SHOPSTYLE | SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Transforming a decade-old fashion search engine
I joined ShopStyle in 2018 and spearheaded a brand transformation project leading a cross-functional leadership team on an end-to-end brand development journey that redefined ShopStyle's brand positioning, brand identity, and user experience across Product and Marketing.
- Member acquisition by +70% YoY
- Member retention by +17% YoY.
- Commission increased by +44% YoY
- GMV/Shopper by +39% YoY.
ShopStyle.com was launched in 2007. It allowed fashion shoppers to easily compare and shop their favorite brands across thousands of retailers around the world. While it was beloved by fashion insiders in the early years, the brand became less well-known over time. In 2017, ShopStyle was acquired by Rakuten via its acquisition of Ebates. When I arrived in 2018, there were many questions about what ShopStyle is, who it should serve, and how it might fit into Rakuten's larger corporate ecosystem. More urgently, the business was experiencing challenges in member acquisition and retention. As the most senior leader of creative marketing, I took on the challenge of answering the foundational questions of "What is ShopStyle?" and "Why?".
To understand how brand perception played a role I started by researching our core user base. I reviewed personas, talked to ShopStyle's leadership and fashion shoppers, and read every online review. I also created an NPS survey to establish a baseline. During my research, I found that the leadership team often had very different views of what ShopStyle is and should stand for. Before we can communicate what ShopStyle represents to the outside, we need to get clear inside. I led a series of workshops to identify the brand attributes and core values that embodied whom we aspire to be. The cross-functional team included Creative, UX, Product Management, Marketing, Engineering, and Research.
Our Core Brand Insight
We believe ShopStyle enables fashion lovers to amplify their personal style. To our users, ShopStyle is about having choices and feeling in control. At the very core, ShopStyle is about personal empowerment. Using this distillation, I worked with a copywriter to develop a brand manifesto that could invoke the right feelings and rally the troops. I also created a working draft of our brand vision and mission based on the core values previously defined by the cross-functional leadership team.
Our Core User Insight
In reviewing the business metrics through the lens of user personas, we realized that our most profitable user is also our happiest user. This core segment loves luxury goods. They are educated in the world of fashion. Shopping is a way for them to release stress, feel confident, and express their personal style in a way that brings immense joy and satisfaction. They loved the feeling of finding unique designer pieces. These often affluent shoppers have resources but they prefer to be savvy in their purchase decisions — they still want a great deal. ShopStyle allowed them to combine the thrill of deal-finding with a vast catalog of designer goods in order to fulfill their ultimate desire of feeling on top of the world.
The trouble is that only a small group of these users are aware of ShopStyle. Additionally, when we spoke with the non-ShopStyle users in this demographic, they felt the brand aesthetic leaned generic. They wanted a trusted fashion resource to be as fashion-forward as they are. We also heard from these users that they expect high-quality editorial content to be a part of a credible fashion retail experience.
A New Positioning
Based on these insights, we reimagined ShopStyle as a top-of-mind fashion resource that could empower this core segment of users to feel at home when the shopping itch hits. We wanted to be seen as a trusted fashion resource that amplifies their personal style and enables their ability to easily access sales, special discounts, and unique designer pieces, plus special membership perks. We also wanted to provide high-value fashion content that could lead to higher conversion rates. The content platform could also serve as a foundation for brand partnership deals. Our job is to transform ShopStyle from a utilitarian fashion search tool to a thrilling fashion destination. Simply put, we want to be the number one fashion destination for savvy luxury shoppers.
Securing ShopStyle's Position within Rakuten
This new positioning not only created a focus for our marketing and branding efforts but also provided ShopStyle with a clear raison d'être within Rakuten's house of brands. Our focus on savvy luxury shoppers made our existence complementary to Rakuten's own focus on mass value shoppers. Instead of competing for affiliate retail deals, we now have a clear relationship of how we cover the market together. Our new brand strategy successfully convinces Rakuten's leadership to provide the necessary investments to grow our business.
Roadmapping the rebrand
With a clear brand strategy in mind, we are ready to start the transformation process. Before we just jump into the design, I wanted to make sure leadership and stakeholders understood what a successful brand transformation effort really looks like. Often, teams can underestimate the time and resources needed to successfully bring a new brand identity to life. From my experience, the bigger the organization, the more complex the process. To make sure our rebrand signifies real change instead of just a new look and feel, we decided the brand rollout should coincide with the launch of Cash Back as a member benefit. This new feature sets ShopStyle apart from all its competitors and communicates that ShopStyle is not just a search tool but a valuable destination for savvy fashion shoppers.
THE BRAND IDENTITY DESIGN PROCESS
Designing a fashion forward yet timeless brand language
Now that we have a clear brand positioning with a clear target user group in mind, I led my team to explore visual directions that would appeal to luxury fashion shoppers. From research, we knew these shoppers desired sophistication and elevation. One user said, "wealth whispers, money shouts.". We referenced luxury fashion media and audited the branding of ShopStyle's own top-performing luxury brands. Having worked with other luxury businesses, I knew there is a very subjective "look" that people expect for credibility in this world.
Additionally, as a shopping platform, our products need to shine. The ideal solution needs to be distinct but not overwhelm the browsing experience. Lastly, we wanted the identity to embrace our specific brand values of "Savvy" and "Bold.” All these insights came together to provide an initial set of guiding design principles to help us create ShopStyle's new brand language.
Our Brand Design Guiding Principles
- Luxury shoppers should find ShopStyle to be sophisticated, desirable, and credible as a trusted fashion resource.
- Our shoppers are the heroes of ShopStyle. Our brand needs to feel warm and supportive to reflect our chosen Sage-like brand personality.
- The products should be the focus of ShopStyle. Our visual language needs to be able to play a supporting role and not overwhelm the browsing experience.
- Being "bold" at ShopStyle means standing up for what you believe in. Not being afraid to take a chance to do what's right. It does not mean being loud.
- Being "Savvy" at ShopStyle means being a sophisticated shopper and believing that knowledge is power. It's smart to want the best deal.
THE BRAND VISUAL DESIGN
A New Visual Language
We introduced a new serif typeface that was originally designed for New York Times’s style section. We also created a neutral yet sophisticated core color palette that elevates the product images without taking the spotlight. As ShopStyle does not produce its own images, a set of patterns were created to put our mark on "found" images. The feedback from users and luxury retailers was overwhelmingly positive. Luxury retailers who were once hesitant to work with us due to brand alignment were now happy to jump on board as our new brand reflected their values.
THE PRODUCT DESIGN SYSTEM
Translating the new brand language into the product design
To make sure the visual language fits the needs of our product experience, we explore how the brand components work with the design system. Luckily ShopStyle already had a design system created by the previous Design Director. We tested each of the brand components from typeface to semantic color usage before we updated the guidelines. Below is an example of how we translated the visual concept into the product design system.
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