Net-a-porter.com is leveraging the power of two perennial pastimes — shopping and socializing — for a new social network that aims to eliminate the barriers between the luxury e-tailer, its customers, fashion brands and style lovers at large.
The Net Set will launch May 13 as a free, by-invitation-only app for the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, offering consumers and brands numerous ways to talk about merchandise, ideas and trends. Shopping is possible — but not necessary — and the site will eventually be open to everyone.
Users and the 450 brands on the Net-a-porter site have the chance to create their personal pages; join a “style tribe,” like Double Denim or Rock Chick; upload their own images and commentary; match looks they’ve spotted on the street, and engage in conversation directly with each other.
Natalie Massenet, executive chairman of Net-a-porter Group, said she had long been eager to discover more about the woman who was buying from the site, to “peel back the computer screen,” and find out what other designers her customer wears, what books she’s reading and what she likes to do when she’s not shopping.
“It’s about fashion and style as a conversation,” said Massenet during an exclusive interview at Net’s newly expanded headquarters in West London. “You can come and confess your fashion loves to a like-minded community. A lot of the thinking behind the site came from how we interact with each other here.”
The launch comes as Net-a-porter prepares to merge with Yoox Group in a deal that will create an e-tail giant with combined net revenues of 1.3 billion euros, or $1.45 billion, at current exchange. In March, luxury goods giant Compagnie Financière Richemont, Net’s parent, unveiled the creation of Yoox Net-a-porter, which will be quoted on the Italian bourse. The new company will officially come together in September.
While Net Set will deliver intelligence on the firm’s shopper — the site counts 4.1 million active users — Massenet said one of the aims of the new platform is to disrupt the one-way conversation the e-tailer is accustomed to having with its customers, and to showcase fashion and style in a “nonlinear way.”
The Net Set is an enhanced version of The Netbook, the social network app the company launched in beta in 2013, building its social community from scratch. While The Netbook was focused more on talk about Net-a-porter purchases its members were making, The Net Set wants to be a wider conversation.
Users create profiles and are urged to “love” items on the e-tailer’s digital shop floor or images that others have posted and create “love lists.” They are asked to join some 30 “style tribes” with names like Just Pink, Fashion Magpie and The Bohemians, and “admire” fellow users’ style or images.
There is also a “style council” made up of influential individuals handpicked by Net-a-porter; their names have not yet been disclosed. Massenet would only say the members of the council have long been friends of the retailer and are active in the social media space. Users will be able to correspond with the style council members.
Brands, too, will have the chance to engage directly with users and style council members, respond to comments, post fresh content and “admire” images on the site.
There is also a feature where members can photograph things they spot as they go about their daily lives and upload them onto the app, which will then find clothing and accessories to match. The app not only scans for color, pattern and shape but for texture, too. In the case of clothing and accessories — say, a Miu Miu rain slicker — the app will try to find an exact match.
Users can zoom in on products and shop from Net without leaving the app. “We wanted to ensure the journey from inspiration to purchase was short and smooth and trusted,” said Alexandra Hoffnung, the app’s creative director and a member of Net’s in-house technology team. Hoffnung worked closely with Sarah Watson, vice president of The Net Set, on the launch.
Indeed, Massenet calls the app a “killer opportunity” for brands to connect directly with customers — “You can invite Stella McCartney into your living room and have a one-on-one conversation with the brand,” she said.
The site could easily bring new or emerging labels to Net’s attention via users’ uploads, and allow designers and other members of the industry to flaunt their style credentials to a wider audience.
Massenet said she foresees The Net Set skewing a bit younger than the average Net-a-porter shopper. And Hoffnung sees it as a way into Net-a-porter for a whole new audience. “We can start talking to them early,” she said.