Federico Marchetti, founder and chief executive officer of Yoox Group, is “obsessed” with making the global e-commerce player a local force.

This story first appeared in the November 16, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“To be global in this industry is not an easy job,” Marchetti said. “To do it properly, you really need to do it locally.”

That belief has guided Yoox’s expansion in China, a market the company decided to tackle after raising 104.5 million euros, or about $158 million, in its December 2009 initial public offering in Milan.

The following year, Yoox tapped native talent to set up an office in Shanghai and switched on Emporio Armani’s online flagship for the country. This year, a Dolce & Gabbana site was added along with a Chinese version of the company’s multibrand site, thecorner.com.

The visual presentation of the brands is crafted by Chinese photographers and other local specialists. Marchetti said the company invests in the country to establish credibility. Prices on the firm’s monobrand Web sites, which are listed in the local currency, match the prices in the brands’ physical stores.

Shipments to the firm’s customers in China arrive in a bag with a bow — packaging designed especially for the market. And Yoox provides “butler service,” where the delivery person will wait for the customer to try on their order and see if they want to keep it or return it.

The company gets orders not just from Beijing and Shanghai, but from the coastal cities and secondary markets.

Marchetti said the company is laying important groundwork for the future since the first-mover advantage in China is important.

“Be patient, you cannot think to make billions [in China] the first year,” he said. “It’s the only country in the world where Google is tiny.…For the next couple of years, we’re going to focus on China because we want to do that very well.”

But China isn’t the only frontier for the company, which is on track to post sales of $400 million this year, has 31 e-commerce sites and about 500 employees.

“We see a tremendous growth with the mobile commerce, especially with the iPad,” Marchetti said. “Around 10 percent of traffic is coming from mobile commerce, a little bit less in terms of sales.”

Instead of one overarching mobile strategy, the company lets its individual business units build their own mobile skills.

Despite all of the changes at the company, Marchetti is proud of how well the Yoox.com off-price site has stood the test of time.

“The positioning of Yoox.com is not one of a discounter,” he said. “I didn’t want to launch 12 years ago as a discounter because every time you make a statement on price it can be dangerous. It’s very short term. And I wanted Yoox.com to be innovative and I still think, you may like it or not like it, but there are not so many other Web sites like Yoox.com around, mixing fashion with design [at a] price, with vintage, with exclusives…with very high-quality projects. It’s still very innovative after 12 years and something that after 12 years doesn’t age on the Internet, I think it’s a great result.”

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