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Popular fashion media brand Who What Wear is launching its own shopping app

A big swing at content plus commerce.

Who What Wear Runway Show February 2017 - Front Row
Clique Media Group co-founders Katherine Power (L) and Hillary Kerr
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Who What Wear
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Millions of young women visit Who What Wear’s website and social media pages each month to stay on top of fashion trends.

Now, the 10-year-old media brand will try to make it easier for those same readers to shop on their phones for Who What Wear-recommended fashion.

On Wednesday, the company is unveiling its own iOS shopping app — SHOP/Who What Wear — featuring a curated selection of products for sale from retailers like Bloomingdales, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and TopShop.

Digital-native retailers like Revolve and Reformation are also participating, marking the first time they have sold goods through another company’s app, a spokesperson said.

About six million U.S. readers visit sites from Who What Wear parent company Clique Media Group each month, according to comScore. The company says Google Analytics shows 14 million visitors a month, including international traffic and a network of fashion and beauty influencers for whom Clique Media sells advertising.

Some come just to read articles like “French Girls Called It: These 9 Trends Are About to Be Everywhere.” Others click through to buy an item, since the site links every product to a page on a retail partner’s site where it can be purchased.

But as more readers visited Who What Wear on their phone — two-thirds of their traffic comes from mobile devices — the percentage of those who’ve gone on to buy an item after they clicked has gone down. CEO Katherine Power blames an “inconsistent user experience” across the hundreds of retail partners Who What Wear sends traffic to.

“Since our site is content first,” Power said, “we thought, ‘Why don’t we create an app for Who What Wear fans who are more interested in shopping to see commerce first?’”

The company takes an average of a 12 percent commission from retailers today when one of its readers goes on to make a purchase from a partner site. Power said she thinks they can increase that rate over time since she expects the new app to drive a lot more sales.

While customers can make purchases right in the app, partnering retailers actually fulfill and ship out orders. At launch, customers with issues can get customer help from either Who What Wear or the retailer; but that feels like a messy strategy long term.

To find a digital fashion company that has married content and commerce very well you have to look to Europe, where Net-a-Porter, now owned by Italian e-commerce company Yoox, is a model.

Venture-backed startups like Lyst, based out of London, and Spring, which raised a large $65 million round led by Fidelity, have come at the opportunity of building essentially a shopping mall within an app from different angles.

Who What Wear plans to advertise its app on its own properties and influencer network and then supplement those campaigns with more traditional paid app advertising. Driving downloads — and, more importantly, repeat usage — is a slog today in an overcrowded App Store, so Who What Wear is going to need its existing customers to jump to the app if it’s going to be a big success.

The parent company, backed by Greycroft Partners, makes money across its sites by selling sponsored content and digital advertising, as well as providing content services like an ad agency would to certain brands.

On the commerce side, Who What Wear sells its own line of clothing in Target stores, and will sell it through the app, too. Power said the app could also prove to be a testing ground for new products that Who What Wear creates on its own.

Power said the company will drive more than $100 million in sales to partner retailers in 2017 through affiliate sales and sales in Target, though the majority will come from the company’s own line of products.

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