LONDON — When is a story not just a story? When the content is targeted to a specific customer with the aim of driving a sale.Storytelling has become a cliché in the fashion business, with brands and retailers forever weaving elaborate narratives around products and projects in a bid to justify price and keep their customers’ eyes from straying to the competition.The London-based Matchesfashion.com is set to make those narratives work harder by adding a new, commercial dimension to online magazine content via a partnership with the AI content distribution platform E-Contenta.The platform uses an algorithm that collects and analyzes data on user behavior, enabling Matches to refine the distribution of its weekly online magazine The Style Report by directing it to users who are most likely to buy from its pages.The partnership came about as a result of Matches' sponsorship of the New York Fashion Tech Lab, a program that supports women-led technology start-ups such as E-Contenta."When you have so much content it can be complicated to decide who would be interested in reading which story and on what platform," said Zoya Andreeva, founder and chief executive officer at E-Contenta. "This is where we can help with automation of relevant story delivery." Nicholas Pickaerts, Matches' e-commerce director, said he foresees the new partnership increasing both the visibility and the conversion rate of the editorial content, which is fully shoppable."It is about increasing the repeat visits of our customers, but doing it in a way that is going to be relevant to them, based on their own interests,” Pickaerts said.“Because we know that content and editorial have such an impact on the business metrics and performances, we believe we will also see an uplift on conversion rate."Using E-Contenta’s AI technology, Matches will be able to tailor editorial to certain customer groups depending on their interests and online activity. The editorial will appear in the same way that product is advertised.According to Matches, the more exposure that people have to certain targeted editorial, the higher their eventual order values will be.“People being exposed to content on our site on average spend twice as much time browsing our site — 12 minutes. They look at twice as many pages — up to 15 — and have a better conversion rate and better average basket value,” Pickaerts added.Even before the E-Contenta partnership, Pickaerts had been working closely with Matches’ editorial and buying teams, giving them data to help influence their decisions.Demand in a specific market, for example, can be predicted using Matches’ customer database, which provides information on average order values, frequency of visits and retention rates.One new model that Matches has been using is called Brand Family. It can predict the “propensity for customers to make subsequent similar purchases depending on their past ones, browsing behavior and on-site preferences,” according to Pickaerts.Emerging labels are among the main beneficiaries of Matches data-driven content and marketing.Matches’ global content director Kate Blythe highlighted the importance of “multilayered content” when introducing an emerging label, such as exclusive interviews, fashion shoots and bespoke social media assets.Other initiatives, such as a dedicated "Labels to Know" section which narrates the story behind the new labels launching on the web site as well as pre-shot product marked as "Coming Soon,” also help to build a sense of anticipation among shoppers and to track interest, according to Blythe.Customers who engage with the "Labels to Know" section of the site have a much higher average order value at 800 pounds. The general AOV for Matches customers is 538 pounds."It's about tracking the engagement we have with certain brands or products and then watching the response when the product does come in," said Natalie Kingham, the site's buying director.Kingham has also been working to maximize sell-throughs by shifting the time when product drops on the site. The aim is to offer more relevant products to the retailer's global consumers. "What I'm really interested in is when the product delivers, not what season it is," said Kingham, who plans her buy more than a year in advance based on data analysis of how product performed at the same time last year."It's always hot somewhere, it’s always cold somewhere, and we’re selling globally. We do ensure that we have very good high summer products and very good high winter products, but the rest of the year is more about the stories that we tell and letting the products be a part of that story," Kingham said."It was difficult at first because not all the brands were set up to deliver like that, which is why we worked on exclusives."One of the most successful exclusive capsules Kingham points to was with of-the-moment label Vetements, launched in a warehouse in the outskirts of Seoul, Korea, which resulted in a four mile-long queue and people camping outside overnight.An exclusive summer capsule of Zandra Rhodes caftans is also set to be launched during Port Eliot Festival later this month.
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