Despite the fact that “design” in and of itself is ubiquitous, owning well-designed products still seems out of reach for most people, both because of their presumed expense and their haute image. However, Fab.com is seeking “to help people better their lives with design.” While the site may be riding an e-commerce wave, it is definitively influencing culture as opposed to merely capitalizing on a popular trend.
The site, which has daily flash sales as well as a traditional e-commerce section, sells a variety of items ranging from home decor to accessories to jewelry, all of which fall under the header of “everyday design.” Fab boasts more than 11 million members in 26 countries, and the company’s focus on design and culture is more than a niche interest or passing fad. So, how has Fab been able to make culture cool?
Given its tremendous growth, Fab has uniquely succeeded as a commercial venture as well as a cultural intermediary, instructing customers in design by introducing them to a curated set of products. It has built functionality and features to drive transactions and make owning well-designed products something to which a mainstream audience aspires — an additional difficult step beyond simply being an e-commerce site.
Fab has reshaped design by turning customers into influencers. A persistent feed on the site shows all the products being “faved,” commented on, or purchased in real time, implicitly urging users to make a purchase of their own. Fab’s integration with Facebook’s Open Graph alerts friends whenever a person faves an item or makes a purchase. This consistent presence from Fab in the News Feed contributes to the perception that the products are indeed part of “everyday design.” This social commerce feature influences people to join Fab (it drives 50% of membership sign-ups) or make a purchase, as they see that a friend is embracing design and culture. The decision to buy is not transactional but aspirational.
Fab has become a preeminent intermediary in the design world, providing a connection between creators and consumers. Previously, the notion of design was nebulous for the average consumer, and items that fell into this poorly defined category were considered rather esoteric. However, Fab has made it accessible in a number of ways, even producing a commercial, which makes the company feel like a retailer of more “traditional” products. The items run the gamut of price points, ranging from Warhol calendars to original Warhols. Similarly, there is a wide variety of products for sale, from the Beardo, a “bendable mustache hat,” to bcalm, a drink described as “mental clarity in a can.”
In short, Fab has recognized a significant loophole — design is virtually undefined for most people, and so the company has been able to create its own nearly all-encompassing definition, thereby making it as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. Fab has simultaneously leveraged technology and social commerce to become a new kind of intermediary: not between buyer and seller, but between creator and consumer, empowering the former while educating the latter.