Online shopping is now an everyday occurrence, thanks to a company that singlehandedly changed the way people consume luxury fashion. Charmaine Ho speaks to the President of Net-a-Porter Group, Alison Loehnis.
Everyone has a digital platform that they cannot live without. For style influencers, it’s Instagram and the ability to reach thousands with one “share”. Beauty gurus have Youtube for the “how-to” videos they upload each week. For fashion-philes who have a penchant for luxury shopping, there’s Net-a-Porter (NAP) and its stable of 650 brands (beauty brands included), readily available with the click of a button.
Over six million people visit the online retail site every month to view its wares; making purchases as they commute from one meeting to the next, indulging in a spot of retail therapy in the midst of a busy work day. Never before have fashion lovers had such easy access to their favourite brands, nor has the journey from store to wardrobe ever been as seamless. To think that this was all made possible by the relentless and revolutionary foresight of one company in 2000.
“When NAP launched, the online landscape for luxury fashion was relatively barren. Brands had to be convinced that people would shop for designer pieces online; believing they would never forgo the opportunity to touch the fabrics, try on clothes or test out beauty products before making a purchase,” recalls President of NAP Group, Alison Loehnis. “To see how far we have come and how much attitudes have changed both in terms of the industry and its consumer is remarkable.” Having been at the top ranks of the brand for close to a decade, Loehnis speaks candidly to BAZAAR on how the e-retailer is staying at the forefront of an ever-shifting industry.
How has NAP ensured that it has an edge over other luxury retail sites in the market?
We have always been focused on our customer, who is at the heart of everything we do. We are fully dedicated to providing an amazing service and it’s an area we are continuing to invest in and improve on. We also remain very focused on our buys: In addition to offering a curated assortment of the best brands in the world, we work closely with our designers to create one-of-a-kind collections that we know our customers will love—and that they can get nowhere else. We recently partnered with Gucci on a fantastic capsule collection and have also partnered with Dolce&Gabbana, J.W.Anderson and Christopher Kane, to name a few.
With the number of e-retail fashion players now found in the market, it is more important than ever for businesses to maintain a unique point of view. What’s NAP’s USP?
We have always positioned our offer as an edit of the best luxury fashion, brought to life by fantastic content and powered by experience-engaging technology and a robust service offer. The launch premise behind NAP was to be a fashion magazine that you can shop from—our DNA lies in the fusion of content and commerce. We see content not as an add-on but as a service to our customer. We use it to bring the product to life, to offer the customer styling and fit advice, to inspire her to wear pieces in different ways and to introduce her to new trends and new brands.
And, of course, an extension of that is The Net Set. Tell us more about this.
The Net Set was our debut foray into social commerce and it provides an opportunity for our customers to engage with one another, with brands and with us. We wanted to empower them to shop together and to curate the site. We know how impactful recommendations are, and how women can inspire each other’s style, so we built a platform to leverage on this. We created the Style Council, a curated selection of women from around the world who all have incredible personal style. Within it are women from all different nationalities, age groups, and style “tribes”—following them is like having the best shopping partners in the world. In the past 18 months since [the] launch, we have built a strong following of very frequent users.
Two years ago, you mentioned that it was NAP’s aim to give women a “buy now, wear now” option— something that big fashion players have since adopted. Is this new system working?
Fashion has always been multifaceted with different brands presenting their collections in different ways and at different times. Our buying teams are selecting products across the year in multiple months— designers produce capsule collections, limited editions, special commissions as well as runway. The consumer looks at the industry in many ways, therefore we should be able to sell to them in many ways too. The shift to “buy now, wear now” is a logical response to the customer’s needs. This is something that works well for some brands and not for others. We’ve only seen it from a few designers so far, so it will take some time to see its success.
The e-retail scene has evolved tremendously since NAP set up shop 16 years ago. What are some of the things that strike you about this evolution?
There are so many things that excite me about the evolution of e-commerce... Firstly, I love that we have changed the traditional definition of luxury retailing. And the evolution continues as we see the phenomenal growth of mobile shopping. Over half of our customers now use the NAP app to shop and the numbers are growing. Gone are the days of a didactic one-way dialogue from retailer to consumer; customers are increasingly shopping on both mobile and social channels in their own time. It’s been a fascinating shift to observe and an exciting time, and has tasked us with continually looking forward to embrace new technology and new developments to better deliver on our proposition to our customers. And our business never stands still—thanks to our amazing teams.
Alanui is a luxury Italian knitwear label that is available exclusively at Net-a-Porter.
Earring, about $835, Anissa Kermiche.
Gone are the days of a didactic one-way dialogue from retailer to consumer; customers are increasingly shopping on both mobile and social channels in their own time.
Scented candle, about $225, Buly 1803.