Barneys just launched a slew of new digital features that are more reminiscent of what’s usually offered by online fashion start-ups than established department stores. Among the new features are curated product pages from a range of “influencers,” new social functions that allow customers to follow friends and designers, and capabilities for favoriting and listing items to better keep track of products across the site.
We sat down with Barneys’ Senior Vice President of Digital, Matthew Woolsey, to learn more about what the iconic department store is up to online and how the digital initiatives have been received so far.
The High Low: Can you tell us about your influencers? What are some of the criteria for identifying them?
Matthew Woolsey: We have a broad list of influencers ranging from fashion tastemakers such as Manolo Blahnik or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen to DJ s like Alexandra Richards, as well as members of the Barneys team. We look for people with a unique point of view who are bringing a dynamic — sometimes unexpected — perspective to the products they love. Seeing which Louboutins catch Frederic Malle’s eye or getting a look inside Aurelie Bidermann’s style is an exciting and social way for our customers to shop.
HL: How much was Barneys’ new set of social features influenced by the fashion industry’s start-up culture?
MW: The luxury space has always had a social component. Our new social features are more influenced by the ways our customer embraces inspiration, story and discovery and then relates that back to their social network, whether on or offline. Our platform is fully integrated with the standard suite of social media applications, but the experience occurs in a curatorial, Barneys sort of way.
HL: How are you integrating mobile with the rest of the digital experience?
MW: Mobile is an extension of the Barneys experience, and is a place where we’re seeing an immense growth of demand. We want to be with our customer everywhere she or he wants to connect with us. Our new HTML5 Web site is responsive, search and filter driven, lightweight and quite fast. It’s very exciting as a platform where we can connect our customer’s online and offline Barneys experience.
HL: Is there anything coming up on the horizon that you can tell us about?
MW: 2013 is going to be an exciting year for Barneys. We plan to grow and add further dimensions to our digital offerings, products and interactive content. We create so much great content, whether it’s interactive lookbooks and videos on Barneys.com, or our two to three daily multimedia stories, profiles and interviews on The Window, our content site. Story is so core to the Barneys experience, that it needs to be part of everything we do digitally. Next year will be a great year for deepening that storytelling relationship and further advancing the tech company side of the Barneys identity.
HL: What has the reaction been to the new digital features?
MW: The reaction has been extremely positive from consumers and the industry. On the first day we launched our influencer platform, we got 675,000 signups, with 95% of those linked to Facebook accounts. When it comes to driving commerce through social, Echo System named us the world’s second best retailer — and the best luxury retailer — and the Luxury Institute ranked our site number one among luxury retailers with a brick-and-mortar [side].