I had a chance to talk about one of my favorite eCommerce stores (Karmaloop.com) and how the company has worked through branding and development of two of their most prominent eCommerce websites: Karmaloop and MISS KL.
The Karmaloop outlet was created in 2000, in founder Greg Selkoe's basement. Dina Selkoe joined the company shortly after as the head of Women's Sales and Creative Director. In August of 2012 the women's counterpart to the Karmaloop site was created. It was called MISS KL and was designed to be a better online experience for the female customers that had been shopping at Karmaloop. I was interested in what this website design and development process was like for MISS KL (and to some extent Karmaloop) and Dina graciously agreed to take the time and chat about it (even though it was during the busy holiday season -- thanks Dina!). The following is the conversation that resulted. I think it's good to hear these success stories. I am personally inspired at hearing how others approach building a successful eCommerce experience, and I hope sharing in the conversation will bring some helpful insights.
Interview with Dina Selkoe from Karmaloop.com
Ryan: Tell me about the history of the logos. I’m looking primarily at the logos of both Karmaloop and MISS KL.
Dina: Okay, so the original Karmaloop logo, which I don’t know if you’re familiar with, is like a ying-yang with three little fish rather than two that was our original one. The name derived from the logo where we had this guy that was working at the company, and he had a degree in sacred geometry. He came up with this logo, which is a Buddhist image. Basically, it is a ying-yang with three elements and Karmaloop sort of evolved from that. That was really when the site was in its most nascent stages so it was just something we liked. The current logo transitioned to a “clean up” of the logo, so to speak. It wasn’t a market research-based choice or anything. It was a natural evolution that grew with the site and kind of mirrored more of what the site was doing and the type of clothing we were selling. The MISS KL logo was created as we were breaking off and trying to create a very distinct and more feminine environment for our female customers in hopes to get new customers who felt that Karmaloop was too masculine. So the font was something the designer Tyler, who created the site, had found. We were looking at different stuff and we went with this one with the idea of the bow. The bow is a more conspicuous aspect of the logo to show MISS KL as a very feminine, girly site. But notice the bow has patterned-frayed edges which represents the fact that there is still an edgy quality – salty sweet and adorable but also a little unhinged. We tried to capture that design because of the kind of vibe we wanted the site to represent. It is the kind of girl we are targeting, and it’s not just something straight contemporary or too feminine. It has elements of that, but also has the edginess of what we believe is a Karmaloop and MISS KL female customer.
Ryan: Did you guys have a process for that? My personal experience with the Karmaloop site is that I feelthe logo is representing classic street wear. It reminds me of AirWalk or Vision Street Wear and the site itself has a feel of a warehouse. It has a dirty urban feel to it and I like that. One of the reasons that I have always been back to this site is because the branding keeps me as a customer. I’m curious as to what that thought process was for the MISS KL site as far as the colors and such. I see where you are going with the fraying and the ribbon and that is a very cool insight into that. I’m just wondering what else went into the design process as far as what you guys do with the banners and colors.
Dina: Okay, so Karmaloop is, well it’s Karmaloop, and obviously everyone that’s been on the site knows it as a memorable, visual experience. It’s also very busy. There’s a lot going on just like we have a lot going on. We’re constantly working with new artists and musicians. The site itself is very reflective of the activity that happens at the company among and between the people that work here and the people we interact with globally. So we do have very busy, chockfull content and visuals for the site. I think that some of our content is still a little bit more male-oriented, but when we breakdown our sales statistics, it shows more males shopping on Karmaloop than females. We basically wanted to have something a little more serene, sort of like the antidote to Karmaloop madness. MISS KL represents the simplicity and serenity of our Karmaloop site. There’s definitely an element that we wanted to bring to the floor that was more feminine, elegant, pretty, nice and cute all in one. We simply tried to pare down Karmaloop, which was easy. It was easier because we didn’t have to deal with splitting up the site into Men and Women’s clothing sections since MISS KL is only women’s products. We were able to simplify the site design layout and make it more spacious so it was less crazy than Karmaloop. We banded the colors around in a couple of spots. Initially we were going to go with a baby blue and grey and a type of burgundy color, which was really nice, but it didn’t feel quite as relaxed. When we were looking at it we sort of tweaked the colors a bit and everyone felt more comfortable when they saw the site as is.
Ryan: So, both sites are designed in-house?
Ryan: Okay, Do you have an estimate on how many hours you guys spent? I guess the Karmaloop site is hard to give a real estimate on because its been evolving since 2003.
Dina: For the MISS KL site there were the design and development projects. The design came together fairly quickly in terms of the general approach. “We’re going to have this layout.” “We’re not going to have a category pull-down.” I worked with our main designer, Kyle and basically added a creative layout for each possible web page that each possible user could see while being on the site. The longest part was making small tweaks on specific color pixels and product placement on the site. I would say the content and the logo were the fastest to complete in the process.
Ryan: Do you guys have any long-term strategies in place, and again, I’m focused more on the branding. We do development here at Groove and I’m interested in branding initiatives just to make the site more attractive to customers from an aesthetic standpoint.
Dina: Well its funny you say that. After the holidays we’re having an off-site small little summit with key stakeholders of the company to talk about MISS KL’s current standing and design success. The site now has about 6 months under its belt and we’re going to review the site now that everyone has lived with it for a little while. I don’t anticipate making any massive changes. We like the branding that we’ve come up with and people have responded to it quite well. There are aspects of it we are going to tweak a little bit. One thing we are very focused on for MISS KL is making the site more appealing for people to basically hang out and take-in content. We have a ‘Lifestyle’ tab on our menu that takes you to a landing page. We also have our ‘RSS/XML Feed’, our shop-able ‘Lookbooks’ tab, and our blogs. All these elements push customers to do more than just look at our clothes and shop. It takes them to the next level of engagement and gives them more call to actions. We have something called the ‘MISS KL Contest’, which is a continuation of something we did on Karmaloop. We feature an article on a girl we liked and thought was good for our targeted audience. We have this voice that a lot of people remember us by. Young women come to the site and it’s great to feature this real life person that’s doing some amazing things. These girls are really inspirational and doing compelling things with their lives and we want to share it with our customers.
Ryan: Ok, very cool.
Dina: So to your question I guess…. How do we enhance the branding aspect of our site? There’s always things we can improve in terms of our product mix. We’ve been doing that for a long time and hopefully we’ll continue to grow in that respect, and improve as well. We really want to be that site that girls are coming to to learn stuff and be interested in things that we’re offering and not just the clothes.
I should also probably mention, so I don’t just talk about MISS KL. For Karmaloop, we are contemplating to do a reevaluation of the site as well. Because our plan is to migrate our women’s customers from Karmaloop to MISS KL, and blend them with all the new users that are coming to MISS KL. In Karmaloop, we have the layout with the Men and Women’s products next to one another. Probably in the next half-year we will get rid of the Women’s element and we’ll have a button that says ‘Shop Women’s’ and that will take you to MISS KL. That will be implemented into a connection with our shared shopping cart that we’re going to do at some point. But of course we’re going to need to reevaluate what we’re going to do with Karmaloop at that point because we’ll have that extra space. We’ll need to make adjustments as they come.
Ryan: So MISS KL is the newer site. If you had limited resources and you had to pick and choose what to give your customers – more branding, more development, and more features for the site – do you have any preference or do you have a strategy for that?
Dina: For MISS KL, we’ve seen a lot of great traction with the site. I feel confident that people are appreciating and enjoying it. So with MISS KL we would definitely focus on the new features. Resources are never unlimited in any event, so one does make payoffs all the time. Including time resources of IT books when you’re talking about new features. But for Karmaloop we do have the full migration of our Women’s section. But the Women’s section on Karmaloop is going to eventually be eliminated so we need to have a strong review of the structure of the site. I don’t know if this is more of a philosophical question. But specifically, we will be focusing on design for Karmaloop at some point in the near future. The good news for us is that because of the way our developers build MISS KL, any new changes will automatically be integrated between both Karmaloop and MISS KL. When we add a new feature to Karmaloop that will benefit the site and we like it, we can simply implement it into our MISS KL site as well. We just integrated a new checkout process with an upgraded shopping cart on Karmaloop and it also went live on MISS KL at the same time.
Wondering what might be the next popular design concept to define the 2013 year in eCommerce website design? Learn more ideas that will drive web design by checking out my post, "2013 eCommerce Website Design Trends to Watch For."
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