Profile: The Style Spy mixes shopping advice with advertising

What started as a simple blog detailing the shopping adventures of a lone, fashion-obsessed trend follower has blossomed into a site that marries fashion with advertising while keeping up the chic factor.

What started as a simple blog detailing the shopping adventures of a lone, fashion-obsessed trend follower has blossomed into a site that marries fashion with advertising while keeping up the chic factor.

Erica Lam [pictured at right] launched TheStyleSpy.com as a blog in 2005. Rather than fawn over unattainable designer fashions out of the reach of Canadian women’s manicured fingers, editor-in-chief Lam covers pieces and brands that are more affordable and realistic in the site’s original content.

Over time, Lam began expanding her team by adding other fashion-forward bloggers who would recommend stores, items of clothing and general fashion advice. As the number of posts grew, so did the site’s readers. “Being that we started as a blog, it’s all about authenticity,” said Lam. “It’s about what we love and use ourselves.”

Another part of the appeal, said Lam, is how approachable the site’s bloggers are. If a reader wants advice on which sweater to buy, for example, she can take a picture and tweet TheStyleSpy.com team to get their input on whether it’s a hit or miss. In fact, Lam said 72% of readers say they’ve purchased something they read about on TheStyleSpy.com and an impressive 97% have visited a store or looked at a certain product or brand they’ve seen on the site.

Since its birth the blog has expanded significantly. Originally focused on Vancouver shops and trends, it recently added a Toronto section and four more contributors. The revamped site was designed by Vancouver agency Pound & Grain. It now has a national feed to reach its broad demographic: Canadian women aged 18 to 34. Plus, the site also deploys a weekly e-newsletter highlighting all things fresh in fashion and beauty.

Advertisers can sponsor the usual products such as e-mails, but Lam said the site’s offerings for advertisers have become more creative. The site partners with retailers to host shopping events.

“We have this great audience online, so we take them offline to bring them into stores and that gives us an opportunity to meet readers and introduce certain brands in stores to our readers as well,” said Lam. Over the past couple of years, Lam and her team have done more than 10 shopping parties in spots from The Bay to Vancouver’s Yaletown shopping district (that event drew 700 people).

Another custom option is sponsoring one of the site’s video blogs such as the Style Spy TV “haul” videos.

“There’s a girly, popular trend right now where girls will go into a store and buy a couple items then show it off in their video,” said Lam. Advertisers can sponsor these Style Spy videos or product reviews. “Video is an area we want to expand because we see video as a really big trend right now,” said Lam.

Giveaways are another advertising opportunity on the site, which has held a 30-day giveaway featuring custom content on a different sponsor’s product each day. And with more than 7,000 Twitter followers, Lam said her team is also open to attending retail events, such as a fashion show in a shopping mall, and tweeting “on location” about what’s on the runway to connect its followers with the event.

Are there plans to expand the site further and create more city-focused sections? Lam said she’d love to. “Our main goal is to talk to every Canadian woman. Fashion has always been a little bit elitist. Our contributors don’t shop on the pages of Vogue, they shop in large chain stores and buy vintage.”

Lam added that since many of the site’s posts feature clothes found in stores like H&M and Aldo, much of the content is already national.

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