Tom Chapman, who used to serve customers personally at the first Matches store in London’s Wimbledon Village, believes the fundamentals of retail haven’t changed since he and his wife Ruth started the business 30 years ago.
Today there are more sales, marketing and tech opportunities than ever, he said, but retail has always been — and remains — all about connecting with the customer.
“For us, technology plays a very significant role, a role that enhances the customer experience. It’s not technology for technology’s sake, not a gimmick,” said Chapman, adding that having a single view of the customer — and inventory — across all touch points is vital for the retailer.
Chapman also sees technology as the golden thread that binds Matchesfashion.com’s retail channels together, easing customers’ journeys, encouraging them to linger for longer on the site and to shop when and where they want.
“Physical is about the experience, the garment and the knowledge of the staff. Digital is about the selection, the choice of products, the ability to shop when you want and the storytelling about brands. It’s all about customer choice. The more touch points we have with our customer, the greater the loyalty of that customer.”
The most active consumers across all channels are shopping an average of 15 times per year.
Matchesfashion.com operates a web site, five brick-and-mortar stores in London and a Marylebone, London townhouse for private shopping appointments. Mobile, he said, accounts for 45 percent of Matchesfashion.com’s revenue and 65 percent of web traffic.
“We design for mobile first, because if you design for mobile you can make all desktop application much easier and much more visible for the consumers,” he said.
Chapman said Matchesfashion.com doesn’t think of stores as profit centers, “We think of them as connecting and engaging our customers. We see them as marketing opportunities.” He referred to the web site as a “curation” of the great brands and edits of designers, and the stores as “edits” of that curation.
“There is never any sale product in store, and no product held in a townhouse at all.” At the townhouse appointments, VIP shoppers only see merchandise that’s been selected for them, according to their brief.
Today, thanks to sales assistants armed with iPads and data about the Matches shopper, 50 percent of in-store retail sales come from product that’s not even on the shop floor. “That’s retail of the future,” he said.
Chapman said Matches’ mission is clear: “We do the hard work for you. We keep it simple for the customers. We don’t want to be a marketplace or a department store. We want to be a curation of brands, a place where you discover something new.”
Storytelling, he said, is a huge part of what Matches does. “We produce hundreds of pages of content every week. We don’t just talk about product. We also talk about vacations, music, lifestyle — everything that clients are interested in.” It also produces a print magazine four times a year, with 250,000 copies for each issue.
Looking to push the experiential and customer service offer further, Matchesfashion.com is marking its 30th year with an “in-residence” program, with a total of 50 events taking place over multiple days in New York, Paris and Los Angeles.
The international push was strategic for Matchesfashion.com: Although 95 percent of its revenue is digital, only 5 percent is international.
“We have product there, new emerging talents, new emerging brands, but there is so much more. We hold talks with designers such as Gabriela Hearst, Joseph Altuzarra, Erdem, Zandra Rhodes and Isabel Marant, to name a few. Within these talks, we connect with our partners.”
Due to tech innovations, special events and increased consumer connectivity, average order value is up 24 percent year-over-year compared with the 2016 spring period.
Going forward, he said, it’s vital that Matches holds onto its personality. “We believe that what makes us unique is that perfect balance of magic and curation; magic and logic are what will drive our success.”
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