At the Marie Claire concept store in New York’s Soho neighborhood, there was a clear goal behind the sunglasses display and racks of luxury clothing: The publisher is looking to become known as more than just a publisher.
The store, which will be open from September 23 through October 12, is stocked with inventory from retail partners Neiman Marcus, Clarins, Rebecca Minkoff and California-based tech store B8ta, all organized by Marie Claire’s areas of coverage: work life, downtime and wellness. Apparel, workout gear, accessories and even artwork are available to shop. Customers are encouraged to download an app that will enable mobile checkout and give them access to an events schedule that covers the duration of the pop-up’s stint.
“We want to take the Marie Claire brand and lay it out there as the arbiter of what’s coming next for retail, and retail right now is all about experience,” said Nancy Berger, Marie Claire’s publisher. “This shows how in-store innovation ties together all different categories through things like cashless transactions and smart mirrors.”
The theme linking the different brands together, Berger said, is the store of the future. In development for a year, the magazine worked with Mastercard as its technology partner to equip the store with the cashless transactions, smart mirrors provided by Oak Labs and MemoMi, in-store analytics to identify how customers are interacting with inventory, and a shoppable window. Anyone passing by can view what’s inside on a touch screen fixed to the window, and after linking their phone, make purchases even when the store is closed.
The shoppable window outside of the pop-up.
For lifestyle and fashion publishers, incorporating a commerce element has been a common extension for added revenue. Typically, though, media companies try to pull it off through an online shopping experience, to varying degrees of success. Sites like Who What Wear and The Cut get a cut of sales through robust affiliate programs, while Harper’s Bazaar’s commerce site ShopBazaar is a small endeavor meant to establish a link between editorial and retail. Vogue attempted to pull out all the stops with a full-blown e-commerce platform, Style.com, that never got off the ground.
But rather than drive its digital audience to shop online, Marie Claire’s first venture into retail was focused on solidifying Marie Claire as not just a magazine, but a lifestyle brand. Online, it’s proven difficult for publishers to differentiate their e-commerce efforts from the marketplaces that only have one business to focus on. In a store, while temporary, Berger hopes visitors will remember Marie Claire as a brand thanks to the experience they have, even if they don’t buy. If they do buy, Marie Claire, as well as its retail partners, will have a lasting connection with those customers because of the information they’re sharing in the store.
“If you have an experience, you remember it, then you’re more likely to buy,” said Berger.
According to Sherri Haymond, the evp of digital partnerships at Mastercard, the Marie Claire partnership came together as a way to promote the company’s new suite of retail technologies. Haymond said that retail clients typically have two hesitations when it comes to trying out in-store technologies like smart fitting-room mirrors: They’re too much of an undertaking and cost too much money. Through a customizable “plug-and-play” suite of technologies, Mastercard wants to do the heavy lifting behind the scenes for brands both large, like Neiman Marcus, and small, like a boutique, to test out technology as involved as virtual reality or as simple as mobile payments.
“We’re at an inflection point, the tech is ready, customers are wanting this kind of interactive experience, and we’re able to help power the future of retail to bring this to life,” said Haymond. “Everything that’s here is going to be commercially available within six months. The power is in collaborations, to be honest, to get retailers to the next step. Marie Claire, in this case, is the curator.”
Images via Marie Claire