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Elle’s Beacon Breakthrough Uses Curated Fashion Deals

A hundred years ago, Hearst’s broadsheets and Pulitzer’s newspapers dominated not only how average Americans got their news, but also how advertisers reached their audiences. Fast forward to 2015 and pundits are heralding the long, slow death of print media at the hands of high-tech platforms, but what if the two could coexist for even greater functionality and consumer penetration?

That’s the goal of a new partnership between Elle magazine and two popular retail companion apps — ShopAdvisor and RetailMeNot — and beacon tech provider Swirl. In an interview with Digiday, Kevin O’Malley, senior vice president and publisher at Elle, explained that his magazine started looking into ways to enhance the advertising capabilities of their publications after retailers hounded him with complaints about how online-centric their ads appeared to be.

“The single, most universal request I hear from every advertiser, whether it’s luxury, beauty or fast fashion, is, ‘Help us drive retail store traffic,’” O’Malley said. “Everyone wants more people in stores — and that’s not necessarily new — but right now, retailers are seeing a fall off more than ever.”

While Elle couldn’t quite embed beacons into its magazines, it did the next best thing and leveraged the products and designers advertised in its publications into location-based beacons through an initiative known as “Shop Now! With Elle.” O’Malley explained how, through partnerships with mobile proximity service ShopAdvisor and mobile coupon platform RetailMeNot, Elle began listing its magazine editors’ favorite items on their apps. When shoppers pass within a certain perimeter of a store that stocks those products, they’re sent a notification informing them of the Elle-approved products in their vicinity. If they enter that store, they’re also sent another notification containing coupons from RetailMeNot to spur conversions.

How has the program been faring for Elle and its retail partners? O’Malley explained that, just through the first five weeks of implementation, the open rate for push notifications was 15 times the average mobile rate of 0.8 percent. The true metric of success – in-store visits – experienced no less of an improvement, with a 100-percent boost translating to 500,000 shoppers walking into physical stores in just over a month’s time.

While the beacon technology is certainly a lynchpin of Elle’s campaign toward more in-store traffic, the success of the program lies not in the robustness or advanced capabilities of location-based marketing, but how the tech is leveraged in conjunction with other products and offers that customers are likely to find attractive. When beacons tap into this interest with targeted promotions, the effects are, to say the least, evident.

“We already curate product in our magazines, but this gets it to the reader when they’re out in the market,” O’Malley told Digiday. “That editorial endorsement is highly valuable, because when someone gets a pop-up from a brand selling something, the instinct is delete, delete, delete … Readers rely on Elle’s point of view when making purchasing decisions, so that combined with an offer, like a discount, is a powerful combination.”

GeoMarketing explained that Shop Now! With Elle was originally planned to run only from late August through September, but the wild success of the five-week program prompted Elle to rekindle the magic after the 2015 holiday shopping season. According to O’Malley, the magazine doesn’t want to risk flooding its customers with endless notifications amid a sea of other retailers doing the same thing throughout November and December.

“The holidays are a crowded, noisy time,” O’Malley told Digiday. “We’re going to instead take a hiatus, and recollect.”

To preserve the curated, personal feel of the Shop Now! beacon initiative – a philosophy toward disruptive tech that seems in short supply in retail, O’Malley and Elle are content to let the manic end of 2015 fade into a period where customers are ready to give the magazine and its offers their full attention.

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New PYMNTS Study: Subscription Commerce Conversion Index – July 2020 

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