Salon Media CEO Weighs in on New E-commerce Venture
We launched the store on Cyber Monday with a holiday gift collection. But it will evolve and we'll include additional products and categories of products going forward. We'll launch a category of food-related products this quarter, for example.
INBOX: How do you go about selecting the merchandise?
GRINGAS:We have a merchandising person working with us, John Pound, who was the CEO of Smith & Hawken [a high-end garden retailer that closed up shop last summer] who is deeply experienced in retail and online retail, as well as products oriented toward the intelligent and affluent Salon reader. He's also the voice of the store, and he has a store blog where he writes about the products he selects.
INBOX: How did you go about promoting the store when it opened?
GRINGAS: There was heavy promotion on Salon.com, and there still is. We're constantly reminding our visitors that we have a store. We've also included promotional components in e-mails to our subscribers [Salon has some subscribers who pay a fee to read Salon.com without ads], and we've used third-party marketing campaigns with other marketing partners.
INBOX: Some of our readers may be interested in selling merchandise. If so, what advice can you offer them?
GRINGAS: Well, for one, don't try this endeavor if your brand doesn't have the right personality for it. I think the Salon brand has the perfect personality for this, but not all brands do.
Also, be careful about how you walk the line between editorial and commerce. We won't have our writers write about the products we sell. We toe that line very carefully.
Another tip: Keep trying different things and seeing what works and what doesn't. Launching an e-commerce site and being successful with it takes a fair amount of experimentation.
Finally, don't become a retailer in the sense of holding inventory. We wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for the nature of the Web itself, which spurned a tremendous amount of e-commerce activity with small vendors offering innovative and unique products. Many of these products are suited to our audience, and it probably hasn't seen them before.