From blog to platform: Stylecaster fashions itself into a tech company with Makeover Solutions

By Erin Griffith , written on August 28, 2013

From The News Desk

Yesterday I wrote about an agency (Carnival Labs) that turned itself into a startup by building a tech platform. Turns out it's not just development agencies that can do that. Media companies are doing it too. Case in point: Stylecaster, the New York-based fashion and beauty media company.

Stylecaster has been around since 2007. The company has built up an audience of seven million monthly uniques through its properties Beauty High, the Vivant and its namesake site. Like its peers Refinery29 and BuzzFeed, the company has monetized with a mix of sponsored content and the occasional banner ad.

But last Fall Stylecaster acquired a tech company called DailyMakeover in an all-stock deal, alongside a $2 million cash infusion from Bo Peabody of Greycroft Partners. The company's technology allows Stylecaster users to virtually try on makeup after they take and upload a photo of themselves. Which, cool. DailyMakeover exists as a standalone site within StyleCaster's network. That site features the makeover tools, of course, alongside beauty news and product content.

But now, after months in development, Stylecaster has released an HTML5 version of DailyMakeover's key product, Makeover Solutions "Try On" studio, which is available as an app. It's also, perhaps more important for the future of Stylecaster's business, available for brands and other media companies to use. Essentially, Stylecaster is making DailyMakeover into a platform for advertising and content. In the process, the company is evolving from an ad-supported website into an actual tech company that makes money licensing software.

The Makeover Solutions tool is free for publishers from beauty bloggers to media companies to embed on their sites. The motivation for media sites to include such a tool is to increase engagement. On average the tool increases time spent on a website by 12 minutes. She tries an average of 27 products on in one visit.

And naturally, once a user invests this much into trying on cosmetics, they're that much more likely to convert to a customer. Use of the try-on tool increases conversions from 8.5 percent to 13.5 percent, according to Stylecaster data.

That's important for the other potential constituent of the new tool -- beauty brands and retailers. They can pay to use a rich media ad unit that features the makeover tools. Basically, it allows you to try on makeup within a banner ad. This reminds me of AOL's Project Devil from a few years back, which features shoppable banner ads. They can also pay to have their products featured or promoted as a skin over the tool on various publishers' sites.

Beyond that, brands can pay to license the try-on tool for use on their own sites.  Cover Girl, Rimmel London and Clairol have already done just that.

As a category, beauty doesn't get much e-commerce action on the Web, aside from replenishment purchases. Women like to be able to see the products and try them on in a department store or Sephora. Birchbox and its subscription peers are tackling the same problem, but using samples as a gateway for digital beauty buys. With this roll-out, Makeover Solutions aims to close one of the big gaps in ecommerce, while selling a little software in the process.

Update: A prior version of this story conflated Makeover Solutions, the tech product made by Stylecaster, with DailyMakeover, the site run by Stylecaster. The names have been corrected.