that.
I am very happy to say we passed the test with full marks in the UK and elsewhere within the Grazia network. A lot of that is thanks to Dragana (who used to be the brand manager for the European editions of Grazia) and Fiona: they really deserve the credit.
Another component was the industry, where we received good coverage in the retail sector. From a media perspective, I think a lot of people were expecting essentially a media product with some ecommerce affiliation. But what they saw was the real deal ecommerce play.
Dragana and her team should be really proud of what they did. It is not Media+, but a true ecommerce play, playing according to the rules of the retail game. I think a lot of people were surprised at that.
4. With how many products did you launch? And has, or how has, this changed since then?
We had about 3,500 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) at launch, which was more than enough. Because we use a drop-shipping model, we do not necessarily have great depth, but then again it mitigates other risks (more about the Graziashop approach later, but drop-shipping in short is a model where the shop does not stock the products it sells, and products are shipped directly from supplier to customer).
At the start, most of our brands were London-based. Since then we have cancelled a few who weren’t really what the Grazia Woman is all about, while we have added others. In total we now have 100+ partners in UK, Italy and Germany (stocking more than 250 different brands) – and we’re planning to open-up new sourcing markets in the coming months.
5. What are your most popular categories (or what category trends do you see)?
We sell bags, shoes and other accessories, but also shirts, tops… Of course we love the bags we sell, because they always fit! (Think lower returns percentages).
Above: Screenshot of Graziashop.com
6. You work on the drop-shipping model. Why?
Every model has its advantages and disadvantages and we felt this is the one that fits and works best for Grazia. So basically, we own the platform and the data, and because our customers are important to us we handle things like customer care.
We then get a commission on sales and payment for additional services, from for example photography through to the special Grazia packaging in which sales from the Graziashop are shipped.
When a consumer checks out of the shop, an automated email goes to the merchant and courier service. The merchant wraps the purchase in our special Grazia branded packaging material and the courier collects and delivers it.
Of course, this is still a fully immersive Grazia experience for the consumer, so we do make every effort to please throughout the whole purchase funnel and beyond – from the first experience on the site, through to payment, the packaging in which purchases are wrapped and even through the returns process, when we do receive them.
Naturally every model has drawbacks and here the depth of stock, and day-to-day management of SKUs to ensure you have sufficient stock available is crucial.
It also means you may have to partner with more stock suppliers, and that in itself can be a timeous process – even longer when it is with a single brand player rather than the boutiques (because of different organisational layers and decision-making processes).
Then, from an operational perspective, having a variety of different stock feeds from different suppliers in several different formats adds further complexity. This is where you need proper technical wizardry to get feeds and the platform to seamlessly talk to each another.
But so far so good, the model works for us, we are in the game and we are happy.
7. Will you be developing local-language versions of the site?
It’s of course important to first mention that Graziashop is a global platform. Secondly, the Grazia Woman is international and does not mind looking at and doing her shopping on an English-language site.
That said, we will be definitely looking at introducing over time some local versions / adaptations, especially for the most important and promising markets.
8. Turning our eyes to the FIPP World Congress, you will be a part of a discussion on the development of marketplaces with 3Cs as component parts: community, content and commerce
a. How important was having previously established brand/audience relationships to the launch, and how do you leverage these relationships?
This is the game. Looking where and how we can leverage our brand network is key. People look at Grazia (the media brand) for guidance, inspiration and advice in their fashion choices. It is a credible and reputable source for fashion buying decisions – a very successful proposition and we absolutely know it drives (real-world) store sales.
So the question was, would they buy from us (Graziashop)? From inspiration to navigation and then onto transaction… this is the issue. We know fashion magazines are good at the first two steps. But money is in the third one – and we’re trying and see if we can grab some of it.
Even without having started to really leverage the Grazia media network, I can say unequivocally the brand and the audience relationships transcends into the shopping environment online – from Day 1 of launch.
We now get visitors and are selling in markets around the world.
The UK is obviously not a surprise for that’s where we launched, but we also have strong performance in the other Anglo-Saxon markets (US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
Interestingly, the USA in particular has been Graziashop’s second biggest market in terms of traffic and revenues from Day 1, in spite of the fact that we do not have (yet) a local edition of Grazia published there.
So far we have shipped items in 50+ countries around the globe since launch: from Brazil to South Africa, pretty much anywhere in Europe, and in all key Asian markets: Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan – but also in Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
So yes, we absolutely know we can leverage the brand to drive scale. But let’s see how it goes when we start to push down on the accelerator. Let’s see if we can be just as credible a retailer as a media brand.
b. How about shoppers who were not already part of the Grazia community, how do you bring them into the Grazia community?
It is not enough to say well we’re Grazia, so they will come. Like other retailers we also have to rely on performance marketing – SEO, pay-per-click, affiliate deals, social and the like – to drive the business. We haven’t started with a big budget, and tried to be sensible in our expenditure. I think it is fair to say we are doing a lot of experimentation – and learning – with the help of our agency.
c. What other forms of ‘community outreach’ do you use?
Bloggers and influentials:
We definitely engage with social media – and currently have some interesting cooperation already in place with bloggers, it-girls and influencers…
We dress them with items they pick from our catalogue – so that they could wear them and then post videos and pictures and spread them amongst their followers.
Of course all of them have a huge audience. It must be said that not everyone “converts” the same way, but the impact of some of them – I cannot give names I’m afraid! – is pretty impressive: once they post an outfit on their Instagram account and tag it #graziashop, you immediately notice a spike in traffic, and conversions too.
Other things we’ve been doing is flying some of these influencers over to Milan for Fashion or Design Week – they’re happy to engage with Grazia because of what the brand means to them.
Newsletters and email:
This is definitely a good tool! We “talk” to our audience regularly – and it really works for us.
We of course had some leads through London Boutiques’ database when we acquired it and we keep on building our own via operations such as competitions and collaborations.
A next step will be to work closer together with our partners in the different markets within the Grazia network, which should also give us a good boost.
d. Moving to content, we are of course talking about a different kind of content to media content here, but how important is content in your commerce strategy?
As the vast majority of the readers of this article are likely to work in media, I would start underlying that there is a big difference between media content and shoppable content.
In Graziashop, the content is all about editorialising product – e.g. how cool, how perfect and/or how cutting edge this or that product is.
We of course also put a lot of effort into our visual content – be it images or videos – for visual cues are crucial in the ecommerce process.
It will naturally be interesting to see how things evolve if we start integrating with partner websites in the Grazia network, but the main thing is to recognise there are very real differences in the approach to content in retail versus in media.
SEO and social sharing:
We know content plays a major role in SEO and social sharing and to this end we are working very closely with our agency to for example write in SEO-friendly ways.
We launched Fashion Stories on Graziashop as an area where we want to engage with our audience and for them to do so among themselves.
Above: Fashion Stories on Graziashop.com
It is a place where they can write and curate their own fashion stories and images, using tech we got from a startup in Berlin (see styla).
It enables them to tell their stories in a nice magazine-like format, drive through to other channels and generally to create a buzz.
But it’s more than that… let’s not forget that Graziashop is a fashion e-tailer, not a media outlet … which means that our fashion stories are also “shoppable”!
e. How about branded content and advertising?
We will definitely not have things like banner ads or MPUs on Graziashop, but we will be looking at branded content/native advertising options e.g. shoppable videos.
It will be all about tailor-made solutions – and we shall soon start engaging with some of our best clients in order to test and learn.
9. How does, or will, this tie in with other Grazia brands in the wider media network?
We will look to offer different levels of integration, from simple widgets to more complex tailor-made solutions.
The main thing at the moment is to develop a blue print of how all of this will work, because we can’t – and certainly do not want to – push things down our partners’ throats. At the moment we’re working closely with grazia.it and grazia.es and between now and September should be able to have some interesting ideas / templates to propose to the rest of the members of the Grazia Network.
We are looking at things like product features on shopping pages, advertorials and ad hoc stories with an interesting editorial angle. But in the end, these are our partners; they are media brands and not shopping catalogues. As Mondadori and with Grazia as our most successful international brand, we of course understand that very well.
10. What were the biggest lessons – positive and/or negative – you have learnt in the past months?
This really depends on the day you ask me this question! But I think it is fair to say that Mondadori did not put (too much) pressure upon us to launch at a specific point in time – which means that we could do our homework and prepare ourselves for the challenge, so there haven’t been any major shocks or concerns.
A few things I can point out:
• We were very clear from the start that this is a retail and not a media play. There is a very big difference. Retail comes with its own rules of the game and everyone is experimenting and learning, just like we are. You have to be prepared to board a steep learning curve.
• Drop shipping is perhaps “a little harder” than we expected it to be, but then again we were not underprepared for it. Just know that it is all about “just in time,” and you will have to build for it.
• A surprising positive was that it was actually easier than we expected to bring partners on board. Of course having the Grazia brand has its advantages, but we never over-promised just to get someone on board. The brand brings certain expectations: one example being that we have to explain that the shop is independent from the media brands. It just means we have to spend a little more time on managing this.
• Overall, we have only started and still have to tap our global network, so I guess a remaining question we still have to answer is whether we can do this at scale? We will have to see.
11. Final question: You will not only be at the Congress, but also at the Worldwide Media Marketplace the day before the Congress starts (13 October). Why should people meet up with you there, and in what way, if at all, does Graziashop play a role in your brand internationalisation strategies?
The shop itself is of course a global ecommerce platform, while at the WMM is about the Grazia media brand. I do, however, hope the Graziashop tells a story of innovation, braveness and vision (Grazia’s first café, by the way, will launch very soon).
It is only a decade since we first took the brand international, and we are now in 24 markets, including Italy, with two more to come on board between now and October. The key point is that we offer a very successful magazine media brand, now also underpinned with ecommerce and soon an offline play in the café. We have something of very real value to offer prospective partners.
About the FIPP World Congress:
The FIPP World Congress takes place from 13-15 October 2015 in Toronto, Canada. Join Zeno and more than 60 other leading international speakers and some 700-800 delegates there.
- FIPP World Congress
- Provisional Congress programme
- FIPP Worldwide Media Marketplace (WMM)
- Register to attend the Congress and/or WMM
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