The Outnet.com is one of the fastest growing high-end women’s fashion e-retail sites on the planet. It’s global director of sales and marketing, Andres Sosa, is in Australia this week presenting at the ADMA Conference in Sydney. He took time out to undergo a thorough probing from the largely unfashionable B&T…
What’s been the secret (other than price) of THE OUTNET’s success?
The discount world is fast-growing and competitive, which makes it exciting to be a part of, but THE OUTNET is different to private and flash sale sites and I think this has helped us stand our amongst the crowd. THE OUTNET provides access to luxury goods around the clock with no compromise on the experience. Our customer receives is similar to full-price retailers in that there are regular deliveries of product which you can shop anytime and our sales aren’t time-limited – we like to give access to everyone. We also focus on our edit and really work hard on the brands we source so that we are only presenting the best content and selection to our customers. Most importantly, we have a great team! A lot of our staff have been with the brand since its launch over six years ago and we share resources such as IT, HR, customer care and finance with The NET-A-PORTER Group
Women love the experience of shopping. What’s the attraction of online fashion sites when a digital experience takes the theatre of retail away?
The internet provides amazing access. Women living in some of the remotest parts of Australia can access great fashion just like those living in Melbourne or Sydney can. The internet has made it easier for people who do not live near cities with designer stores to shop amazing fashion and have it shipped directly to their homes. This has meant that women are buying designer clothes to supplement their existing wardrobe and mixing and matching high end and high street with current season, previous season and vintage. It’s no longer about dressing head-to-toe in one designer, and all our editorial point-of-view on THE OUTNET reflects this mix and match mindset. Up until a few years ago, discount luxury fashion was hidden away in out-of-town outlets, but the internet changed all that. It’s now visible and is becoming an accepted form of retail with its own audience and expectations. We find that customers do shop both ways, but online shopping enables customers to shop 24/7, all year round. For our time-poor customer this is really important as she shops when it is convenient for her. The site is updated with new product three times a week with items from over 250 designer brands. We also offer a luxury delivery service that’s available in over 170 countries with same-day delivery in both London and Manhattan and our customer care advisors are available via our live chat function and speak 10 languages.
In Australia there is push back from retailers against online. Have you seen this sentiment in other markets and how does an online business react to that?
In our experience, we have not felt a push back per se. What we do know is Australian customers shop across a wide range of local, US and UK based sites due to an appetite for products and brands that are not available locally. This appetite was not well catered to locally, with many highlighting that local boutiques stocked a very limited selection from desirable international labels and often at inflated prices. Savvy fashion shoppers started increasingly turning to international online sources to find pieces from their favourite labels and retailers who could offer them a great selection at great prices with competitive shipping propositions quickly won their loyalty.
What are the biggest challenges of being purely online?
We find that customers do shop both ways, but online shopping enables customers to shop 24/7, all year round. Online vs physical retail each have their own place and can in fact complement each other. With a physical store the customer can experience the brand first hand, whereas online the customer has an extensive range of products to choose from by selected international brands that may not necessarily be available to buy all over the world. We work hard to ensure that we help with size and fit as much as we can, each item is individually measured when it arrives to our warehouse to ensure fit is true. We have live chat site available on site so customers can reach out if they have a doubt regarding a specific item. Online pure play can prove challenging for brands such as our private label Iris& Ink, as customers who have not bought it before have no point of reference of the high quality of the product. So in order to jump this hurdle we ensure our editorial truly explains the product, its fabric, fit, we work with influencers that are fans of the brand and who people trust.
Are there brands/lines that The Outnet wouldn’t stock?
We pride ourselves in offering luxury designer brands but as we offer 250-plus brands we also have a selection of fantastic contemporary brands. The difference for us is that we offer our customer an edit of brands and product. Our buying team based in London and NYC curate the best of what is out there. We buy 90 per cent of the stock directly from designers with only 10 per cent come from NET-A-PORTER so our team really work hard to ensure the brand and products we offer our customer are the best. Our customer is a savvy woman that buys current and previous season, one that really values quality and is a collector of beautiful items, we help her achieve this.
Do some brands or products lend themselves to an online platform more than others? We haven’t found this to be the case. However to give you an insight into top performing categories in Australia they include; Dresses, tops, jackets, knitwear and skirts. Top 10 favoured designers; Michael Michael Kors, Isabel Marant, Alexander Wang, Iris& Ink, Tory Burch, Helmut Lang, DVF, Oscar De La Renta, T by Wang and Chloe.
Does the concept of a “discounted” product offering make it difficult to maintain premium fashion positioning?
It’s all about the experience; we make sure the journey is a luxury one. She does not need to compromise or lower her standards just because she is buying previous season. Services such as Premium delivery, live chat, etc. THE OUTNET is similar to full-price retailers in that there are regular deliveries of product which you can shop anytime and our sales aren’t time-limited – we like to give access to everyone. We focus on our edit and on the brands we source so that we are only presenting the best content and selection to our customers. Content is another key component in our DNA. All product on THE OUTNET is presented in an editorialized manner, from merchandised lists to content supporting trends, Iris & Ink, brand collaborations and more.
Data and tech are playing huge roles in marketing these days – does THE OUTNET play in that space?
Mobile technology is a key focus for THE OUTNET. We will continue to update functionalities on these channels and our ultimate aim is to provide a seamless shopping experience across multiple platforms. Of course, our most successful campaigns and activities are based on data we collect from our customers. For example Sergio Shoe Hunter came from three key insights – shoes are one of our most popular category on site, shoes are the category that generates the highest level of engagement on our social media platforms and pets are incredibly popular on social media. The Sergio Shoe Hunter campaign had great global success with a 92 per cent uplift in international shoe sales, increased social media followers by 5.5k over a period of 9 days, achieved an equivalent to 25 million impressions as well as multiple award nominations.
Where do you see THE OUTNET in the next 5-10 years?
We have achieved lots in the past six years. We want to continue to offer our customer the best possible experience when it comes to shopping previous season online and in order to do this we will continue to listen careful to what our customers are telling us and ensure we met her high expectations. We will continue to partner and collaborate with our brands as this will always be part of what we always do such as Victoria Beckham well as content. Geo targeting and localisation will continue to play an important role in everything we do, we need to be relevant and talk directly to her, wherever she is. Mobile platforms for all retailers will be key, 56 per cent of our customers shop from their mobile phones and iPads. so making sure we continue to understand her journey and experience.