Storytailing: Why Retailers Need to Become Publishers

By Sam Gopal | 28 Jan 2016

Retailers are reaching out directly to consumers and becoming media companies in their own right, reaping success in their storytailing efforts.

Creating content that is compelling and engaging is a way for brands to both share their stories and showcase their products at the same time. Compelling brand magazines filled with engaging content can create content marketing kings, and those able to find a niche market can see huge boosts in their marketing efforts.

The time for storytailing is here, with many storytailing partnerships emerging as a direct result of the rise of digital commerce. The barriers that traditionally would have made these types of ventures cost-prohibitive e.g. building stores or traditional media expenses such as production and printing, have fallen away. Creating and distributing content is getting cheaper and this notion has not been lost on retailers.

Hence the emergence of branded magazines – ‘owned media’ in the form of online publications, created and produced by brands and their agencies to directly compete with traditional magazines. Like branded blogs, these magazines are made up of long form content, but focused more on delivering valuable content first and promoting products second. Of course, if the content results in a sale, even better.

Storytailing Stand-outs

Brands Exclusive

As the latest step in a major overhaul of its online presence and brand value, Australian online fashion retailer Brands Exclusive publishes a free (to online members) monthly magazine for its customers and brand partners called The Exclusive. The e-zine showcases products with high-detail images and call-to-action links back to product pages on the website, as well as designer profiles and recurring segments for the menswear and homewares ranges.

“We want to share exclusive stories about fashion, beauty, style influencers and trends with our members, and we also wanted to create a place where we can tell our brand partners’ stories in style,” CEO Alexandra Mills told Power Retail in an interview in March. “Brands Exclusive is no longer just a fashion retailer, it’s an exciting fashion experience. And we didn’t feel we could achieve this without creating a new visual home and creating premium content for our members.”

Brands Exclusive’s monthly magazine for its online customers called The Exclusive.


Net-A-Porter’s iPad app takes commerce and content not only mobile, but one step further. The magazine offers an editorial narrative in the horizontal format with a parade of models sporting the latest designs, but when the user turns the device to portrait mode, individual items pop up in a retail environment, ready to buy with the swipe of a finger.

“For 10 years, we have been giving people information they want in a compelling, entertaining format while they shop. We fuse content with commerce and fashion,” says Claudia Plant, Global Brand Creative Director of Net-A-Porter.

The Net-A-Porter app offers editorial content in the horizontal format and ready-to-shop products in the portrait mode.

Mr Porter

Mr. Porter, men’s clothing site and companion to Net-A-Porter, is an advanced example of the retail and media trend, with its printed fashion magazine styled like a 1950’s newspaper.

Mr Porter Newspaper

Former Esquire editor, Jeremy Langmead, oversaw the launch of the magazine, which contains engaging and non-salesy articles such as ‘How to put outfits together’ and ‘Nail it at the office’, the type of content men might have sought out in print publications like GQ or Men’s Vogue, and which is likely contributing to the declining readership of these magazines. And rather than seeking revenue in the form of advertising, all the product in the magazine is available for purchase in the Mr Porter store.

Mr Porter App

To assist with linking the physical magazine to the Mr Porter store, there’s a phone app that allows you to hold the phone camera over an article, then directly purchase the products from the Mr Porter store. In addition, hovering over certain articles allows you to watch videos related to the article, including interviews with profiled people talking about their approach to style. There’s also online content available via The Journal, complete with ‘Shop The Journal’ functionality.


Immersing consumers in a brand through interesting content is typically the aim of online magazines, but it’s not necessary for all the content to be original. Through its Flipboard social magazine, Levi’s curates authentic and relevant articles about its products and the Levi’s brand from existing publications like Complex and E! Online. The magazine includes original videos, Levi’s product shots, consumer tweets, and other social media mentions that incorporate the #LiveInLevis hashtag, all with e-commerce built into the digital experience.

Levi’s creates authentic and engaging content for its customers to follow, with click-to-buy options on all featured products.


Burberry provided consumers with a live stream of its fashion show in Milan, complete with click-and-buy functionality

Video content and user interactivity have become vital to digital publications of all kinds, so it’s no wonder that brands are leveraging these elements in their own content. Burberry live-streamed its menswear show from Milan and consumers who tuned in could not only watch the models come down the runway, but also click and buy anything they wanted and have it delivered direct to their door.

Target Runway

Target US’ online magazine A Bullseye View adopts a Pinterest style in its layout.

Target Runway, a curated collection of the Target retail range made specifically for Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival 2015, offered browsers a stream of the catwalk as Target products were being showcased. Customers could pause to browse products featured in the side-tabs, then restore for more from the runway. Low-fi browsers could also find each item the traditional way with the Shop The Runway page redirecting to products on Target’s retail homepage.

Target in the US also has an online magazine called A Bullseye View, which adopts a Pinterest-like layout to provide lifestyle tips, often from celebrities, as well as showcase the retailer’s brands and products.


As part of its global content strategy, SurfStitch rolled out The Lens, creating what it claims is a ‘one-stop shop’ for the latest exciting lifestyle content. The publication includes professional athlete interviews through to travel diaries and featured music playlists.

“SurfStitch really understood the power of building up an audience that loves the lifestyle it reflects,” Bonnici told CMO. “More brands are now making the effort to truly understand who their buying personas are.

“SurfStitch understands the people that really love that surfing lifestyle are the right people buying its products. But it’s not just about the products: These brands want to create content that’s really rich and powerful that consumers actually want.”


SurfStitch is not only pulling people in with engaging content, but effectively building a community around the brand.

Perhaps the efforts of the retailers above indicate it’s time for your brand to delve into brand publishing?

Parts of this article were originally featured on Power Content, a specialist content marketing company specialising in e-commerce and conversion optimisation. 

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