This is Fancy.

The Fancy as an Emerging Communications Tool

Sarah Klaassen and Kelly Wittig

In Spring 2012, Mr. Oscar De la Renta sold 5 chic and fabulous baseball t-shirts, straight from the runway, into the hands of consumers for over $2400 a piece, exclusively on The Fancy. What is The Fancy, you might ask? The Fancy is a new emerging social media platform, allowing users to buy products they ‘fancy’ straight from the website. Similar to Pinterest, the website, magazine, blog and wish list is comprised of pictured products organized by interest and category. Having initially started out as exclusive to celebrities, The Fancy provides a high-end, interactive and unique platform for online purchases.

Some Impressive Stats

The Fancy started in 2009 as an exclusive online store and social media platform for celebrities. Shorty thereafter, The Fancy began to send personal invitations to selected trend setters. Finally, in 2011, the site decided to change its strategy and became public, with the majority of users from the US, India, France, and China. Currently, The Fancy has 2 million users and 750 000 registered users, having grown 252% since August 2011, with an estimated net worth to be $100 million[i].

The Fancy: An Emerging Communication Tool

The Fancy is a multidimensional emerging communication tool that can be described as being part store, magazine, blog, and wish list. It is an exclusive and high-end social photo sharing site, web store, and mobile application. Much like Pinterest, users create an account, search and browse products they ‘fancy’ and add to their own photo sharing boards. However, unlike Pinterest, The Fancy has a vendor-to-consumer setup, with company and user generated content. Any product posted can be bought directly through the website, without being redirected externally.  Although Pinterest has more users, The Fancy’s user interaction and participation is much higher; Pinterest averages 3 pins per user, while The Fancy averages 66.8 fancies per registered participant[ii]. In fact, The Fancy has had 1 000 000 fancies in the past 7 days and over 150 000 unique visitors in the past 24 hours[iii]. By sharing and posting items users ‘fancy’ with friends, points can be earned and spent on product purchases.

External merchants, brands, and retailers, can sell their products on the site only after The Fancy approves the items. Vendors may also offer a virtual store on The Fancy website, or featured deals which can increase their search ability and awareness among consumers. Furthermore, The Fancy takes a 10% margin on all purchases, which sustains their business model and allows them to operate without the use of advertisements[iv].

The user retention strategy is even more interesting. The more a product is ‘fancied’ by users, the more expensive it becomes to purchase. This creates incentive for users to search for new and original products; only 50% of Fancy posts are ‘refancies’ compared to Pinterest where 80% of posts are repinned[v]. This high percentage of new content keeps the site dynamic and addicting for the trend and fashion loving.  Furthermore, The Fancy offers a special program for those who subscribe - The Fancy Box. Each month, customers receive a mystery Fancy Box filled with customized items worth double the cost of subscribing. Watch this video to experience the thrill of The Fancy Box:

External Trends and Market Factors

A variety of external and market factors exist which support The Fancy’s social media platform, leading to its continued success.  These trends include consumer demands for greater mobile capabilities, ease of online purchasing, and services offering multiple platforms for use. The Fancy has effectively addressed these trends through their product offering by operating as a website and mobile application. As well, it provides a one step transaction for the purchasing of featured products.

Basic traditional marketing is no longer effective at attracting young consumers to new brands.  Thus, integrated marketing approaches are imperative to remain competitive and build brand equity. The Fancy’s model of using user-curated content fosters integrated marketing communication by allowing consumers to be part of a brand’s voice. Through posting pictures of brand items that users love, they are taking the role of a marketer by promoting and endorsing products to peers in their network. This approach aligns consumer’s personal identities to the brand’s identity, resulting in stronger brand equity. This leads to another trend of relying on peer recommendations to ensure social validation.

As traditional marketing and advertising became more saturated, consumers began trusting company messaging less. Consequently, peer recommendations have become critical in the decision making process for purchasing new products. The Fancy’s platform supports this trend by providing a place for consumers to view products that are endorsed by trusted trend setters in their personal network. In addition, loyalty customer programs have become essential in today’s oversaturated retail market. In order to remain competitive, consumers expect rewards programs and incentives for using online services. The Fancy, noticing this, offers free money for purchasing products when referring friends to the site or when successfully influencing their peers to buy products. Although The Fancy has developed a business model that meets the needs of current consumers, the business must continue to predict external trends and market factors to remain relevant in this fast- changing industry.

Tools in Tandem with The Fancy

The Fancy should be successfully used in tandem with multiple other online communication tools; however these strategies should differ depending on the nature of the business. All businesses should be able to use this website in addition to Facebook, to help increase interaction around the brand and build a following/community. The chart below summarizes the optimal way to integrate the Fancy into a communications strategy, based on the size and nature of a business.

The differences in communication strategies are based around the size and nature of the company using The Fancy. While it is common for small businesses to have a website, it is less common to have a website with interactive buying capabilities, as this requires resources. Therefore, for smaller businesses, the Fancy can be completely used to facilitate online purchases and actually used in tandem with Pinterest. As discussed later on, Pinterest is also considered a competitor and/or risk to the Fancy. However, because it is extremely interactive to the buyer, in this case it can actually be used to promote the Fancy for small businesses. They can post their merchandise on a free Pinterest account, linking to the Fancy’s purchase-space for their products; in doing this, they can capitalize on Pinterest’s user base and drastically and speedily increase their product awareness and reach.

While smaller businesses can use the website to focus on buying capabilities, larger businesses can use it for promotional purposes. At the original start of The Fancy, being included in the website gave both sellers and purchasers an air of exclusivity. However, since the website is now public for all users this competitive edge is lost. Larger/more established companies should now focus on the deals aspect of the site. Anytime a company chooses to promote a deal, there are many venues for it. For companies already involved with Groupon, LivingSocial, TeamBuy etc. those same deals (possibly with slight variation), can be applied to The Fancy with little extra effort yet this expands the reach of the deal significantly more to consumers. Secondly, the focus on deals and promotions can be very efficiently linked to a larger business’ twitter account – one already with an established brand and following, to advertise the deals.

In addition to the deal-focus for larger businesses, The Fancy is a great awareness tool to generate buzz around new products, and the brand itself. Consumers involved with The Fancy already, who are unaware of a certain company’s offerings, will be more inclined to show interest in the brand should they stumble across its products while already exploring their interests on the site. This interest will all be increased with the presence of a deal. Larger companies, who are capable of adding the online-purchase feature to their own website, are less likely to want to cannibalize on their home website sales. However, The Fancy does offer them the chance to make their own ‘web store.’ While some cannibalization is still an issue, this web store offers unique value as it provides the exclusivity associated with The Fancy and the chance to attract new consumers by increasing the scope of potential visitors.

Risk and Adoption

As mentioned, it is possible that web sales will not increase, but merely cannibalize from original sources. In this case, the time spent on The Fancy will be considered an inefficient spending of resources for larger businesses. It is also a less than ideal venue, since The Fancy does take some commission for their services. Secondly, Pinterest is a significant adoption barrier for consumers. This website is already very established with the online community, and since it operates with user-generated content, consumers can feel less ‘advertised to.’ Finally, if consumers are new to the website, it is not directly obvious that less expensive products than those being headlined are offered. This initially may turn off many possible consumers from making the Fancy a ‘regular’ on their website visits.

Oscar De La Renta:

Exceptional Use of The Fancy as a Communications Tool

Oscar de la Renta (ODLR) has an excellent knack for being a first-mover and utilizing social media. A great example of this can be shown by their savvy use of The Fancy in May 2012. The ODLR Spring Show is always a modern, fun, and glamourous event. Thus, customers were greatly anticipating the unveiling of their 2013 Resort Collection in New York City. Being masters of integrating marketing communications platforms, Oscar de la Renta made a bold move and advertised a sequined baseball tee available for purchase on The Fancy, as the model showed it off down the runway. This baseball tee made of silk and sequins was nothing less than fabulous, selling for a mere $2490.

ODLR chose to invest in The Fancy, knowing their customers were invested in this haute social media site. As stated by Oscar de la Renta’s CEO, Alex Bolen, the company is driven to partner with platforms that “ have momentum [to get people] to spend time paying attention to Oscar de la Renta, not competitors[vi].”  Alex Bolen was not wrong about the power of momentum because 24 hours after the runway show the look had been ‘fancied’ by over 500 people with a total of 5 final sales. Although, this number may not seem large, even ODLR’s chic Madison Avenue store location would not have been capable of reaching this target. Alex Bolen’s response to the sales was that “selling five of those baseball tees is not going to change our lives, but I have got to say, I was surprised[vii].”  Oscar de la Renta not only achieved high ROI on this quiet campaign, but also created quite a buzz online and among loyal consumers of their brand.

Oscar de la Renta has achieved a first mover advantage with this communication tool, but also in others, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. This company’s influences have set the standard for many other high couture fashion houses to increase their online communication presence. So, while Oscar set the precedent, its ongoing social media efforts no longer provide competitive advantage. However, not all houses have mastered the use of The Fancy, and this is where Oscar de la Renta can, and has, set itself apart.

Looking into the recent posts on Oscar’s Twitter and Facebook, they show the integration of tools such as Pinterest and Instagram, however no references or links yet to The Fancy. This provides a great next step for the company to take to further utilize this tool and integrate its presence. Oscar’s current Twitter presence is under an account titled ‘OscarPRGirl’ and this presence has been carried over to the Fancy. However, Oscar has yet to utilize the webstore capabilities that The Fancy has to offer. Creating this will only further its reach and presence on the website; Twitter and Facebook are also easy and effective ways to link the company’s online presence together and fully reap the effects of all social media tools, including The Fancy.

_______________________Works Cited:

[i] Goor, Marion. "The Fancy: The Future Of Social Media?" VIRALBLOGCOM. N.p., 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.

[ii] Berger, Erica. "VentureBeat | News About Tech, Money and Innovation." VentureBeat You Think Pinterest Is Big Here Comes The Fancy with a Brand Spanking New Ecommerceplatform Comments. N.p., 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. .

[iii] Ebit

[iv] "The Fancy: People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 24." Critical Conversations. MSL Group, 27 June 2012. Web. .

[v] Berger, Erica. "VentureBeat | News About Tech, Money and Innovation." VentureBeat You Think Pinterest Is Big Here Comes The Fancy with a Brand Spanking New Ecommerceplatform Comments. N.p., 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. .

[vi] Wilson, Eric. "FRONT ROW; Trying To Click Online." The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 May 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. .


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