The year 2015 has been one of major changes for global online luxury retailer Net-a-Porter, and China is certainly not excluded. After the Net-a-Porter Group announced its merger with Yoox in March, it’s been undergoing a series of senior management changes that include the departure of its executive chairman, its managing director of Mr Porter, and its president of The Outnet. Now called the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group after the merger was finalized last month, the company recently appointed a new president to take the helm globally.
The company has also seen big changes in the China arena. In addition to appointing Lane Crawford’s Sarah Rutson as its VP of global buying in 2014, it named former Shangpin Vice President of International Business Development Claire Chung its China general manager in May this year. Ahead of her presentation at Luxury Society’s upcoming Digital Luxury Keynote event in Shanghai on December 8, we checked in with Chung to get the details Net-a-Porter’s strategy in China, including the importance of mobile commerce to its sales and the impacts of the Yoox merger on its China business.
Net-a-Porter is known for having a strong editorial component in addition to e-commerce. How important is it to have this available for Chinese shoppers compared to those in the company’s other markets?
Net-a-Porter’s award-winning editorial is equally important for all markets as it’s a key differentiator—we set the tone to reflect our curated edit of product each season. In China, we have a younger customer profile than the global customer, so we see the role of Net-a-Porter’s content and editorial impacting them in an earlier age.
With such a heavy emphasis on curation, does Net-a-Porter tailor its product selection for the China market?
Our fashion direction is set by Sarah Rutson, VP of global buying, who has vast experience in Asia and a strong understanding of Chinese customers. For all markets, we always select the best of the season, always with our global customer in mind. We work closely with our brands to create compelling and exciting collaborations and capsule collections with a point of difference to constantly inspire our customers with our edited style. In Hong Kong, we have a distribution center that serves Asia Pacific as we may stock more sizes relevant to Chinese customers.
What does the recent Yoox merger mean for Net-a-Porter in the China market?
It’s a game-changing merger and a very exciting opportunity. Net-a-Porter is the world’s premier online luxury fashion destination for content and commerce, and together we are the world’s leading online luxury fashion retailer, with six multi-brand online stores offering to our customers. The online customer is evolving fast and the extraordinary synergy of this merger enables us to bring both the best selection of in-season and off-season offers to our Chinese customers.
Net-a-Porter uploads new product three times a week each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Yoox has more than 100,000 SKUs to offer in the off-season with a wide selection. The Chinese e-commerce ecosystem is filled with “platforms” and “marketplaces” that don’t own the stock and have unknown sourcing, whereas Yoox and Net-a-Porter are retailers who work closely with our brand partners.
How important are mobile sales to Net-a-Porter’s business in China?
Mobile is a very important aspect in China. At Net-a-Porter, we view our mainland Chinese customer as a global mobile customer. With our Chinese mobile app, the customer can order on mobile and have delivery within three days to China. We also offer same-day delivery in Hong Kong, London, and New York. You can order in the morning by 10 a.m. and have your items delivered by 5 p.m. in Net-a-Porter’s luxury signature black box. The sun never sets on our Chinese customers, and we provide 24 hour x 7 day Chinese-language customer service no matter where our customer is dialing in from. The exceptional service we offer to our customers globally is unmatched.
Do you see WeChat as more important for marketing or sales?
WeChat is equally important for marketing and sales. At Net-a-Porter, we also generate sales through our social shopping app, The NET SET and our personal shopping team are often engaging with their customers via Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Is the company’s business more focused on Hong Kong or mainland China at the moment?
The China e-commerce ecosystem is completely different from the rest of the world. The Net-a-Porter Group is committed to the long-term development of the Chinese market. For the first time in the group’s history, my role is to enhance all three of our online retail brands in the China market: Net-a-Porter.com as the global fashion destination for content and commerce, MrPorter.com as the global retail destination for men’s style with the best international menswear in editorial content, and TheOutnet.com as the most fashionable fashion outlet. The China market is still the world’s fastest growing online market for luxury goods with evolving customers. Net-a-Porter’s strong brand relationships and curation of product is a key market differentiation in China. Chinese customers are looking for the best, and our exclusive capsule collections and special projects with brands makes us the undisputed online leader for luxury and designer fashion.