It’s about as seamless as it gets, unless Vogue was to reinvent itself as a catalogue or shopping channel.
Conde Nast and Farfetch have announced that Conde Nast will supply premium editorial content to Farfetch’s global e-commerce platform, and effectively cut out the middleman by discontinuing operations at Style.com, which will now redirect all of its traffic to Farfetch.
As part of the arrangement, Conde Nast International Chairman and CEO, Jonathan Newhouse, is set to join the board of Farfetch.
Style.com has been an expensive failure, burning through $100m of investment only for Newhouse to describe results as falling “very far short of where we hoped they would be.”
The reasoning behind the move to a strategic partnership may seem obvious – combining the style and elegance of Conde Nast’s global editorial portfolio, which includes Vogue, GQ, and Glamour magazines, as well as Vanity Fair and Allure, with Farfetch’s growing ecommerce, technology and logistics platform, to create the ultimate seamless shopping journey.
But it also asks questions about editorial independence – it is hard to see a Conde Nast publication giving a product listed on Farfetch a thumbs-down review and discouraging site visitors from making a purchase – which would surely impact upon Farfetch’s relationships with its suppliers.
Still, a recent press release has promised a “best-in-class” content-to-commerce shopping experience”, creating “a seamless technology connection to easily enable Farfetch product integration into Conde Nast’s content.
The release talks about “shopping guides created by Conde Nast publications, highlighting products from Farfetch”, and vice versa, “distribution of shoppable content across Conde Nast digital and social platforms.
It’s all geared towards “today’s consumer”, who presumably is no longer a fan of editorial impartiality and just wants to shop until they drop. That is good because it is pretty much all they will be able to do thanks to this latest tie-up.
Conde Nast’s global portfolio of titles spans 29 markets and attracts an audience of more than 340 million people. Farfetch sources its products from over 200 brands, and over 500 suppliers, or “luxury boutiques”, worldwide, offering 9 different language options, as well as same-day delivery in 12 different cities around the world.
World-famous names such as Vogue and GQ are part of the tie-up, and it’s interesting to see the blurring of the lines between journalism and advertising – for that is surely what is happening here.
It should come as no surprise to anybody. Both online and print media has been struggling to make ends meet in the modern digital age and are therefore making more and more concessions towards advertisers, who besides paywalls, offer them a major source of revenues.
Endless ads have become distracting however, so advertiser generated content, so-called advertorials, are one option that presents itself to online marketers.
This isn’t quite that, but by making the products being written about so straightforward to buy, it feels as though a line is close to being crossed.
Conde Nast and Farfetch are by no means the only companies to have struck a deal like this however. Online sites such as Forbes are increasingly collaborating on content with advertisers, and most online publications offer some kind of advertiser funded content service.
Jose Neves, founder and CEO of Farfetch, has commented: “We have long felt that inspirational content is a natural part of any luxury shopping experience. In the same way as we empower the fashion industry and connect consumers with the world’s best brands and boutiques, we want to connect them with outstanding content.”
In real terms, it may be the online equivalent of visiting an upmarket boutique where a sales assistant follows you around the store whispering “buy, buy, buy” in your ear.
“This is an industry defining collaboration, and I am very pleased to be joining the Board of Farfetch,” commented new board member Jonathan Newhouse, whilst Nathalie Massenet, co-Chairman of Farfetch and previously founder of Net a Porter, commented:
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Condé Nast. Since 1999 I have believed in the importance of combining content and commerce in order to elevate the digital shopping experience. Content educates, entertains, and inspires purchases which is crucial in the customer journey of discovery. We have long admired the depth, breath and sophistication of Condé Nast’s international reach and are excited for Farfetch to partner closely with Conde Nast.”
Anna Wintour, the artistic director of Conde Nast, commented: “I’ve always believed that what sets Condé Nast apart is our voice and our vision. Partnering with Farfetch only enhances that, and brings a new dimension to all that we offer the world.”
In many ways, however, the idea is to be admired. As a logistics platform rather than a fashion brand, perhaps Farfetch truly is in a position to promote editorial integrity, and using Conde Nast’s stable of talented writers (copywriters?) is a step up from Amazon customer reviews.
It’s surprising in some ways, and a testament to the strength of the synergies the companies have found in one another, that Conde Nast did not simply create its own logistics platform.
Perhaps that is being held back for phase 2 of the switch to being a retailer. That and its own brand – why not simply wear Vogue?