Apparel and accessories brand Kate Spade has launched a new version of its flagship website that underscores just how important content has become to the brand.

Digital marketing manager Cecilia Liu tells us that previously branded content made up only 10% to 15% of the site’s offerings; now, it’s on par with commerce at 50%. “The idea is that allowing people to connect more with the brand at a much more intimate level will organically drive business,” she said.

Not only are there now dedicated sections for internally generated content on the site (as well as prominent links to off-site content on the top toolbar and elsewhere), but links to that content are embedded on the shopping pages themselves, encouraging visitors to hold their shopping for a moment to watch a video, learn about a new collaboration or browse a relevant lookbook. Opportunities for sharing merchandise abound in frequently appearing “Like” and tweet buttons.

The new design logically complements the increasing number of resources the company has channeled into branded content and social media lately, from absorbing short films and other kinds of visual imagery, to daily doses of entertainment on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.

In addition to the new content features, also bolstered its e-commerce system. Search and product photography have been improved, and the check-out process has been streamlined. Kate Spade has also rolled out a mobile version of its site, a nod to the increasing importance of m-commerce for online retailers. In the coming months, the retailer plans to offer in-store pickup options, e-commerce VP Suzanne Norris says.

The redesign is being completed by CreateTheGroup, a New York-based digital agency focused on the luxury market, in conjunction with Kate Spade’s internal creative and e-commerce teams. For a further look, check out the slideshow below or visit

Links to on-site content are embedded on shopping pages.

More About: createthegroup, e-commerce, fashion, kate spade, m-commerce, web design

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Hackers are cashing out after stealing credit card numbers from Lush’s UK website, which was shut down on Friday and replaced with a message that warns customers that their account information may have been compromised.

According to the message, anyone who made online purchases on the handmade cosmetic company’s UK site between October 4th and January 20th is at risk of having their credit cards used fraudulently.

Lush also left a message for the hacker:

“If you are reading this, our web team would like to say that your talents are formidable. We would like to offer you a job – were it not for the fact that your morals are clearly not compatible with ours or our customers.”

We’re sure that the hackers are absolutely broken up about the scolding — especially since comments on the cosmetic company’s Facebook profile make it clear that they have started a shopping spree on Lush customers’ dime.

Several customers detail purchases made using their stolen credit card information. Others express anger over the length of time that Lush waited after discovering that hackers had penetrated the site on Christmas Day.

Hilary Jones, ethical director at Lush, told the BBC that the company used the time between Christmas and Friday to investigate what the hacker’s intentions were (perhaps they were just looking for information on bath soaps?). When it became obvious that the hackers had started to make small test purchases using Lush customers’ credit cards, Lush shut down its site.

Other companies like Trapster-maker Reach Unlimited and Gawker Media, on the other hand, notified customers almost immediately when their sites were compromised recently.

A temporary Lush UK website, which prudently will only accept PayPal payments, is scheduled to be launched in a few days. But it might be a while before its customers muster enough forgiveness to shop there.

More About: credit-card, e-commerce, hack, Lush, security

eBay is out with its latest earnings report, and with it, some intriguing numbers about just how big of a role mobile commerce is starting to play in its business.

Overall, eBay’s revenue for 2010 hit $9.1 billion, $5.7 billion of which came from eBay’s marketplace business (from $53 billion worth of goods sold) and $3.4 billion of which came from PayPal transaction fees (from $91 billion worth of transactions).

eBay says that “nearly $2 billion” of the $53 billion in merchandise transactions took place via mobile, where its app not only lets you buy and sell items on eBay, but more recently (through eBay’s acquisition of RedLaser) allows you to bar code scan a physical item and then see how much it would cost you on eBay (and hence, bypass buying it in the retail store if you can get a better price on eBay).

PayPal has also seen significant mobile innovation in the past year, including the ability to bump phones to transfer money, deposit checks by taking a picture of it on your smartphone, and pay for items using PayPal in third-party mobile apps and sites. In turn, eBay says that “mobile payment volume [for PayPal] increased five times compared to 2009,” though the company isn’t divulging the total revenue number.

Given other recent developments in mobile commerce, we’re not surprised by the surge eBay is experiencing. Earlier this year, Amazon reported that it’s now seeing more than $1 billion per year of products ordered via mobile. And just yesterday, Starbucks started allowing customers to pay in retail stores via mobile at its stores across the U.S.

The combination of increasing smartphone penetration, faster mobile broadband speeds and rising consumer comfort with mobile payments (where we think the Starbucks initiative will be a major driver) make the continued expansion of the trend almost inevitable.

More About: e-commerce, ebay, Mobile 2.0, mobile commerce, paypal