With the battlefield for market share among luxury e-commerce sites about to get even more fierce with Style.com entering the fray, companies are turning to live events to gain brand loyalty. At the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival earlier this month, the party scene was dominated by digital players such as ShopBazaar.com, ShopStyle.com and BaubleBar.com. “It’s that rapid-fire, real-time pace that makes sense for digital companies,” said Caitlin Weiskopf, executive director at ShopBazaar. “This was our third year doing something, and there’s so much more competition now.”
In Los Angeles this week, both Mytheresa.com and Net-a-porter.com threw intimate dinners on Sunset Boulevard. Net’s event, hosted by Crystal Lourd and Jacqui Getty for its vice president of global buying Sarah Rutson, was attended by 40 local designers and influencers including Jennifer Meyer, Co’s Stephanie Danan and Justin Kern, Liseanne Frankfurt, Rosetta Getty, Monique Lhuillier, Mary Alice Haney, Rachel Zoe and Sally Perrin. The event capped off a chain of events that began in San Francisco meant to raise the company’s profile in the art and entertainment worlds as well as within the design community.
“This connection is super important and it’s critical with an online business,” said Rutson. “Customers start giving me feedback about how they use the site and it’s priceless. And what’s really nice is you actually start becoming friends as well. So if someone’s in Paris, we can take them to shows or they can come into the showroom while we’re doing a buy. These are the extra added perks of that connection.”
When asked what she thought of Style.com going into e-commerce, Rutson said, “With the size and scalability of Net-a-porter, no one on the planet is not thinking about getting into some kind of e-tailing. What’s different is we own-buy so there is a point of view. The world can buy Exit Number 15 head-to-toe but that can be generic.”
The night before, Christopher Kane hosted a dinner with Mytheresa.com, where the site’s buying director Justin O’Shea said the exclusivity of an event can rub off on the perceived value of shopping on the site. “For us, America needs to feel a face. We’re trying to show them something more than another online shop because god knows there’s enough of them. The best way to convey that as a digital company is to do real-life events with people that are ambassadors for us, such as Diane Kruger, Brooke Shields or Alexa Chung. We want the customer to feel they are getting something they can’t get access to normally.”
He admitted, “The idea of a German online company doing an event with an English-based designer in L.A. sounds really random, but that’s what makes it so beautiful. People love to come to events where there’s no point because fashion is a lifestyle, it’s not only about clothes.”
Millennial audiences in particular are hungry for experiences, according to PopSugar Inc. executive vice president of marketing Anna Fieler. “The majority of the time our audience only gets to interact with us on-screen. For ShopStyle, our challenge is how to bring the 12 million products in our catalogue to life.”
The company partnered with designers Mara Hoffman and Cynthia Vincent to create a ShopStyle Villa during Coachella which 1,100 bloggers, celebrities and influencers visited over the weekend. “You could imagine ShopStyle as a digital version of this. From a p.r. perspective, it exceeded my expectations with over a billion press impressions and the social engagement was really good. These events only become more important because of social amplification. It’s not necessarily about selling, it’s about the aspirational messaging that translates into ROI.”