Net-A-Porter unveiled a new print magazine last week which it hoped would disrupt the old model of print publishing through new innovations such as shoppable pages.
The bi-monthly magazine, named Porter, is due to be published six times a year with 400,000 copies of each edition made available across 60 countries.
It enables Net-A-Porter to connect magazine readers to its ecommerce store, as all of the pages can be scanned using the retailer’s mobile app.
This then gives users several options, including finding an item on the ecommerce store, visiting a third-party website, or watching a video.
As with all fashion magazines, Porter’s pages are liberally filled with adverts. These are also scannable, but only link to the brand’s website.
Net-A-Porter isn’t the first brand to publish an interactive magazine, however Porter is unique in that it’s a brand new magazine that was designed and created with digital as one of its core features.
As far as I’m aware, previous cases studies have always involved adding a digital layer to existing magazine brands.
For example (I’m sure Net-A-Porter won’t thank me for this comparison), Argos recently added a digital layer to its product catalogues.
To find out how well the digital integration works in Porter, I got one of my iPhone-toting colleagues to download the app so I could take it for a spin...
As far as I can tell Net-A-Porter has completely overhauled its iPhone app as part of the magazine launch, so all the options are now housed in a hamburger menu at the top of the screen.
However on this occasion I’m not here to look at the overall app UX, it’s just the scanner that I’m interested in.
When you first click on the scanner tool it gives you a simple description of each of the five logos that might appear on the magazine’s pages, then you’re ready to get going.
Every single editorial page within the magazine contains some sort of digital content, which is an indication of the amount of planning and coordination that goes into each issue.
It only takes a few seconds for the scanner to register each page and you can see the images shimmering on the screen while the app is reading the content, which I found to be pleasantly entertaining.
Here’s a quick run through of what each of the icons does:
Fairly self-explanatory, but this icon allows readers to shop the products that can see on the page.
Using the office Wi-Fi it was extremely quick to load the product lists within the app, so readers can quickly impulse buy the items that take their fancy.
One slight problem is that the product lists are tied to entire articles rather than pages, so when I clicked on one particular pair of shoes I was shown a list of more than 30 products including jewellery and books.
I assume this is because it would be too much work to individually tag each item, but it might occasionally be frustrating for the reader if they just want to find out about one particular product.
Both of these buttons link the user to a third-party brand website, though one of the buttons appears on editorial content and the other on adverts.
Again it’s a slick process, but there’s an obvious flaw in that many luxury fashion brands are still yet to build mobile optimised sites which harms the user experience.
The concierge icon is supposed to give access to a ‘VIP brand’s personal shopping service’, however the two occasions I clicked it I was just shown a number for customer services.
Another obvious one. The video content is quick to load and essentially displays adverts for some of the products contained on the pages.
I don’t often get the chance to read glossy women’s magazines, and when I do they tend be along the lines of Glamour rather than Harper’s Bazaar.
However Porter certainly looks the part (e.g. 24 pages of adverts before you get to any editorial), as one would expect from the expert team that Net-A-Porter has assembled.
The digital elements also work seamlessly with the on-page content and provide a decent enough user experience.
That said I’m still dubious as to how many people will actually scan the pages of the magazine, particularly as there are only very subtle references to the mobile app.
Only one of the 282 pages in Porter actually tells readers how to use the scanner, with no further calls-to-action throughout the magazine. I can understand why Porter’s creative team didn’t want to fill the pages with large ‘Scan This!’ logos, but it means that many people will be left unaware of the additional digital content that lies within.
Obviously the ability to shop the magazine is only one part of the magazine’s reason for being. It also gives Net-A-Porter a new and relevant way to communicate with its audience, as the company’s own research shows that its users still buy print magazines.
But will they buy 400,000 copies of Porter every couple of months?