To: Rami Atallah, CEO of SSENSE

Dear Rami,

SSENSE is one of the top digital-first luxury retailers in the world. You’ve gotten there by putting aesthetics, simplicity and function at the forefront, creating a vision and experience that is built around the modern shopper.

More recently, you’ve brought on a growing editorial team—led by the founders of 032c—who is creating relevant but not overly salesy writing and photography that sits alongside your retail efforts. You clearly believe in this work enough that you’ve allowed it to fill up the entire homepage, unlike most other retailers that prefer to feature endless product grids.

Even with all of these advancements, right now the editorial and commerce initiatives on SSENSE are entirely divided. If a user goes to the homepage, she lands on the editorial, but once she starts browsing products, the editorial is left behind. Even if a user is on a specific product page for a brand that you have written about in the past, the article does not appear.

While the internet has been a boon to many new digital retailers, it has also challenged the need and potential scale for all multi-brand retailers, which are primarily predicated on their ability to offer a unique assortment. But the internet has made this much harder to accomplish: Many retailers now offer the same products, which forces them to compete on price.

Those that succeed will break this mold, creating new experiences for shoppers that will encourage their continued loyalty. With the necessary foundations already in place, SSENSE has the opportunity to turbo-charge the interplay between editorial and commerce, which would help you both avoid the competitive pricing trap and allow you to stand out from the rest.

Here’s one idea about how to do it.

Launch a new section of your site called Interwoven.

What if you launched a new part of the website called Interwoven, which features stories, editorial, photography and more that is built around the products you are selling? It could answer a range of questions: What’s the story behind why the designers are making these products? How do these products fit into modern culture? And, importantly, why is SSENSE buying them and working with these designers?

While ample coverage of the first two questions can be found on SSENSE and other publications devoted to fashion and style, that last one might be the most interesting and relevant to your particular operation. Giving your buying team a platform and the ability to weave these narratives together on the site would help solidify SSENSE’s voice and why shoppers should listen to it.

New stories could appear every season or more frequently, merging the best insights from designers with the intuition of the SSENSE buying team. They could even include customer testimonials and content pulled from social media, which would show how these products operate and look in real life. This would both create more reasons for shoppers to visit the site and for designers to work with you and create exclusive products. It would also provide important introspection about why SSENSE features the designers and products it does. These stories could be entirely shoppable, but not overtly so.

As competition increases, successful retailers need to further hammer their stakes into the ground, defining themselves and operating in ways that their competitors do not. You’re already making strides to create differentiated editorial, but you have the opportunity to leap even further ahead.

This is one idea about how to do it. Let me know if you would like to hear more.

Richie Siegel
Founder and Lead Analyst
Loose Threads