Social Commerce News
Originally published in February 2012, we’ve reposted because it’s so relevant to the start of 2013.
In 2010, branded content was one of the largest trends among retailers and brands. In 2011, branded content shifted to branded entertainment and social shopping via Kaboodle, Polyvore and ShopStyle. Now, in 2012, it’s content cultivation and aggregation. From creative uses of Pinterest to Instragram’s API, brands are now enthralled with the consumer obsession of curation.
Create. Heart. Reblog. Repeat. It’s a platform that’s home to some of the best content creators out there. And since Tumblr’s simplicity makes it easy to use, it’s no wonder it acquires new users at a rapid rate. As of August 23, Tumblr has a whopping 70.2 million blogs with 30.3 billion posts. And those numbers keep climbing.
It’s come a long way since its February 2007 founding by David Karp. For any clue to guess what’s next, let’s take a step back and recap the evolution of one of FMM’s favorite tumblelogs.
A Blog for Beginners
Within its first month’s launch, Tumblr nabbed 50,000 bloggers. Tech Crunch quickly sang its praises and noted Tumblr was “poised to gain the attention of the less web savvy masses who have been wondering for some time ‘what the blogging stuff is all about.’”
In other words, Tumblr came in at the right time to fill the void between social network sites Facebook and MySpace. It became the new home for those looking to easily post original content with custom themes or for those who simply wanted to curate/consume unique information. A site with a small learning curve attracted the masses and kept retainment high.
Fashion blogger Sara Zucker used Tumblr for almost five years. “A friend of mine suggested it to me at the time and I loved its community aspect, that I could post and receive instantaneous feedback,” Sara says. “I was a member of the AOL chatroom generation, so this felt like the next step.”
What also made Tumblr unique was the dashboard feature. Tumblr blogs had public-facing pages and the dashboard acted as an engaging, behind-the-scenes live feed of posts from blogs users followed.
Whether bloggers posted anything original or just simply wanted to curate, the content within this new platform was a healthy mix ranging from text, photos, quotes, links and videos. After noticing trends from the types of content posted, Tumblr then rolled-out the community aspect that created the ability to connect with more like-minded content creators.
Tumblr Meets NYFW
Since about one third of its content was fashion-focused, Tumblr harvested this communal potential. Enter New York Fashion Week. In February 2011, the then-Tumblr fashion director invited 24 fashion bloggers to cover the fall 2011 shows in NYC. Eight bloggers were based in NYC and the remaining were flown-in from all over the world.
With complete travel and NYC lodging accommodations, the “Tumblr 24” had access to NYFW shows, designer showrooms, exclusive lunches and more. Participants included Jessica Quirk of What I Wore, John Jannuzzi of TEXTBOOK and Sara Zucker of farpitzs, just to name a few.
“By far, one of my favorite experiences in the two seasons I spent as a member of “Tumblr Fashion Week” was meeting Betsey Johnson,” Sara says. “Her archival pieces shaped a lot of what has become my current personal style and to be in a room with such a huge personality and talent in the industry was a monumental moment.”
Tumblr never officially announced how the selection process worked for the Tumblr 24, but these bloggers shared a common thread: their audience was large, diverse and engaged.
Throughout the course of the week, blogger’s #NYFW posts were funneled into a live stream on tumblr.com/nyfw along with other content from sponsored brands. This feed served as the world’s invitation to have immediate access to the NYFW conversation all happening via Tumblr. Tumblr also produced the #NYFW program the following spring 2012.
A recent valuation of $800 million made by last year’s VC investment put pressure on Karp’s team to come up with a proper revenue model. Similar to Mark Zuckerberg’s intent, Karp was more interested in creating the perfect product before saturating it with advertisements that could detract his loyal content creators.
As a unique solution for ad revenue, Tumblr’s “Radar” appeared on user dashboards April 2012. Receiving about 120 million daily impressions, Tumblr’s Radar posts usually ran in the form of a curated image or popular post. Adidas purchased a month-long advertising campaign to promote content from the timely Euro 2012 championship. Adidas also was promoted on the site’s “spotlight” channel mixed with other sports blogs.
Bottega Veneta was the first luxury fashion label to run on Tumblr’s Radar and Spotlight ad units in June. In order for these sponsored posts to differentiate themselves from regular posts, these units were marked with a small dollar sign by the blog name.
Tumblr and eCommerce
With hundreds of products displayed on Tumblr’s dashboard, plenty of users wondered how to shop the items they stumble upon. Unless a direct eCommerce URL is provided, users have to waste time searching elsewhere.
Some of Tumblr’s fashion blogs combined content with commerce. Of a Kind, for instance, was one of Tumblr’s first fashion blogs to enter the eCom space. Powered by Shopify, Of a Kind showcases limited-edition pieces with a strong editorial focus behind the inspiration and personal life of each featured designer.
“It was really about making consumers feel a sense of connection to the designers,” co-founder Erica Cerulo said at a Third Wave Fashion NYC meetup. “For us, we build out the story first, then sell the product. The idea is that everyone has a story to tell and so once we find a designer we’re really excited about, we know that finding a story won’t be a struggle.”
So far, Tumblr hasn’t shown any interest in entering the eCom space itself; however, it continues to encourage third parties to develop their own systems.
Coexist Digital, an agency based in Portland, created the first commerce platform for Tumblr to power the back end for brands in an attempt to bridge the gap. Since its launch in June, brands can use Coexist to host their shoppable products without consumers leaving the Tumblr page they’re on. For Founder and Principal Dan Coe, he believes in the strength of the Tumblr community for many brands.
“Our goal is to ad another dimension to the experience for the audience,” Dan says. “Shopping functionality won’t take over the experience or compromise brand engagement—it will facilitate online behavior that’s already happening.”
With Coexist, brands can input default shopping units or include a link to “shop this.” When finished filling carts with product, a “checkout” tab at the top of the Tumblr blog redirects shoppers instantly to the retailer’s checkout. Redirecting to a secure, retailer checkout establishes trust for the consumer during the final checkout.
Coexist serves partners in two ways: green-level partners (entrepreneurs and small businesses) can create a free account, personalize a shoppable theme and start selling in minutes. Black-level partnerships are for more established brands with enterprise requirements providing customized solutions. Coexist takes three percent of Tumblr sales and its payment processor, Stripe, takes 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction.
And when it comes to successful commerce opportunities via Tumblr, Dan believes exclusivity sells. “Partners need to be open to offering their customers new ways to shop,” Dan says. “The audience is looking for something they can’t find anywhere else. Brands should be thinking about limited quantities, pulling together their line in expected ways like selling looks and possibly pop-up shops around events.”
He also envisions a live approach for events (say upcoming NYFW) where bloggers can buy products released that week in a virtual pop-up shop.
For Coexist, Dan says the most exciting shopping experiences are still in development. “We’re headed toward a completely seamless shopping experience where customers can buy at the point of personal connection,” Dan says. And that’s just a slice of the potential developments for Tumblr’s fashion community.
Tell us, how has Tumblr benefited your brand? What would you like to see next from the Tumblr fashion community?
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