How Domino Magazine Resurrected Itself As An E-Commerce Startup

Domino, the cult magazine that folded in 2009, is back—this time, as a scrappy startup ready to tap the e-commerce market for home décor fanatics.

Warby Parker, NastyGal, Fab, and Birchbox are all familiar names within the new wave of e-commerce startups that have cropped up in the past five years. However, many of these startups have focused on revolutionizing online shopping for fashion apparel and accessories, leaving the home décor and interior design market relatively untapped.

That's good news for Domino, the folded cult interior design magazine that relaunched late last week as an independent e-commerce venture. The new Domino still has a quarterly print component, but it has refashioned itself as a destination e-commerce site that combines traditional, original editorial content with an online shop of more than 30,000 stylish products (and growing) immediately for sale.

The Domino name and brand are carryovers from the home décor title's old publisher, Condé Nast, which put out the print magazine from 2005 to 2009. Despite its dedicated following of avid readers and a circulation of more than a million copies, Domino folded due to low advertising revenues.

Cliff Sirlin, an Internet entrepreneur and a founding member of Domino Media Group, says the idea for the new "fully shoppable" Domino partly originated from archaic experiences he and one of his cofounders, Andy Appelbaum, had while remodeling their respective homes.

"Interior designers would come to our homes and they would literally bring catalogs and photocopied images," Sirlin says. "There was no technology that actually connected everything and served as a resource that took you through the experience as you found things."

The new Domino site draws the reader into the shopping experience by presenting various options for interacting with the editorial content. There are full articles that re-create the style and layout of the print magazine's stories, but there is also a "Shop Story" option that displays a gallery of products featured in a story. In just a few clicks, a reader could theoretically purchase all the objects that make up the "look" for an interior that was shot for the magazine.

At launch, Domino is selling wares from more than 200 vendors, some of whom have created custom pieces for the brand upon request. As the merchant of record for these vendors, many of whom do not sell their products elsewhere online, Domino is looking to generate revenue through markups, rather than through an affiliate model. The founders are hoping vendors will see the appeal of selling directly to Domino's audience.

And by keeping tabs on product data for all the items sold on its platform, Domino gets deep insight into what its readers and buyers are looking for.

"It helps us understand what users are being drawn toward," says Aaron Wallace, a Domino cofounder. "Having all that product data lets us know when people are being drawn toward red sofas, so maybe red sofas are the new trend."

The original Domino's editorial content helped pioneer the democratization of the home décor industry by sourcing interesting products, curios, and interview subjects with the keen eye of experienced market editors—but presenting finds with the voice of a trusted girlfriend. Although this incarnation of Domino is both shop and magazine, its editor-in-chief, Michelle Adams, says the editorial mission remains the same.

"In its DNA, [the old] Domino was a shopping magazine," Adams says. "Part of my job was to go find a similar rug to this one, or a similar painting to that one, if they were vintage. We were already trained to provide a service to the reader."

By preserving the revered voice and service-oriented nature of Domino's original editorial, the new founding team hopes to present a unique offering against competitors such as Elle Decor, Polyvore, which recently expanded into the home design category, and the daily deals-oriented One Kings Lane.

[Image courtesy of Domino]

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