Connecting the dots to create one seamless shopping experience has been the key to the success of Matchesfashion.com.
This story first appeared in the March 30, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Nicolas Pickaerts, e-commerce director for the U.K.-based retailer, related the company’s “journey” from one small store in Wimbledon on the outskirts of London founded by Tom and Ruth Chapman in 1987 to a global e-tailer today. “When you sell luxury fashion in a village with no local footfall, you learn to love your customer very fast,” he said.
Over the next 17 years, the company opened 11 additional stores, all of them with a different selection of brands. In 2007, the Web site was launched as a way to offer Matches’ entire breadth of product to its customer base, regardless of where they were located.
“Seven years ago, our business was U.K. only and bricks and mortar,” Pickaerts said. “Today, 85 percent of our sales are online and most are outside the U.K.” In fact, 76 percent of sales are international, he said.
Once the Web site was up and running, the company “rebranded” and changed its name to Matchesfashion.com to better reflect the change. In 2015, the company decided to invest and rework its Web site.
“It took us 18 months to fully change the backend technology and reinvent the experience for our customers,” he said. This has resulted in a “fully responsive Web site” that provides customers with the same experience no matter “how they engage with us: tablet, mobile, laptop, desktop.”
The results have been impressive.
Pickaerts said Matchesfashion.com has half-a-million unique visitors a week to its site, the average full-price transaction is more than $1,000, the business retains 65 percent of its customers and there is a 40 percent repurchase rate. “We ship to 176 countries, all from one central warehouse in London, and 45 percent of our revenue is mobile,” he said.
The company offers same-day delivery in the U.S. and Europe and men’s wear represents 20 percent of sales. Pickaerts said men’s is a major growth opportunity and the company projects it will increase to 30 percent of sales within the next three years.
Matchesfashion.com has seen distinct differences between its men’s and women’s shoppers, with the return rate in men’s half that of women’s, or around 15 percent. Men have been slower to embrace shopping on their cellphones.
Regardless of gender, the company’s overall goal is to “make the physical as digital as possible and the digital as physical as possible,” he said. “But what keeps us awake at night is the constant drive to inspire our customers with the unexpected.”
To appeal to this shopper, the company last year launched Raey, a private brand for both men and women with its own creative director and design team. “It’s all about creating a point of difference and is a story we can tell,” he said.
The retailer also tells stories through editorial. Matchesfashion.com produces an online magazine every week with 10 to 15 new articles — and everything in the magazine is shoppable. Customers can click on images and immediately purchase what is being featured.
Pickaerts said over the past four years, sales deriving from smartphones have risen from 5 percent to 19 percent, while the share of traffic has risen from 10 percent to 36 percent. “But what is even more impressive is the acceleration this year. Comparing February 2016 with February 2015, mobile has grown from 18 percent of sales to 26 percent and traffic from 32 to 39 percent.
Despite its humble beginnings, Matchesfashion.com has not lost sight of its mission to provide luxury to its customers.
“It’s embedded in our DNA,” he said. “It’s about the product selection, the way we present that product to the customer, it’s about the imagery, the content. We are inclusive, we are not stuck in the old concepts of retail. We constantly innovate and change ourselves to do things better.”
Even so, Pickaerts said, Matchesfashion.com understands its place in the luxury landscape. “We love everything we do but we are under no illusion — our role is to sell product.”