The World is Your Catalog

iphone6magA remarkable innovation potentially transforms every printed image into a purchase point. And brands are climbing aboard fast.

Almost a century ago, the prevailing business model for newspapers changed radically, Shellie Karabell writes in Strategy + Business, as printing technology shifted the industry from a circulation-supported model to ad based. And — no surprise to anyone in the publishing industry — media brands are struggling once more to sort out their business models, thanks to the disruption of digital technology.

One Paris-based company may have hit on something that could not only change the way consumers shop, but cement the role of print as a vital media channel, Karabell writes.

“Paris-based entrepreneurs Tatiana Jama and Lara Rouyres, both in their early 30s, may have invented exactly that. With a consumer-oriented site called Selectionnist, they have created a Web-based bridge between print publications and online shopping,” she explains.

“When you see an intriguing product or service in an article in a print newspaper or magazine that has an arrangement with the site, you need only to take a picture of it with a smartphone and upload it,” Karabell continues. “Voila! You can get more info about the item, see what others have written about it, watch a tutorial on how to use or wear it, find out which shops carry it, or buy it directly from the brand through the Selectionnist site.”

This sublime idea came, as most sublime ideas do, out of frustration.

“Tired of tearing pages from fashion magazines and then calling around or running around Paris trying to find an item she wanted to buy, she employed a sophisticated image-recognition software program to do the legwork. The result is the basis of Selectionnist,” Karabell notes.

So where’s the revenue potential in all of this? It comes in the form of data, generated by the account the user creates. Judging by the number of brands that have signed on to date, the idea is compelling.

“Customers can access items…only if the brand that owns the product has uploaded it to the site; this provides a strong incentive for brands to partner with Selectionnist,” Karabell explains.  “More than 5,000 brands have signed up; some, including L’Oreal and LVMH, have exclusive contracts with Selectionnist and pay more for prominent placement; their agreements also allow them to respond to readers and sell to them directly. All advertisers gain access to customer profiles and purchasing data the site gathers about its customers.”

And that is the key, according to the company’s co-founder.

“The data we provide opens a wide field for future customer contact,” Jama says. “For example, if you have clicked on a new mascara and read about it and maybe watched a video demonstration on our site, but didn’t actually purchase it, the brand can follow up with you and say, ‘We noticed you didn’t buy our mascara, so here’s a coupon for something else you might like.’”

What does this mean for print as a channel?

“Print is the only media where publicity is not aggressive,” Jama points out. “It is where brands traditionally put most of their money, yet it has been hard to know the real return on that investment. Now we can show them where the interest came from, tell them about the customer, how long he or she spent on the site, and how much they spent.”

For brands, that’s some solid ROI. For consumers, who can now view the world as their own personal catalog – it’s a welcome disruption.