Refinery29 redesigns its site to boost video viewing, shopping

Refinery29 has redesigned its site to boost direct traffic now that it can no longer count on Facebook to supply it with referrals as it once did.

Refinery29 still distributes videos on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and articles on Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles. But the site serves as a one-stop shop for people to find that content as well as an actual shop that promotes retailers’ products. “You can’t do that in one singular Instagram channel or one singular YouTube channel,” said Refinery29 COO Sarah Personette.

Besides, while Refinery29’s U.S. unique visitors to its site declined by 8 percent year over year to 17.7 million people in March 2018, per comScore, its site audience still offers an opportunity to offset some of the video viewership the publisher has seen slip on other platforms. On Facebook Refinery29’s monthly video view count fell from 139 million views in January 2018 to 57.5 million in March 2018, and on Instagram the figure dropped from 17.2 million in January to 4.0 million in March, according to data from video analytics firm Tubular.

The most obvious change to the new site is a simpler, more prominent navigation bar that’s meant to eliminate friction between people checking out content and buying a product, which was Refinery29’s main mission when it started in 2005. The nav bar points people to “discover” articles, “watch” videos or “shop” (there’s also a “more” tab that categorizes content by topic). The redesigned site also loads 10 percent faster overall and in under five seconds on mobile, according to the publisher.

Refinery29 began rolling out the redesign four weeks ago to 10 percent of its audience, expanding it to 75 percent of visitors as of last week. It’s gotten more people to check out its videos and shopping section, though only on a relative basis.

The share of Refinery29’s visitors that play a video has increased by 13 percent, but those people only account for 5.6 percent of its traffic, according to the company. Only 1 percent of the sites’ visitors make it to the shopping section, though that’s up from 0.19 percent before the redesign. Before the redesign, 1.3 percent of visitors clicked on the navigation bar; since then, that number has inched up to 2.3 percent. The company wouldn’t say what its goals for those areas are.

Refinery29’s site will have more to show when it officially adds two new, ad-supported features to its shopping section in June. A curated shopping collection will feature products from multiple retailers grouped based on a theme like “athleisure” or “polka dots.” Custom brand shops will give individual retailers their own storefronts in the shopping section. In both cases people will be able to browse the retailers’ products on Refinery29’s site and click to buy them on the retailers’ sites, similar to how Google Shopping works. Refinery29 will make money by selling sponsored placements within the collections and branded custom shops, but the company is still working through the details of how exactly it will charge the retailers, Personette said.

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