If you're interested in seeing what the future of E-Commerce looks like, you can check out Huckberry for a pretty great example. It's Refinery29 for dudes. And, i love it.
They are playing well at the intersection of a couple key trends:
- Unique, new brands – If you look at the kinds of brands they are featuring, the brands are almost exclusively "new" to most of us. Many of the brands – like American Giant – seem to be riding the wave of "Made in America". Whether imported brands, or start up brands, Huckberry is merchandising their site with interesting options that are hide to find elsewhere, and especially in one place
- Great Stories – People want to love their stuff they buy, and often the stories about the products are what seals the deal. It could be the founder's story, it could be product's long history, or it could be about the values that shape the culture of the company. When the products come along with a story, they're going to be more valuable. Just ask J. Peterman.
- Membership-based pricing – Like Gilt Group, RueLaLa and The Clymb, Huckberry asks you to become a "member" before you can browse and buy. It's a marketing ploy, but it does set the right expectations for your experience.
What's especially great about Huckberry, though, is how fully formed their brand is. And, it's delivered exceptionally well through their overall digital experience, but mainly through the voice that comes out in the copy. Primarily in the emails, but across the whole site, you definitely get a sense of the personality of the organization. And, it's a key part of the differentiation from other platforms. It's so fully formed and richly expressed, you actually care. Care enough to open the next email to see what they are presenting. Care enough to look for it in your inbox folders (when Google moves it to the promotions tab).
I think the sort of experience delivered by Huckberry is the future of a certain segment of commerce. Call it "content commerce" or "story sales" or something different, but ultimately it comes down to buying stories vs. buying simple products. Or, it's story and eperience as the differentiator over price. In the end, Huckberry is doing something useful for me: Help me discover interesting brands and products i wouldn't have otherwise found, tell me their interesting stories so i know why i should care, and do it in an interesting and entertaining way.