Net-a-Porter's digital chief on how brands can get up close and personal to consumers
A view from Sarah Watson

Net-a-Porter's digital chief on how brands can get up close and personal to consumers

Social networks can provide brands with a wealth of valuable insight, says Net-a-Porter's Sarah Watson.

What does it mean to get personal? Today, it is no longer good enough to broadly segment a customer by age or gender; now they want to be romanced and, most importantly, understood.

This requires brands to be attentive, and to listen. Only by truly understanding each nuance will we be able to pre-empt our customers’ desires and offer them relevant and personal product solutions in return.

Just under a year ago, we launched a social network, The Net Set. Building this was eye-opening and has presented us with a wealth of opportunity; the customer insight, data and behaviour trends alone are fascinating to see.

Micro-trends

This real-time insight into explosive micro-trends just wouldn’t be possible with traditional retail tools

Crucially, the social aspect allows our community to participate in this conversation, enabling us to identify micro-trends much earlier in the purchase funnel.

As an example of how this has already affected our business, there was an occasion when images of red Aquazzura Wild Thing shoes were uploaded by our users across the world. We were able to feed this information to the Net-a-Porter buyers, who immediately placed another order. Subsequently, the shoes sold out for a second time.

This real-time insight into explosive micro-trends just wouldn’t be possible with traditional retail tools. We were able to provide our customers with the shoes, but, in turn, we helped propel one brand’s sales. We see this feeding into every aspect of our business, from marketing campaigns to our buying strategy.

More than 54,000 photos have been uploaded to The Net Set so far, and the platform provides us with a live global feed of what 110,000 women are loving, sharing and buying. With more than 1m interactions in our first six months, the social network enables us to keep abreast of current trends and those that are just about to take off, allowing us to tailor our campaigns and marketing strategies accordingly.

Seasonless shopping

One message that stands out, above all, is that we are now in an age of seasonless shopping. The average luxury consumer goes on five holidays a year; from business trips and weekends away, to exotic, far-flung adventures. In this age of extensive travel, the distinction between seasons has blurred; our customers are just as likely to buy a bikini in March as in August, and we’ve seen that they are sharing photos of their new beachwear in January and comfy knitwear in June, while posting about what to wear for a trip to Moscow and packing for a quick stopover in Istanbul en route. The Net Set has allowed us to quantify the theory of the trans-seasonal customer by serving as the ultimate social-listening tool.

Such global, social-commerce platforms disrupt the antiquated funnel of targeting by country to offer a real-time feed of relevant, personalised product to a community, regardless of their location, especially as we know they won’t be in one place for too long.