Fast Company

Fab Blasts Through The Commerce-Media Divide With Five New Verticals

Commerce used to be separate from content. Now sites like Fab are combining the two--and creating addictive new experiences.

Since June of last year, Fab has been the go-to flash-sale site for ogling beautiful, design-y pieces. Today, the New York-based company is announcing that it is launching five independent verticals--or "shops"--for items related to fashion, food, children, pets, and vintage.

The launch comes just weeks after the company hit the 2 million users mark--and it hit that milestone long before its first birthday. The company added 450,000 users in January alone and has doubled its membership since November. And now, CEO Jason Goldberg tells Fast Company, the company is on track to do $100 million in sales this year--double the annualized take from last year.

Fab's roaring success, like that of similar ventures like One King's Lane, underlines how the next wave of e-commerce isn't simply about executing well on a retail idea. Rather, with its gorgeous photos and sensuous content, Fab is leading the way in merging commerce with content--and showing that successful stores in this space will realize that they need to feed customers' desire to browse and consume media, as much as their interest in shopping.

"We want to look like a glossy magazine," Goldberg says.

Like Fab proper, each of the new "shops" will offer items for sale during limited windows--in the case of the verticals, seven days. Unlike Fab proper, the shops will roll out only weekly, rather than daily: Vintage on Mondays, Fashion on Tuesdays, Kids on Wednesdays, Pets on Thursdays, and Food on Fridays. Each "shop" will go live at 7 p.m. Eastern time, starting this Thursday.

Goldberg says their customers' appetites for these particular categories demanded specialized treatment. "We were already selling fashion, and we were already selling kids and pets," Goldberg says. "But we felt like to do them justice, it would be better to have a dozen of the same sales on a given day, so that, for example, the moms could say, 'I'm going to go check out some great designed kids products, and I'm going to shop from hundreds of different products, versus doing one today, one tomorrow, and one the next day.'"

Unlike many flash sale sites, Fab's catalog is not made up of inventory that existing retailers are trying to liquidate. Instead, most of it comes from smaller and emerging companies that are using Fab for marketing purposes.

"In this down economy, a lot of people have gotten back to making things," Goldberg says. "But they didn't have a platform on which to sell it." Fab, then, which is backed by over $51 million in A-list venture capital from the likes of First Round Capital, Menlo Ventures, and Andreessen Horowitz, is providing that outlet. "We've enabled them to have millions of people discover their products."

On the consumer side, the site is also feeding a burgeoning desire for unique and beautifully crafted furnishings, clothing, and decorations. (A desire, incidentally, that author Daniel Pink presaged in his 2006 book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World, in which he described an emerging longing for beauty, design, and meaning, and predicted that those who could deliver it would have an advantage in the market over traditional left-brained thinkers.)

Goldberg calls this "a new wave of e-commerce."

"Amazon took the super-store or the catalog and brought it online and enabled people to get the best price on commodity products," he says. "Consumers are now saying not everything is just about price. There's other things that matter. It's about discovery, it's about being delighted and being wowed by products that maybe you don't know what you're looking for each day but someone is curating it and putting it in front of you, and you say, 'Alright, that's cool, I'm going to browse and take a look at it.'"

But it's also part of a next wave of media. As on Pinterest, consumers are flocking to Fab to feed a hunger traditionally satisfied by shelter and other lifestyle publications. "People say that getting Fab is like getting Dwell or Surface or Wallpaper magazine--just with the added benefit that you get it every day," Goldberg says.

"When we talk to magazine publishers, they tell us, 'If we would ever rethink the magazine, we would think along the lines of Fab,'" he continues. That's because, in addition to beautiful content, Fab enables the "readers" to buy the things they see and because there are social elements--like the ability to share purchases on Facebook.

"Whether it's us, Pinterest, or Flipboard, you're seeing a change in the way content, commerce, and social are blending," Goldberg says. "Media is not just about commerce or content or social. The new reality is that it's all of the above, and we're creating that every day."

[Image: Fab]

E.B. Boyd is FastCompany.com's Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter | Google+ | Email

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