Ulric Jerome

There’s one word that makes Ulric Jerome, chief executive officer of Matchesfashion.com, cringe.

“There’s a word I particularly hate and it’s ‘omnichannel’ because at the end of the day, it’s just commerce,” said the U.K.-based executive. “Regardless of which device you use, regardless if you decide to interact with the store or on the web, at the end of the day, you’re just connecting with the customer and the customer gets to choose whatever channel they like.”

When the Matches business was founded 30 years ago, it started like most other retailers, with a brick-and-mortar store that sold only men’s wear in Wimbledon, outside London. Eventually, a women’s unit was added next door.

It wasn’t until 2007 that the company created an online presence, which Jerome described as “just a marketing opportunity” to complement the stores.

It didn’t take long, however, for the company to realize the untapped potential in the luxury digital space.

The luxury market, Jerome said, is a 250 billion euro, or $271 billion, industry, with only 8 percent of sales done online. Although that’s up from 3 percent three years ago, it still pales in comparison to mainstream apparel, with a 20 percent penetration and consumer electronics, which is around 60 percent.

The luxury customer travels constantly and carries several devices, so “there are massive opportunities out there,” he said.

To reflect this thinking, the company changed its name to Matchesfashion.com to “send a very clear message that it’s a 360-degree customer experience no matter what channel you use.”

Today, the company does 92 percent of its sales online and nearly 80 percent comes from outside the U.K.

“That’s the beauty of technology. That’s the beauty of creating a brand that stands for itself,” he said.

Matchesfashion.com offers 420 brands, 80 percent of which are women’s and 20 percent men’s. “But men’s is growing triple-digit,” he said. “Ultimately, the mix should be 30 to 35 percent men and the rest women’s. It will never be 50-50 because of the size of the industry, but men’s is a very big focus of our business.”

Overall, the company’s retention rate is 92 percent with the top 10 percent of customers. Most shop on average four times a year, although the top 10 percent buy 10 times a year on average. And the average transaction — at full price — is $850, he related.

Matchesfashion.com now ships to 176 countries and takes orders every seven seconds. Its largest order ever was $120,000, which was done on mobile, from a single customer. “It was an amazing stress test for an app, which worked well,” he said, adding that the same customer came back the next day to buy an item in our store in London. “Maybe she forgot something.”

This year, Jerome said, the U.S. will become the company’s largest market with the U.K. number two. Asia, including Australia, will represent 25 percent of sales and “Europe and the rest of the world” account for the remainder.

Although the company still operates five stores in the London market, even those stores do nearly half their business on an iPad since the stores are only able to carry 10 to 15 percent of the company’s entire inventory. By offering an online option, he said, it allows the customers to access Matchesfashion.com’s “distribution center for the world.”

Mobile is an especially important part of the business, he said, noting that 60 percent of the company’s traffic and nearly 50 percent of its sales now come from that channel.

Jerome stressed that because of Matchesfashion.com’s reach, it needs to have its own distinct DNA.

Although it carries the same luxury brands as many other retailers, there’s only 15 percent overlap. “We buy very differently. We really do not try to be everything to everybody, but we try to be everything for that somebody,” he said. “That takes a lot of effort, but it needs to be effortless for the customer.”

Matchesfashion.com works hard to discover new brands and has been among the first to carry Vetements, Martine Rose, Off-White and De Bonne Fracture.

It has a strong content message, producing a Style Report every week for men and women with five to eight “stories” that it has created for its brands. These stories are often in the form of a video, which is “done in a very edgy way.” Customers can watch the film and shop directly from it without stopping the video. “You’re reading the story, watching a video and you’ve never gone to a product page,” he said. “The shopping bag always stays with you. It doesn’t disrupt the user experience.”

It also produces a magazine four times a year, offers customers a Style Social option where they can post images of themselves wearing Matchesfashion.com merchandise that then gets added to the company’s site and can be purchased from the image. “Our content becomes consumer fuel,” he said. “This is customers directing the business.”

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