Online retail is clearly the wave of the future” but it takes creating an underground movement with a solid database to start a truly credible ecommerce following, not to mention a select grouping of key brands, excellent backend system that can handle commerce, and of course, a connection to the street fashion scene itself. So when Robert Rosenthal, owner of the contemporary street fashion chain called Next out of Cleveland, decided to expand his well-established brick ‘n mortar stores’ shopping experiences online, he sought for a unique solution that matched his progressive retail aesthetics, which is where Jay Yoo comes in.

We were able to interview Jay last week just before the official launch of the ecommerce store The Buyble in it’s Web 2.0 version (you can expect a 3.0 version in the Fall) where we asked not only about how they’ve gone about establishing their online shopping program, but where he thinks ecommerce retailing is headed to next.

Tell us how Next, which is a well-known street fashion store chain, came about creating the concept for The Buyble ecommerce site?
Jay Yoo:
Next is known for many things and is not just a store, but also has events and represents a lifestyle. The Buyble needed to reflect the clientele of Next in terms of what it planned to sell on the web. They expect premium content and concepts so Next took a long time in creating just the right approach on the web. We didn’t just want an ecommerce website, we took some time to think through what would be effective for the next greatest experience–the freshness factor, and providing a cutting edge experience for consumers.

My experience with ecommerce comes from creating koyono.com which was an ecommerce site with travel and technology inspired clothing and accessories. I’ve traveled a great deal and part of Koyono was to link up what to wear based on various conditions such as featuring a Gore-tex black raincoat creating the right look for different areas. When Robert wanted to build his ecommerce strategy, I told him be careful. Everyone is a search engine and commerce integrator but the plan must be carefully built. You can spend a lot of money hiring out an ecommerce builder, editorial p.r. agency. But in essence, with planning, we have actually created our own small agency within Next. And let me point out, that the guys that produce this are all under 30 -they are enthusiasts and into streetwear design and technology and knowledgeable about what’s going on in the marketplace.

The Buyble is unique in that it provides great editorial script about each outfit, which has a theme and then a breakdown about what each piece is all about from which then people can buy specific pieces or an entire look. How did this concept come about?
The Buyble had to have the best products on the market -and we decided to make it almost like a look book. Often times consumers online are left with “how do I get that” and then “what makes this look fresh,” and we make it easier for them to buy it overall by creating this type of experience.

Basically, we are taking the premium customer approach from what we do in the stores online. First we started with the blog [Rule of Next], from which we built a base of readers and followers. We understand the new generation that is simply used to being online and so we built the blog in an organic way, branching from social networks and flickr and building our base, including our main store shoppers.

There are some great online stores that have taken the concept of shopping online into new directions, such as Karmaloop, Digital Gravel, and from a store perspective, The Hundreds who are known for generating hype via their site which drives people to their stores.
Yes. Karmaloop for example, who has done a great job in creating online shopping. They represent urban clothing. We watched them, among others. They have a media component and they’ve covered what we do at the blog and Next stores. The Hundreds use their blog very well too and do a great job from a brand and buzz standpoint. Next as a retailer, doesn’t have proprietary product but is considered a premium retailer with the best of streetwear [and contemporary street fashion]. Robert wanted to take the exclusive brands selected for his stores and create an online component in a meaningful and compelling way.

Our idea was to introduce The Buyble with editorial on the product first, and get the process done on the back end with an ecommerce set-up, then seed it around the city. By providing content that also reflects the music, art, entertainment of the city with the look that you might want to where, this is where The Buyble is going. You may not to be able to go to Amsterdam, but we can bring readers into how a certain look appeals to people in Amsterdam and introduce people to product with it. It’s like an online magazine you can buy from -the blog simply compliments it.

Tell us about some of the brands carried in The Buyble online store?
Like the Next stores, it features brands such as Creative Recreation, WeSC, PRPS, DC, Puma Black Station, Adidas, Akomplice, FiberOps, In4mation, Circa, and others.

You mentioned that The Buyble is in its Web 2.0 version
We’ll develop The Buyble 3.0 after this It will be different in 3 months. The Buyble 2.0 or rather the very beginning was an experiment which generated a few orders. In the 3.0 version, we’ll have the city theme but it will be different–also based on consumer feedback from what we have now. You have to get people involved in the process or feel like they are involved in order to engage them but also stay on top of various directions. So with The Buyble 3.0, it will be different and we have ideas, but it will also depend on the consumer.

The Buyble officially launched on RuleofNext.com March 31 2008: http://www.ruleofnext.com/buyble/