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by Amanda McCreary
When I first heard Blake Lively was launching a lifestyle/ content/ commerce website, I’ll be honest, I was excited. I was a pretty big Gossip Girl fan back in the day, and I’ve always admired her cool, eclectic sense of style. According to Vogue, the site is “part digital monthly magazine, part e-commerce venture, part video blog, the site will seek out and celebrate people all over America who are making things—food, clothes, pillows, dishes, dining-room tables—with their hands.”
Not only does this have all the makings of the perfect Content-Commerce marriage, but it’s tapping in to the desire for curated small-batch artisanal products that many seem to be obsessing over these days (Have you seen Orange is the new Black? Piper Chapman creates artisanal bath products when she’s not in prison). If executed well, this will be a textbook example of “Curated Commerce”, the next big thing.
So when I found out that the site actually launched early (in my 10+ years working on the agency side I have never seen anything launch early) I couldn’t wait to take it for a spin.
The homepage of Preserve is dark, mysterious and intriguing. You want to engage and explore. The first slide on the homepage feature spot is an artfully crafted video introducing the viewer to the world of Preserve.
Below the homepage are the stories. The Tennessee Troubador, Backwoods Barbie, Orlando Palacinos, the list goes on. It’s clear Preserve has a very strong creative identity, voice and sense of style. The emotion they’re able to evoke through their creative is strong and draws you in to explore more. Clearly they have the ‘magazine’ bit down.
When the user clicks on a product they are taken to an overlay where they can learn about the product, but not purchase. The CTA is ‘Shop Product’, which takes the user to a more traditional product page where they can then finally purchase the product.
The product page itself is very traditional. Big hero image of the product. Price. Order details. Buy now. They have a lovely ‘Meet the Artisan’ section where they talk about the people behind the products, and their inspiration. Then below that is a link back to the ‘stories’.
It’s a great start, but I feel like there’s a lot here that’s a bit of a missed opportunity from both a shopping and content-commerce integration perspective.
From a pure shopping standpoint there are a lot of questionable usability decisions that are likely to confuse any frequent online consumer. Why so many clicks to purchase from the content area? What’s up with the navigation (or lack there of) on the shopping page? And why is the shop default sort by price? If I’m there looking for an artisanal experience, it’s unlikely I’ll be fulfilled through ketchup, salt and vegan hot fudge.
Blake Lively and her team of designers have a great vision and I love that they’ve recognized a new approach to commerce is needed. They set out to create a lifestyle magazine that sold product, and they have a great start, however the vision is not yet fully fulfilled. What they’ve ended up with today is a fairly disjointed experience with the commerce distinct from the content. There are a few things they should consider for phase two to realize their vision.
First, the homepage. I want to reiterate that it’s absolutely beautiful and emotional, and the design team did a killer job. However, the Shop this Story drawer falls flat and takes an elegant experience and makes it awkward. Both the ‘Us’ and ‘Greater Good’ sections are plain content pages that spend time discussing Preserve and it’s mission but no content for the user. With only 3 items in the navigation, a lot of navigational real estate is dedicated to content that will quickly go stale.
Instead, they should have taken that beautiful, intriguing ‘Meet the Artisans’ content and really blown it out. That’s why the site was created after all. Tuesday’s launch built a strong foundation for their Artisans, and I’d love to see it come to life in the next phase. They have the opportunity to build a rich story around their Artisans and seamlessly injected shopping functionality into these stories in a new and innovative way, truly merging content and commerce. And the same is true for the product page. Instead of doing something innovative, they chose to do commerce as usual.
I’m sure there was a reason why they chose to limit the exposure of their stories to below the fold on the homepage, but I can’t begin to guess what that was. Each story does link to its own blog-type page (as visible in the URL structure), however it would be nearly impossible to navigate back without scrolling through their seemingly-never-ending homepage.
Perhaps there were technical limitations preventing their creative team from fully realizing the dream of a “digital monthly magazine, part e-commerce venture, part video blog”. From what I can tell, it’s a Magento site with a WordPress plugin for the blog content. Don’t get me wrong, I think Magento is a great commerce platform, but it’s commerce-first, and not designed for a site that desires to be content-first.
Blake Lively and her team are hardly the first to go through these content for commerce pains, and they won’t likely be the last. Forrester Research recently released a report on the subject entitled Content for Commerce: The Odd Couple or Power Couple where they discuss the emerging content for commerce trend. Here at Acquia, we fully agree with Forrester, and love the vision that Blake Lively set out with. Through our Content for Commerce Solution Set we are setting out to make smooth content-commerce integration the norm, rather than the exception.