Websites replaced with storefronts (or: The "Shopify-ification" of the web)

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urinternetgurl
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Websites replaced with storefronts (or: The "Shopify-ification" of the web)

Post by urinternetgurl »

I'm sorry if I'm the one who has to break this news to you, as I know it is of MAJOR social and political import — but the Barbie.com website no longer exists. It's just a storefront now.

I was doing some research for some of my nostalgic shrines tonight and I noticed this on a couple of different websites. Call it the Shopify-ification of the internet.

At some point over the past few years, Mattel replaced the official Barbie website — once home to interactive games, photo galleries, exclusive web videos made to entertain (and advertise to) their target demographic (kids) — with an e-commerce storefront made for parents. It's not even a unique Barbie storefront — it's just Barbie section in the official Mattel store. Some iconic Barbie games still exist — but now they live on the App Store.

Mattel seems to have done this with most of their brands. (The American Girl brand is still afforded the dignity of its own domain — but alas, it is once again merely an e-commerce site.) In fact, the entirety of the redesigned Mattel website seems to be a storefront. The homepage just has a bunch of flashy graphics that direct you to different sections of the shop, or to their corporate site. Funny enough, the corporate site is the only part of their web presence that feels like a fully realized site. There is a "For Parents" section that does provide some more content marketing style stuff, but it's buried and difficult to navigate.

I noticed this again with the LipSmackers website. I don't remember that website having a lot of games or activities or anything, but there was a lot more personality to the website when I was a kid. They were still marketing to kids, which is kind of soulless and lame, but the website felt more like those well-branded catalogs of the pre-internet days that read like magazines — with sassy descriptions and fun photos of each product on stylized pages. Today, it's a generic storefront. White background. Stock product photos. This website doesn't even give us the dignity of a slideshow of graphic advertisements. (There are some YouTube videos on the homepage, though.)

I feel like this speaks to a lot of issues with the current web that Yesterweb calls out — the focus on consumerism, putting more effort into corporate operations, and watering down creative design into bland generic nothingness — but I feel like these issues have mostly been applied to discussions of social media, and not more generally, and I feel like there's a lot of interesting things to discuss in these examples.

Even from a marketing/brand perspective, if I'm not already familiar with these brands and their products, their current websites do little to sell me on them, which feels like a massive oversight for such iconic, storied brands. It feels like their doing the bare minimum to make sure their site can be accessed to purchase their products. There's no design or storytelling — no marketing, just advertising; no selling, just shopping. It's like they take for granted that people are just going to buy their stuff because they already know it. (Probably why both of these brands have had financial struggles recently... just saying!!)

You know it's bad when you're begging for the creativity national brands used to bring to their websites haha.

I know these are both more youth-focused brands and they're also fairly big legacy brands, and I imagine that might play into this. But that's why I'm curious if people have noticed this trend anywhere else on the web? On websites for smaller and/or newer brands? For brands for a more general audience? The only thing I can think of is band websites, which are now just glorified link stacks that embed social pages, and point users to purchase concert tickets and merch. (Though at least most of these have the decency to give each website it's own look and feel, often tying it into the artists' current era.)

But I'm interested in other examples or thoughts about this any of y'all might have.

Thank you for reading!!
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Re: Websites replaced with storefronts (or: The "Shopify-ification" of the web)

Post by GaryStu »

Brands went from seeing their websites as a billboard to as a store. Barbie wasn't filled with fun stuff out of altruism, but because Mattel thought that it would create brand loyalty and drive sales. As the web changed, Mattel's idea changed. And tbf they were right.

The void for kids games was filled with game hubs like girlsgogames.com, cutezee.com, and dressupwho.com , but these are websites which operate on scale and often contain some weird and inappropriate games. These aren't safe sites for kids. To use a television analogy, this is a similar thing to replacing a merchandise-driven cartoon with an elsagate cartoon equivalent.

And if I have to be honest, I don't expect much from brands. I don't care that Brand Website sucks now, brand websites inherently kind of suck. Always trying to sell me something, at least they're being straightforward about it now.

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As for bands, I feel their websites haven't changed that much? Band websites have always been basic, with a focus on driving users to purchases. The major things which seem to have changed is that they don't always have biographies anymore (i guess Wikipedia can handle it for them lol). And yeah they don't self-host music anymore. Also, quizzes used to be more common than you'd think on band websites? Guess it was something easy to code lol. But even in the 90s and 00s, a lot of band sites were transparently only promotional vehicles. Mainstream and mainstream-ish bands who interacted with the internet were seen rare and forward-thinking. But it was rarely done via the band's official sites.

And then there was the mainstream bands in the 00s who didn't give a shit about the web, but who just thought music piracy was cool. Love that.
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