One of the few start-ups to have emerged from the carnage of the dot-com implosion of 2000, Natalie Massenet’s vision of an “online magazine-you-can-shop-from,” now the luxury fashion version of Amazon.com, just earned her a neat £50m when she sold her shares of Net-A-Porter to luxury giant Richemont this spring. The reasons for her success and perhaps the failings of others is that in the world of fashion, more than anywhere, “people don’t trust who they don’t know”. As former editor at WWD and Tatler, Massenet put her intimate customer knowledge to use and created the ideal balance of commerce and content.
Following a behind-the-scenes video of their chasmic new headquarters (where 90% of employees surveyed found their boss to be “inspiring”) the lady in red answered questions from The Business of Fashion‘s Imran Amed. Topics included Net-A-Porter’s iPad app (launched that day), her prescription for the breakneck fashion cycle, the best and worst way to get your products on their site, bricks and mortar vs. e-commerce and their soon-to-be-launched menswear site Mr.Porter. The highlights:
See It To Believe It: Visualization
“I visualized everything down to flowers arriving everyday and young people walking around everywhere congratulating each other. The confidence I had in knowing it would work is different than the confidence you have in your own talents.”
Bricks and Mortar v. E-Commerce: A Fight to The Death? "We're betting on it in a big way. Though they will support each other...online is your biggest brand window. There's room for everyone but if you're going to be a shop you better 'dim light' your customer, give them a reason to make the make the trip, make your store the best."
Skip A Season: A Cure for the Industry’s Fashion Cycle Vertigo
“We should skip a season, let everyone take a much needed break in the summer and then in September show Fall/Winter collections, which will be in the stores within a few weeks. They’re already broadcast to the world. What’s frustrating is that the consumer is seeing it at the same time as us but she can’t buy it. Buyers and editors only need to look at a rail in the showroom to the pick the product. We don’t need to see the show.”
Bloggers: Friend or Foe?
“We’re involved with 400 independent bloggers and websites, they drive traffic and increase sales. When I launched The Outnet a year ago, I leaked it at a bloggers’ luncheon and it was instantly tweeted about…Ha, I should have known! But the feedback allowed us to build things into our strategy. As for magazines vs. bloggers, the best content and most relevant will win. Magazines have the upper hand, but if they’re not using the medium, they’re missing out.”
Net-A-Porter the iPad App
Massenet walks us through a video presentation showcasing the super slick, fully animated app with overlays including product info and availability and purchasing at your fingertips. People in the audience were already downloading it!
“Our dream was always to be a shopping magazine. The ladies-who-lunch image is no longer relevant. Women are working harder than ever. Our customer is in the back of a cab on her…iPad.”
Your Product Here: The Dos and Don’ts
“The worst mistake you can make is to go through either my friends, my husband or my mother. My mother kept insisting I see the Balmain show…it was three years before I finally went.
Unsolicited email is ok just please don’t make my computer crash. And try to use a catchy title in the subject.
If you’re doing something someone else is already doing how is yours different? Tell us how we’ll be able to tell your story.
And be persistent. We’re pretty unpredictable. We may say no but then wake up one morning and decided it’s all about you! ”
Hers and His: Net-A-Porter’s Menswear Site, Mr.Porter is in the Making
“There are actually very few sites that are exclusively women’s fashion. We didnt want a marginalization of our women’s collection. Womenswear differs in that it incorporate trends, they’re more experimental. With men it’s usually down to trousers, a jacket and shirt. Ultimately they just want to look their stylish best.
Everything will be different about it, the service, brand, packaging, voice and tone…because we’re thinking of our customer. We want to over-deliver but we also don’t want to under-promise.”
Net-A-Porter’s Best Sellers of 2009:
Black Louboutin pumps, Louboutin’s Cat Burglar Barbie and Hunter Wellies.