Amid the cacophony of retail experiences vying for consumer attention, the most successful online platforms are those that depart from traditional definitions of retail entirely. The current wave of consumer-driven digital retail defies traditional paradigms of commerce in favor of a more nuanced meeting ground that unites curation, social media and personalization. Retail is now more about active interaction than passive engagement, it’s now more about experience and exchange than merely buying and selling. It’s a new consumer medium altogether—and these players are spearheading the movement.
World discovery e-shop AHAlife offers rare finds ranging from Moore and Giles rough leather Gravely Garment Bag to Feld’s Belgian Piano Coat Hanger. Hand-picked by influential and style savvy AHAcurators—think, stylish tastemakers like Amanda Ross (global fashion director for W Hotels) and A Shaded View of Fashion’s Diane Pernet—these exotic gems are introduced to the site daily along with in-depth accompanying information and videos.
Svpply is an online community of more than 550,000 user-generated lifestyle goods, ranging from apparel staples to random finds such as a Best Made axe or Corsair typewriter. Svpply operates as a portal of links that will take you to retailers like Opening Ceremony or Modcloth, where you can then purchase whatever item caught your eye (be it The Row’s John Lennon-esque round shades or knitted headphone covers). Bringing a social media dimension to the experience, Svpply’s members can create their own personalized pages like Facebook and follow others like on Twitter.
As its name suggests, Pinterest functions like an online “room” of virtual pinboards, all of which showcase trending items and where you can buy them. Pinterest tailors new content to cater individual likes and is a great source for DIY ideas (from party bites like bacon wrapped jalapeno chicken poppers to wedding up do’s). Although currently invite-only, non-members can still access certain pinboards. We recommend Thinking of Christmas by John Smith and Knick Knacks by Jane Smith.
Rent The Runway
E-shops are not only introducing today’s hot accessories, but also offering premier services. Rent The Runway was co-founded by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss to give customers the chance to wear coveted designs for a fraction of the retail price. Starting from $40, one can borrow a Chris Benz countryside corset dress or Carlos Miele block color gown for the weekend.
Like Rent the Runway, Suddenlee serves up major retailers and established designers—but with a “personalized” delivery service. Shoppers can shop from more than 300 stores—from Barneys New York to Crate & Barrel to Wal-Mart—then Suddenlee’s staff will collect the online purchases directly from each store and collate them into one package.
Of A Kind
Of A Kind is the place to go for exclusivity and scarcity. Talented emerging designers create limited edition pieces for Of a Kind that are presented fresh each week. Each new piece comes from their eclectic roster of designers and have included items like Symmetry Goods’ parker scarf made of vintage Swiss herringbone and Guatemalan ikat. Users can also connect with designers who share personal loves like best local shopping haunts and getaway retreats.
Edition01 takes Of A Kind’s premise to the next level with exclusive items from luxury labels. Founders Jessica Wilpon Kamel and Estefania Lacayo partnered with labels such as Nina Ricci and Narciso Rodriguez to design capsule collections available through their site only. “Exclusives are a way for us to differentiate our products and offer our customers something special.” These independent items come at a premium price, but returns and shipping are free.
Moda Operandi functions like a trunk show—albeit a very personalized trunk show. For 72 hours following a runway presentation, shoppers are able to go online and custom order pieces that might not be available for months, if ever. Featuring brands like Missoni and Marc Jacobs, Moda Operandi is an exclusive passport to expedited runway shopping.
Billing itself as “the best way to discover fashion,” Lyst operates like a personalized fashion magazine. Imagine adding your favorite designers on Facebook and having a constant stream of news and updates on trends, looks and shopping opportunities. Taking customization and collaboration to the next level, Lyst thrives as an online community where you are your own curator.
Lookk is an effective crowdsourcing platform where you can browse favorite and undiscovered designers then vote on your favorites. Those with the most support determine what will be carried in the online store.