If you happened to stroll down Great Jones Street in Manhattan this past holiday season, you may have been surprised to see the Domino logo fronting a pop-up retail store. You wouldn’t have been the only one surprised. The magazine/e-commerce/ book and digital brand didn’t expect the pop-up store experiment to take off the way it did. “The original model was just to open on weekends,” recalls CEO Nathan Coyle. “But it was so successful we kept it open during the week.” It's now become part of the 2017 plan, perhaps with a Brooklyn outlet in the spring.
A physical retail presence is a particularly logical brand extension for Domino, because the magazine has become a retailer in the three years after it spun off from Condé Nast into an independent entity. The site sells everything from smaller gifting items featured at the holiday pop-up store to furniture pieces. “We own the customer, the process, and oversee shipping in most cases,” Coyle says. “I am a big believer in experiential and bringing the brand to life in the real world.”
Expanding the content and commerce brand is part of Coyle’s mission at Domino, which topped the MPA’s list of fastest growing magazine brands for Total Audience in the Magazine 360º Brand Audience Report for 2016 (+56 percent). A lot of this has been driven by Coyle’s special focus on digital, and particularly the channels that mimic the experiential feel of retail.
Its site is as dedicated to e-commerce as it is to content, so it has a uniquely nuanced view of social’s different roles as distribution and sales engines. “The behavior of a visitor that comes from social is very different when you are looking at it through the filter of commerce versus audience,” Coyle says. While social traffic has been historically hard to convert, Domino has been using Instagram very effectively to drive sales. Tactics like leveraging a deal of the day that features smaller gift items results in surprisingly high conversions. On the editorial side, Domino leverages Pinterest, where it is partnering with key “Pinfluencers” to distribute content and drive traffic. Meanwhile Facebook, which does drive traffic, is less of a priority for Coyle until he has content that satisfies the social network’s video-hungry algorithms. “When we produce daily video, which I am working actively on with a goal to launch in the second quarter, then I will be doubling down on Facebook.”
Coyle appears to be thinking about his content and commerce hybrid in much the way consumer product brands are rebuilding their approach to marketing and sales — as omnichannel efforts where interactions ultimately serve the highest margins in the company.
In the long run, selling goods may represent the most profitable bottom line for the company, but that process actually starts elsewhere. “In 2016, each of the businesses — print, digital and commerce — were all contributing in a way that was fairly equal,” he says. This year, he’ll focus aggressively on digital media with the belief that it’ll ultimately pay off at the cash register. “The hypothesis is that, as the digital media business grows, we want to see that pull commerce with it to improve conversion of readers to shoppers.”