Ulric Jerome, chief executive officer of Matchesfashion.com, revealed the digital retailer’s ideas surrounding retail and e-commerce in the waning days of 2018.
His message could have been summed up in three words: 5 Carlos Place, the five-story, 7,000-square-foot experiential town house that opened in September in the tony Mayfair section of London. House in a circa 1900 former residence, 5 Carlos Place is clearly not only a physical shopping space. Jerome said the town house is much more than the sum of its parts, which include retail, personal shopping, bespoke, cultural events and broadcasting.
The house that Matchesfashion.com built has been engineered for discovery, whether it’s a new designer or brand, interesting young chef or one with a Michelin star. “‘The Innovators’ program has a focus on trailblazing activity in the designer market,” Jerome said, adding that the idea is to feature a mix of established and emerging brands. Space at the house is given over to events that support the designers and educate consumers about why Matchesfashion.com chose the various talents. “[Customers] understand there’s a real editorial point of view,” he said. “Even the music at 5 Carlos Place is curated.”
Jerome described how 5 Carlos Place has become intertwined with its upper-crust neighborhood, which borders on Mount Street, and how the town house has been enthusiastically embraced by consumers, who act as ambassadors for the address, posting photos on social media.
“The customers really love not only fashion, but retail, and the physical space where they’re going to shop,” Jerome said. “We hired an architect who understood and wanted to create history. Don’t forget, we have a dot-com after our name.”
Matchesfashion.com uses 5 Carlos Place for next-generation global events. Prior to opening the residence, Jerome said the e-tailer would take over clients’ homes and penthouses. “We said, ‘Why can’t we create events in a modular way,’” he said.
“We do bespoke by appointment in our private shopping suite,” Jerome added. “We have a 90 percent retention rate. It’s all about a personal, intimate moment and personalization.”
Matchesfashion.com has amortized the cost of operating the location by “using the space to reach millions of people,” Jerome said, referring to mobile and digital. During 2018, the house hosted more than 39 events, welcomed 3,000 guests, unveiled five pop-up cafes and created 10 brand installations.
For example, the house recently unveiled an installation by Saloni on the top floor of 5 Carlos Place. Jerome said Saloni was chosen for its colorful designs. “The brand installation is very visual every time we launch one. We feature a new brand every seven to 10 days,” Jerome said.
Brands must pass Matchesfashion’s requisite screening process. “We created our own code of conduct,” Jerome said. “We ask brands to fill out a survey so we know where they’re coming from.”
While 5 Carlos Place is steeped in history, it’s also filled with technology, but “we don’t believe in in-your-face technology,” Jerome said. “It’s not intrusive at all. We have intelligent technology that provides a personalized customer experience with all the algorithms built thorough machine learning and AI.
“The sales staff uses technology only to maximize the best conversation with the customer,” Jerome said. Customers sign in upon arrival by scanning a bar code at the reception desk, which notifies the team of their arrival. They receive a tour of 5 Carlos Place before going to one of the shopping suites, which has been filled with any items they choose, plus other pieces, selected using data gathered from wish lists, online baskets and purchase history.
Items that aren’t available for purchase on-site can be ordered on the Matchesfashion app. Using the 90-minute delivery service, the product can be sent to the town house for pick-up or to the customer’s address.
The most important metric is consumers who visit 5 Carlos Place’s content place orders that are 33 percent larger, Jerome said, adding that 77 percent of those who engage with 5 Carlos Place content are returning visitors. Matchesfashion’s average order value is $729.
With two-thirds of Matchesfashion.com traffic coming through mobile, Jerome couldn’t overstate the importance of social media. And 5 Carlos Place lends itself to the type of drama that plays out on web sites and mobile apps.
“Consumers can watch and listen to everything happening in that house,” Jerome said. Call it a more sophisticated and fashionable version of “Big Brother.”
“We embrace the digital opportunity of social media,” Jerome said. “Our customer’s behavior changes so fast, but so does fashion. The best way to deal with this is to listen and see what the customer does, and listening on social media is the best way.”
“We created the web site and created the app so that everyone can watch and listen to everything happening in the house,” Jerome said. “The idea is to democratize luxury.” Still, Jerome noted that the white front door of the town house doesn’t have a street number.
The Matchesfashion.com’s 5 Carlos Place micro-site invites visitors to check out the house floor-by-floor. The fifth floor is reserved for podcasts, with recent recordings by Alexa Chung, Samuel Ross, designer and founder of streetwear brand A-Cold-Wall, and Skye Gyngell, a food writer who earned a Michelin star. Floor number four is devoted to film and video. On offer is a quickie film by Mario Sorrenti, who reveals the best gift he’s received and his favorite photo shoot to date. “We had a book signing with Mario Sorrenti and Kate Moss,” Jerome said. “In the last eight weeks, we produced almost 40 events.”
The third floor is devoted to private shopping with the site listing all the benefits of booking a private suite, from getting the first look at collections exclusive to Matchesfashion.com to the ability of stylists to secure sought-after products.
Events take place on the second floor. That’s where the Michelin-starred chef of London’s River Cafe, Ruth Rogers, will hold an intimate master cookery class on Nov. 21. Coinciding with the launch of the Sneaker Studio at 5 Carlos Place on Nov. 26, a dedicated installation will showcase exclusive trainer styles from Chloé, Fendi and Jil Sander for women, and Acne Studios, Eytys and Isabel Marant for men.
If some aspects of 5 Carlos Place seem familiar, it’s because the company introduced versions before the town house opened. Matchesfashion.com tested, iterated and perfected its Designers Talks event, which made its first appearance during its overseas residences and featured Zandra Rhodes sharing her inspiration from the Seventies. Recently, Leandra Medine Cohen, founder of the Man Repeller, was featured at the town house in conversation with editors from new media platforms such as Tank and High Snobiety. The discussion was live-streamed on the Matchesfashion.com web site.
Not everything that passes through 5 Carlos Place’s doors has a connection to fashion. The Artist’s Bedroom by John Booth for House of Voltaire pairs the artist and designer John Booth with the nonprofit art and design store House of Voltaire, to create Booth’s dream teenage bedroom at the town house. The immersive installation, where everything is available for purchase, features a hand-painted bed, ceramic side tables, rugs, mirrors and even an embroidered sweatshirt casually draped on a chair.
Later this month, Gucci Decor will takeover 5 Carlos Place’s personal shopping suites, installing its colorful furniture and decorative home products with unexpected elements such as an eye staring out from a vase, a chair embroidered with the face of a tiger or a metal tray with a Kingsnake painted in the center.
Whether Jerome admits it or not, the physical 5 Carlos Place remains exclusive and out-of-reach to the majority of Matchesfashion.com consumers who don’t live in London or plan to travel there. With the online and digital retailer’s broadcasting hub at the town house in full swing, Matchesfashion.com is producing creative content that it will continue to personalize and iterate upon until it gives remote consumers an experience that more closely reflects 5 Carlos Place.