The coronavirus pandemic has prompted Informa Markets to ramp up its digital strategy.
The owner of MAGIC, Project, Coterie and other trade shows has entered into a long-term partnership with NuOrder, a business-to-business e-commerce platform that brings brands and retailers together virtually. The Los Angeles-based NuOrder was founded in 2012 and connects more than 2,000 brands and 500,000 retailers. It has driven $35 billion in transactions since launching and works with brands that range from Ermenegildo Zegna to Alice & Olivia in all categories including luxury, activewear and sportswear.
“We’ve been working on our digital solutions as a company for some time,” said Tom Nastos, chief commercial officer of Informa. “We knew it was important, and so we had a lot of the groundwork laid.” But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the company to “accelerate” its analysis of the digital marketplace.
It selected NuOrder because of its technical ability and its reach in the industry, he said. That includes Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, both of which already use the company to aid them in their market research and selecting their assortments. “We work with 18,000 brands, thousands of retailers and have a global reach,” Nastos said. “So we thought the two companies would match up quite well.”
The pandemic has forced Informa to cancel or postpone many of its trade shows including the Las Vegas marketplace originally slated for Aug. 17 to 19, which has tentatively been rescheduled for Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. Project’s men’s show, originally planned for New York in mid-July, was moved to Sept. 22, and the August women’s and children’s shows (Intermezzo, Fame, Moda, Accesssorie Circuit, Accessories the Show and Children’s Club), which were slated to be held from Aug. 2 to 4, were canceled, and exhibiting brands will be accommodated in the Coterie, Moda and Fame shows Sept. 22 to 24.
The initial launch with NuOrder will be focused around Coterie, Project, MAGIC and Micam, the footwear show, he said. It will start by providing a virtual marketplace and will eventually be expanded to encompass an entire digital marketplace that will include marketing and merchandising, Nastos said.
Tommy Fazio, who had served as fashion director of MAGIC, Project, Coterie and other trade shows, is fashion director of NuOrder. Nastos said his experience and knowledge of the Informa shows will also help to enhance the partnership.
Nastos stressed that the partnership with NuOrder is not expected to replace the traditional trade show, but rather to augment it. “Digital won’t replace physical,” he said. “It’s important to have both. In our industry, you want to look, feel and touch and we’ve found that this combination supports the physical even better.”
Nancy Walsh, president, fashion at Informa Markets, added: “I don’t believe anything replaces face-to-face and physical interactions.”
In addition, Walsh is realistic, knowing that until a cure or vaccine is found for COVID-19, there will be fewer brands and fewer retailers willing to attend shows.
Under the terms of the deal, NuOrder will sell eight-week subscriptions to its site to brands rather than an annual subscription. Retailers do not pay to use the site. Walsh said for Project men’s, that block will run from Aug. 15 to Oct. 15, while for the other shows — MAGIC, Coterie and Micam — the block will run Sept. 1 to Oct. 31.
Heath Wells, cofounder of NuOrder, explained that the concept for his company was born after he had walked a number of trade shows and found the whole process “broken. We thought, there’s got to be a better way to conduct commerce.” And that better way centered around e-commerce, he believed.
So Wells, who has a background in technology, created NuOrder, which enables brands to build virtual showrooms that are shoppable and can include videos as well as still images. By using the platform, retailers are able to pre-shop trade shows by browsing product in advance, make appointments or even place orders.
In the last two years, Wells said, NuOrder has seen a “real shift” toward retailers wanting to use this as a buying tool. And since the pandemic, the company has seen a heightened interest since showrooms are closed and trade shows are not happening. As a result, Wells said teaming up with Informa made sense. “We’re taking their knowledge and power about what buyers want — and their curation — and using our technology to power that experience,” he said.
Wells, too, believes that trade shows and digital sites such as NuOrder can work hand-in-hand. “I have no ambition to run a physical trade show,” he said. “In retail, brick-and-mortar and online work symbiotically, and Amazon is trying to move into brick-and-mortar. It’s that combination that people want. They still need to touch and feel product and there’s a certain energy that happens by seeing each other in person. That won’t go away, this is a just a digital tool to enhance that experience.”