Flipboard Broadens Shopping In Time For Holidays

flipboardRamping up for the holiday season, Flipboard on Monday rolled out a new “shopping” section featuring magazine-style catalogs across multiple categories and from sellers including eBay, Banana Republic, Birchbox and ModCloth.

Flipboard began offering e-commerce capabilities earlier this year on a more limited basis within brand magazines from Levi's and etsy in the app. Like those efforts, the expanded set of commerce-enabled titles are filled with glossy product images and red “Buy Now” buttons that take users to a company’s site to purchase the items displayed.

At launch, the new shopping section includes a dozen catalogs curated by Flipboard's editorial staff as well as those created by the initial group of brands. A few others have been put together by celebrities such as singer Sara Evans, designer Cynthia Rowley and chef Daniel Boulud to add some glitz.

Each of the brand partners has not only rolled out a single holiday catalog, but a batch of smaller specialized magazines that focus on different product or gift categories. eBay, for instance, has titles with offbeat names like “Domicile,” “Lucid Dreams,” and “Delancey Beat” that mix articles and images around certain themes with related things for sale.

While items featured in eBay's catalogs typically link to mobile-friendly pages to make a purchase, not all products offered by sellers on Flipboard connect to mobile-optimized sites. That could be a barrier to sales -- especially on a smartphone screen -- if a prospective buyer is frustrated by having to take too many steps or pinch and zoom too much to complete a transaction.

Flipboard also allows users to create their own catalogs using an updated "fllip.it" button for Web browsers that pulls in products from the Flipboard shopping section or any e-commerce site to their own publication. Retail brands that want to create e-commerce catalogs on Flipboard can also use the flip.it plug-in.

To promote their new retail presence on Flipboard, brands are taking out full-page ads in high-profile publications in the app. Banana Republic, for instance, is running ads in Elle and Vanity Fair in Flipboard that take users to their catalogs when someone taps on them. Overall, people typically see ads about every 10 pages when flipping through app content.

For Flipboard, the expansion of e-commerce opens up another revenue stream in addition to advertising. After raising $50 million in venture funding in September, bringing its total to $111 million, the company is not exactly cash-strapped. But having a more diverse revenue base could help make the company more attractive to investors if it does eventually file for an initial public offering.

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