In the early part of the 2000s London became the fashion capital for online retailers, with both ASOS and Net-A-Porter starting their journey to success in the heart of the city. Since Net-A-Porter’s launch in 2000 they have become an established luxury brand, with a customer centric approach which has seen them attract 2.5 million hits per month from a predominately female demographic. Their success has meant expansion into the US and Asia with an East Coast based division opening up in 2009 to extend brand reach.
For some of us 2.5 million hits is a relatively small amount, but Net-A-Porter’s success is not defined by volume, as with all luxury brands, they’re about high-margins. When compared to traditional bricks and mortar stores their level of overheads is relatively small, meaning that their value capture is impressive. This strong presence online has seen them become a heavyweight player that offers unrivalled customer care.
If you were to log onto Net-A-Porter’s website you could be forgiven for mistaking them for a fashion magazine, which in a sense they are, with publications released on print and online. The print magazine, entitled ‘Porter’ was first released in March this year and gives Net-A-Porter and their customers another avenue for communication.
I was lucky enough to speak to Theresa Austin, Strategic Programme Manager at Net-A-Porter. She has been an important cog in their team for 5 years and has been responsible for the delivery of a number of successful projects across several departments. Theresa shared with me her insights into how the company plans to grow, whilst also retaining its front-runner position in an increasingly competitive industry.
As with most successful companies, Net-A-Porter has innovation at its heart. They are fully aware of the implications that avoiding change can have, and the effects this has when interacting with their customers. As Theresa says; “Our raison d’être is to develop new opportunities through disruptive techniques”. An admirable approach and one that has ultimately paid dividends, their initiatives are often ignited with emerging ideas and flourishing technologies.
Success is very much a function of success at Net-A-Porter. Their desire to put the customer first has served them well and they see it as a fundamental philosophy for their future. This customer-centric approach is then joined by two other philosophies that serve as the basis for Net-A-Porter’s innovative culture. The workforce needs to be pushing boundaries and working to the best of its ability all the time; it can’t stay static for one moment, or the company risks losing its innovative edge. Collaboration is also key – ideas need to be shared so that employees and management get the best out of each other. This is both a competitive advantage and a challenge, but a challenge Net-A-Porter is willing to embrace. Theresa states “The real challenge is finding growth and coordination mechanisms that allow us to develop high proficiency and efficiency in foundation areas of the business, such as Operations and Customer Care, whilst supporting swift and open-minded changes in more innovation driven areas like Marketing, Data Insight and Mobile.”
The trick is to find the balance between innovation and perfection; Theresa is therefore focused on building systems that ensure both efficiency and flexibility. As a catalyst to this and to balance the disruptive nature of innovations, Net-A-Porter has implemented SCRUM and Lean processes to accelerate communication and decision-making.
Net-A-Porter has an international reach, serving different cultures and expectations constantly. A one-size fits all strategy of communication just wouldn’t fit in with their philosophy as a company, meaning that strategic decisions have to be adjusted so that they’re in line with the specific customer base they are interacting with. Net-A-Porter excel in this area and have had a lot of success with the prompt nature of their international deliveries.
Fashion changes all the time, and for those of us who are lucky enough to travel, you’ll know that style changes from city to city and country to country. But some things remain timeless, regardless of who’s being targeted. ‘Karl Lagerfeld is Karl Lagerfeld, a red-soled shoe is a red soled shoe and great style is great style no matter where you are in the world’ says Theresa. Net-A-Porter uses this to their advantage and when paired with tactical execution by regionally focused Marketing teams, topline strategies see good results.
Despite a willingness to create and implement new strategies, boundaries still remain. Getting buy-in for new strategies comes down to one thing for board level executives, ROI. Dollar value needs to be articulated against the strategy’s ability to shape the company from top to bottom. Strategies also have to be backed by individuals who are passionate about their implementation and understand how important a strategy can be to the success of the company.
Far from being a hindrance for Net-A-Porter, the digital landscape is their native environment, without which they would not be able to engage directly with their customers. It has allowed them to build unique sales channels, which affect the profitability of the company directly. E-commerce is an arena that is ever evolving, and one that is strategically intensive. Digital platforms play an essential role in Net-A-Porter’s development, more so than traditional companies, and as such the business will always be in a constant state of change as they seek to stay ahead of the digital evolution curve. Their collaborative style of management opens the way for an abundance of new, innovative ideas that will see Net-A-Porter maintain their position as a competitive, pro-active company with a fruitful future ahead of them.