The Fancy

Where Social Networking Meets E-Commerce

How it works.

The Fancy describes itself as 'part store, blog, magazine, and wishlist'.  Like Pinterest, it is a social media platform that allows users to bookmark, or in this case 'Fancy', images of interest to them. These images feature a virtually limitless range products and services, including home decor, clothing, travel destinations, and tech gadgets. The design of the site is consistent with the items displayed, which tend to be quite upscale, cutting-edge, trendy and unique.

All of the content on the site is curated by members of the Fancy community. Users have the ability to browse through specific product categories or view items that have been Fancy'd by contacts within their social networks. Unlike Pinterest, which functions largely as a platform for self-expression [1], The Fancy has added a commerce spin by allowing users to actually purchase what they see. The key distinction is that once an image has been Fancy'd, the user can purchase the item directly through the Thefancy.com.

This platform provides some very valuable opportunities to both users and businesses. Retailers and brands can connect directly with users who have Fancy'd their products, offering tailored promotions and creating meaningful relationships with engaged consumers. One of the most interesting features of site is the monthly 'Fancy Box' subscription. Each Fancy Box includes a collection of the most Fancy'd items in categories that match the user's preferences [2].  

A growing community.

The Fancy was officially launched in 2009.  In early 2012, there were 250,000 registered users.  Today, The Fancy's community of online users has grown to 2 million people.

Capitalizing and external trends.

There are many different external trends and market factors that determine the success of a new social media platform, however three in particular have positioned The Fancy for tremendous success. The first is the power of an image.[3] People have always said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and there is no denying it anymore! It began with blogging, moved to statuses, next to “tweets” and now to pictures. With social media sites such as Pinterest having grown to the third largest in North America, it is of no wonder that marketers are seeing social media users preferring to “snap and post” than simply deliver a message to their network of followers. The growing trend of snapping and posting pictures online is the first market trend that is playing in The Fancy’s favour. Not only does the website make it easy for everyone to post pictures, but many of those items are available for purchase, making the website ideal for the “everyday Joe” or for countless vendors looking to continue developing their brand. The second market factor that is greatly influencing the success The Fancy has earned to date is that men are outspending women for online shopping. According to USA Today, there are approximately 19 million affluent men online spending more than $4,000 a year online – 20% to 30% more than women.[4] Unlike Pinterest who’s primary user is women, The Fancy has greater traffic from men and with a business model built around e-commerce, it translates directly to profits! The third is our desire for social engagement. The time has passed for meaningless ads to be pushed upon the social media user. The Fancy plays upon our need for engagement, sharing and affirmation by allowing users to follow one another, Fancy items, see items Fancy’d by friends, and even partake in group gift purchasing. Along with many other features, the website brings a practical application to usage making a full circle by purchasing exactly what you “fancy”! The aforementioned external trends and market factors are truly allowing The Fancy to develop a serious presence in the mind of social media users and despite having a fraction of the users Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter have, it continues to grow with tremendous success among consumers.

Achieving marketing communication objectives.

Whether a brand's communication objectives are to increase awareness, product trials, brand equity, or consumer engagement, The Fancy can play a critical role in achieving them.

Because The Fancy is a commerce-driven platform,  it is designed to provide retailers with strategic opportunities to connect with consumers, engage their audience, and promote their products. [5] They have the ability to make invaluable contact with consumers during the need recognition and information search stages of their purchase decisions. The fact that all content is curated by users has a very powerful impact on brand equity and can induce a product into a consumer's spontaneous decision set. Among non-users, it is an important opportunity for a brand to raise, change, or stimulate awareness. For existing users, it is an opportunity to increase loyalty, engagement and to create goodwill.

The Fancy also gives retailers the ability to target specific consumer groups, by identifying needs, attitudes, and interests that are compatible with their brands. Through the process of Fancying images, users essentially segment themselves based on the information they reveal about their demographic, willingness to spend, and product preferences. Brands can use this information to connect with users who fall directly in their target segment, or those who have expressed interest in products similar to theirs.

The Fancy Box is an incredibly useful tool for brands looking to spark trial and increase awareness. It exposes consumers to products that they may not be aware of or may not have purchased as a standalone product. This has proved to be successful strategic tactic for a number of companies, including Hello, Hard Graft, and Sprayground, whose products gained international recognition and significant growth in sales after being featured in a Fancy Box.

One of  The Fancy's greatest success stories belongs to a Dutch designer label for mobile accessories, MUJJO. The company leveraged the Fancy Box Subscriptions to increase product trials. MUJJO’s creative strategy was to have their products resonate with consumers who sought simplistic, but high quality products. Beginning by only selling touchscreen gloves, MUJJO utilized the tactic of providing their gloves to consumers via the Fancy Box for trial. Consequently this tactic gained widespread awareness for the company creating a deeper need recognition among consumers. As awareness continued to develop and sales grew, MUJJO was able to further expand their line of products to include sleeves for various types of Apple products such as tablets and phones.[6]

Synergies and integration.

The Fancy provides optimal functionality across all mobile and tablet devices with an application supported by Apple, Android, and Windows technology. User accounts are fully integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and other social networking sites, which increases the visibility of The Fancy, the brands, and creates deeper connections between users.

Risks and barriers for adoption.

Despite The Fancy’s ability to capitalize on market trends and complement other tools in the marketing communication mix, there are a few key risks and barriers for adoption. The first important risk to acknowledge is the potential for false positives that the website may create for marketers.[7] One of the great features of The Fancy is that it offers specific promotions and suggestions tailored to the items you currently fancy. But what happens when a “Fancy” is no longer a signal of intent? Push advertising begins to become annoying and tiresome. Therefore, The Fancy will have to walk the fine line between engaging their consumers and turning them off entirely. While I would like to buy those $500 cufflinks I “fancy”, it just isn’t in the budget at this point. Another important risk to consider is that “daily deal” sites are losing interest from investors. For example, Groupon has entirely lost one of their largest investors, Andreessen Horowitz, and has lost a third of Fidelity’s stake.[8] While The Fancy has received millions of dollars in backing already, who’s to say that investors might not pull out sooner than later if they are not seeing their expected return on investment? Finally, a potential barrier to adoption for many consumers could be that Fancy can cause confusion regarding which items are for sale and which are not. While most items can be purchased, there are some items that are only concept ideas and after clicking on said items, a suggestion for a similar item appears that is available for purchase that is generally of lesser quality or desire. This form of “bait and switch” can cause confusion and frustration among consumers, leading a lack of repeat purchases or even repeat visits to the website.[9] Despite The Fancy’s current risks and barrier to adoption, the website is performing phenomenally well and can continue to reap benefit from social media consumers through continued innovation.

A bright future.

In conclusion, The Fancy is a innovative platform for consumers and businesses alike. The Fancy user community continues to grow in size and engagement, offering consumers unique opportunities to connect with each other and the brands they love. The Fancy gives businesses a platform to connect with consumers in a unique and meaningful way, and we see a bright future ahead of the Fancy.

Written by Natalie Fisher and Sean Connacher for COMM 335.

Sources.

Abstract.

The Fancy is an emerging communications tool that enables social networking and e-commerce to join forces. Like Pinterest, users of the online community pin, or in this case 'Fancy', images of trendy products and services interest to them. The Fancy takes the growing  'snap and post' trend a step further by allowing users to purchase the things that they Fancy directly through the website.  The Fancy plays upon our need for engagement, sharing and affirmation by allowing users to follow one another, see items Fancy’d by friends, and even partake in group gift purchasing. The Fancy is a commerce-driven platform  designed to provide retailers with strategic opportunities to connect with consumers, engage their audience, and promote their products.  It can play a powerful role in increasing awareness, product trials, brand equity, or consumer engagement through innovative services such as the Fancy Box subscription.

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