Gwyneth Paltrow at NRF: Goop’s ‘contextual commerce’ will span retail, media, food and travel

Gwyneth Paltrow impressed retail delegates at this year’s NRF Big Show 2020 in New York City, sharing honest insights into the challenges she’s faced growing the international lifestyle brand, Goop.

She has learnt from “a long list of horrifying mistakes”, and now has the serious VC backing, technology, people and vision to take the business fully omnichannel, and into countless sectors, she told the packed auditorium.

Content leads to commerce

Gwyneth Paltrow is known primarily as an Academy Award-winning actress, but she is also the founder and Chief Creative Officer of the lifestyle company, and the author of several food and wellbeing books.

She created the Goop beauty and wellness blog in 2008 from her kitchen table, and after six years began to think about monetising the effort. “It took me a long time to get the guts to start,” she said, “but that early focus on content was the nucleus of what we do, and how we do it.”

“I had this instinctual and passionate desire to create something that would connect people to things that would be meaningful or resonate with them in some way. We’re first and foremost in content and use that content to educate. We talk about things we love, we make things we love, and you can buy them on Goop or some things in other places.”

From e-newsletter to products, stores and TV shows

Goop has blossomed into a business that now employs 300 people and was reportedly worth $250 million in 2018.

Paltrow described the business as “contextual commerce”, and explained that the wellness, beauty, sexual health, relationship, food and travel content is there “ almost as a service”. She felt, personally, that when searching for content on the internet as she tried to “discover how to optimise myself” there was a distinct lack of relevant information and advice.

This was the reason she began writing content which has led to many new business opportunities.  The growing Goop product range spans beauty, apparel and wellbeing categories. Skincare products are big sellers.

There is also a media business encompassing podcasts, cooking videos and events, and we can expect high profile media tie ups as Paltrow continues to capitalise on her famous name. In January she announced a six-episode Goop Netflix series, called The Goop Lab.

She said: “It would be hard for an ecommerce brand to have a show right? But because I’m involved it becomes a bit easier.”

There is also a partnership with makeup company Sephora, and even a project with a cruise ship, suggesting travel could be another lucrative area of growth for the brand.

Goop’s controversies drive interest

Goop has faced accusations that the blog at times contained false or unproven medical advice and that the e-commerce store promotes some medically dubious goods.

The company recently paid a fine over one product that was accompanied by unsubstantiated claims over its medical benefits. Paltrow told the NRF audience that since the controversies over the products emerged, Goop has “buttoned up”, having hired regulatory teams and scientists to vet claims they make.

“We were a young business and we didn’t really understand claims or regulatory things. We made those mistakes and in our case, it was amplified a lot because you’re gonna get more clicks if my name is attached to it than someone else,” she said.

Not surprisingly the vagina-inspired promotional poster for Netflix show generated vast social media interest. At NRF, Paltrow dismissed the fuss that such references provoke, telling interviewer Sallie Krawcheck, she was not duped into posing for the picture unaware of what it represented. She laughed saying: “I’ve seen a vagina once or twice.”

Gwyneth Paltrow at NRFDigital content driving omnichannel sales

At NRF Paltrow said she notices more companies now moving toward a contextual commerce model in the digital age because consumers wanted to feel like they were part of a larger movement and not just one-time buyers.

“We are using digital content to drive digital commerce and innovation,” she said. “Customers are looking for the complete closed loop. They want resonance with a brand, not just from a product. They are looking to feel resonance about who they are, or looking to feel inspired by a brand. It’s easier to do that in a multi-channel way,” she told the audience of retailers.

Her view is that Goop’s success comes from its blend of content with retail. It first created the environment with which to pull attention from consumers, then created product lines to satisfy those consumers’ wants.

Paltrow said she admires Disney for its contextual commerce abilities, saying “it’s a brand that at its nucleus creates content and story and resonance”.

Paltrow says she is fascinated by new and innovative ways to blend the experiential with content and commerce, and talks to many impressive young female entrepreneurs who are creating communities around their brands.

Goop Notting Hill store Where are Goop’s retail stores?

As well as from the website, fans of the brand can buy Goop beauty and wellness products in more than 40 partner retail locations across the US, Canada, and the UK.

Having started out with pop-up stores, Goop operates four permanent brick-and-mortar shops too – in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and London (Notting Hill).

According to the Goop website: “Designed to feel like home, our Goop stores are made for relaxing and trying new things—come by and say hey.”

Gwyneth Paltrow was speaking at NRF 2020 Vision, Retail’s Big Show in New York, January 2020.
The online race to physical: Read our NRF store tour review here.

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