On the heels of the Federated-Macy's acquisition of its rival May Company comes coverage in the New York Times of Macy's launch of ThisIt.com, a teen micro-site. The content provides guides on fashion, music, and suggestions on how to make the most from the Macy's e-commerce site. Content is licensed from Teen Vogue and Universal Music Group. (click on the image for a larger view)
In my view, this has several implications. First, regional department store brands like Burdine's, Von Maur, and Lazarus are being phased out in favor of a single unified brand like Macy's. I never thought consumers really understood the difference between Macy's East and Macy's West, and even remixed brand names like Lazarus-Macy's, Bon-Macy's and Rich's-Macy's seemed a little forced.
Second, the involvement of Teen Vogue shows the power of custom publishing. Teens are clearly a sweet spot where retail and media content collide, but after you explore this example, one could see how online shopping guides like ThisIt could be created based on other traditional print titles like Elle, Lucky or Maxim. A separate site also creates distance from the main brand, and provides opportunities to take creative risks that a Macy's could never take. In a rapidly-evolving media world, this gives Macy's the ability to explore new store formats with the same speed that Lloyd Braun is able to explore new Yahoo! media partnerships.
Third, this kind of innovation isn't limited to Macy's. If you visit http://vogue.jerseygardens.com/, a web site maintained by Mallfinder Network, you can see how blogging print articles can help create awareness of certain stores within a traditional shopping mall. For this reason I believe there is an emerging sweet spot encompassing retail, blogs, and custom publishing. The reason for this is market intelligence. Since last year, hotels like Fairmont have stepped up their efforts to understand their customer. Teen consumer research leader Alloy Marketing has chosen to shift its focus from online retail to its message boards, polls and search results, and soon, RFID.
(Disclosure: I founded Mallfinder Network and developed the idea of combining print media content with mall property web sites.)