June 2006 - A Click to Couture

Net-A-Porter, a luxury fashion e-retailer based in the U.K., looks to Coremetrics to outfit its site with a web analytics solution.

By Vitisia Paynich

Eight years ago, Natalie Massenet stumbled upon an untapped market. This former fashion editor for W magazine discovered-while writing about high-fashion apparel and accessories-that there was a shared frustration among female consumers. By the time key designs in any season appeared in the major fashion magazines, consumers’ chances of finding them in the stores was close to zero. How could these consumers purchase designer fashions fresh from the runways of Milan, Paris and New York without having to wait months for this haute couture to hit the merchandise racks?

When Massenet began surfing the Internet in 1998, she realized an online site would serve as the perfect vehicle for combining the editorial experience with the retail one. Thus in June 2000, she launched Net-A-Porter.com in London. The site, according to Martin Bartle, head of marketing for Net-A-Porter, is specifically designed for the high-fashion shopper who “is looking not only for advice on what to wear but also where to buy it. That ability [on] a web site is something that’s proved very effective.”

In fact, the company has doubled in turnover each year since launching six years ago. In 2005, Net-A-Porter earned £21 million ($39 million U.S.) in revenue. The company attracts 500,000 unique visitors to its site monthly and 2,800 new customers per month.

All Net-A-Porter packages are delivered in the company’s complimentary black boxes topped with a ribbon.

Bartle explains that the company concentrates on current season, full-price products for female consumers. What makes this online retailer unique from a typical e-commerce site is that the company stocks over 120 of the world’s leading designers, such as Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo, Valentino, Alexander McQueen and Narcisco Rodriguez, to name a few.

“So, product is selected to fit into the key trends that you’ll see in any season,” says Bartle.

As for Net-A-Porter’s average consumer, he says the company caters to a very broad customer base. Its clientele ranges from the high-end shopper who’s buying for a special event-such as a wedding or christening-to the indomitable fashionista who has to have all the key pieces from every season and who is willing to spend the money to get them.

What’s more, the site is tailored towards serious buyers who research the products very carefully before making the purchase. Net-A-Porter’s average order value is about £400 (approximately $700) for repeat customers.

Today, Net-A-Porter ships to more than 90 countries around the world. The company even offers a same-day delivery service in London and worldwide express delivery-from overnight delivery in the U.K. and Europe to 48- to 72-hour delivery in the U.S. and Asia.

“We’re very much a global business and in many cases, we’re bringing designers to countries and continents, where [they] may be fashionable inside the magazine pages but there’s no distribution,” Bartle explains. So, it’s quite common for a U.S. fashion designer to become very famous in Europe and not be available in U.S. stores and vice versa.

He adds, “We’re bringing a high-end, high-fashion product to a global audience. In many cases, that has an impact both within countries, as well as between them because certainly for the very high-end pieces, they’re probably only available in a few cities around the world.”

Net-A-Porter’s site reflects the look of a fashion magazine, offering visitors articles geared toward the latest clothing, shoes and accessories but with an added bonus-a retail component to order product. In addition, the company utilizes e-mail marketing to maintain a loyal customer base and attract repeat buyers.

“We will send out a newsletter to our customers saying, ‘Here’s what’s new in-store this week, and here’s why you should want it,’” notes Bartle.

Although Net-A-Porter was doing well in the market, the company desired in-depth functionality to study its paid search to its site. The company had worked for years with two different web analytics solutions but soon realized it needed something more comprehensive.

In April 2005, Net-A-Porter began searching for a new solutions provider. Bartle recalls the search was quite challenging in that many of the web analytics software available on the market were focused on media sites; and therefore, few providers specialized in analytics for retail. That was until Net-A-Porter met with the U.K. team from Coremetrics of San Mateo, Calif.

“Coremetrics was selected from four different applications that we looked at [that] fitted the bill. They had already work with a number of similar businesses to ours and the way that the application was put together fit with the structure of our site and also the marketing channels that we worked through,” explains Bartle.

John Squire, vice president, product strategy and general manager of marketing services for Coremetrics, says, “I think our value proposition resonated really well with [Net-A-Porter] in terms of being retail focused from an analytics application and service standpoint.”

The Net-A-Porter site combines online retailing with the look and feel of a fashion magazine.

However, he stresses that the most important aspect of what they brought to the table was providing the client with a dedicated account analyst who worked with Net-A-Porter and showed them key areas of improvement utilizing Coremetrics’ five conversion-point framework, which includes: how you get people to visit the site; how you get them to browse the site; how you get them to convert in the shopping cart; and how you get them to come back and buy again.

Thus, Squire says armed with the necessary data, the analyst can take a very broad view of all the different aspects of the client’s business-whether it’s marketing, merchandising or site optimization and then say, “Here are all the places we see that you’re well below the industry averages using our benchmarking product called LIVEmark.”

Bartle notes, “We were given a lot of guidance from Coremetrics about how to structure the tagging on the site and have the various reports that would be constructed so we could actually reach some answers to those questions.”

Using the solution, Net-A-Porter studied the value of cross-session sales and orders that were generated via generic and brand-related natural search traffic and analyzed that value against the same-session values. The marketing channels report also provided the online retailer with the necessary information that would help it to optimize the content of key pages with the Net-A-Porter site for ranking and relevance by search engines.

Net-A-Porter encountered some surprises during the process. “We know, for example, that our customers usually buy within 30 days of clicking on a campaign,” says Bartle.

Squire adds, “In the very first 30 days, Net-A-Porter got a 400-percent return on its investment in Coremetrics at just being able to see how well its paid search was performing versus its natural search.” The client was actually able to attribute £23,000 extra revenue to its in-house SEO efforts per month using the solution. “That’s a large return each month in additional revenue that [Net-A-Porter] didn’t know that it could attribute back to its SEO.”

When asked about the level of service from Coremetrics, Bartle breaks that down into different levels. First, he says, is the actual day-to-day account management, which goes beyond most software vendors. “In addition to that, you also have a dedicated analyst who is not only responsible for making sure the application runs well but also for giving you insights into how your site is performing. That’s a big advantage over other providers and one that [has] made it very attractive to us.”

In addition, Bartle says he and the company have relied on Coremetrics’ consulting services. In April 2006, Net-A-Porter launched a new version of its site and asked Coremetrics to help analyze the effectiveness of it. This required benchmarking the old site and comparing it to the new one to see how it’s performing from a marketing, creative and retail perspective, as well as against its competitors.

“It’s very clear in working with Coremetrics [and looking at] the actual support services that are provided in terms of access to an analyst, in terms of implementation of software and in terms of the strategic consulting services that are also available as part of a package, that there is really no question in our minds that we are working with the right partner,” contends Bartle.

As Squire summarizes, “I think in every single client [project] that we go into, there’s always some glaring areas where there is some low-hanging fruit that a client-with just a [little] amount of work and effort-can get some really big returns from.”

We would appreciate your feedback. To submit comments, please e-mail the magazine at [email protected].


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