LONDON — The London-based luxury retailer Matchesfashion.com made its name as a group of brick-and-mortar boutiques called Matches, which launched in 1987. But when chief operating officer Ulric Jerome joined the company in 2013, he didn’t hesitate in re-branding the firm to ensure it was primed for online growth.
“I tested how serious the business was to embrace digital.…I told [founders] Tom and Ruth Chapman…every time we talk about Matches, there’s a missed opportunity,” said Jerome. “We went live online with a Web site called Matchesfashion.com back in 2007. And we were getting more visibility for our Web site…so we’ve changed the name, and embraced the digital culture.”
Since the relaunch as a digital brand — with four London stores to support the online activity — 80 percent of the firm’s sales now come from its Web site, and the size of its overall business has “tripled,” Jerome said.
“The stores [now] have the ability to sell a lot more products, because of the digital opportunity of the business,” he said. “When you come to our stores, our sales consultants have iPads, and they can sell any of the products online.”
Now, 25 percent of the sales in Matchesfashion.com’s stores are completed from the online stock, on iPads.
The focus on online has also meant a shift in the geographic spread of the business. While six years ago, 100 percent of the retailer’s business was in the U.K., now the country represents only 30 percent of the business, with 70 percent from international sales, a number that is “growing very, very fast,” said Jerome. The U.S. is Matchesfashion.com’s second-largest market, with the firm having shaped its business to match what retailers in the country already offer, such as 28-day returns, 24-7 customer service and free delivery and returns. Last year, Matchesfashion.com’s U.S. business grew by 87 percent, while Asia more than doubled in the past year.
In an increasingly crowded luxury online marketplace, Jerome said the firm has worked on honing a unique point of view. “We are known for the very good curation of our products — it’s a luxury fashion edit for women and men,” Jerome asserted. “We do not hesitate to spend the time finding the next generation of designers. We’re not a department store kind of offering — we truly believe that we are [making] that effort, finding the right selection of products for our customers.”
And to keep its loyal customers engaged, Matchesfashion.com puts a spotlight on editorial content to “create a rich and vibrant world,” Jerome said. It aims for the content to echo its curated approach to luxury, so its editorials often spotlight emerging talent rather than A-listers, with actors Noomi Rapace and Zachary Quinto fronting the latest issues of its men’s and women’s biannual magazines. The retailer also publishes an online magazine once a week.
And with a newly designed, responsive site that launched last month, the company integrates shop-able items into that editorial content, such as an interview with Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen of The Row, which offers customers the opportunity to shop the duo’s robelike coats and structured bags as they scroll down the page. That editorial content also keeps shoppers on the site, with customers spending on average 12 minutes browsing the content.
While Jerome acknowledged that the business is “still small,” in terms of the number of visits, he noted that its customers visit frequently and are high-spending. Matchesfashion.com’s average order value stands at 450 pounds, or $693 at current exchange, while the top 10 percent of the retailer’s customers engage with the brand 15 times a year. Around 70 percent of its Web traffic comes from free rather than paid-for channels.
As the site grows, Jerome believes that the luxury market — citing Bain & Co. figures estimating it at 225 billion euros, or $251 billion — is “big enough for us to keep our niche,” noting that it will serve the business to “focus on our luxury niche” and “not lose our personality.”