We launched Porter with the intention of becoming pioneers of content as well as commerce. Natalie Massenet, Net-a-Porter’s founder, told us to forget what we had done in the past and take risks. So we took the traditional model of a fashion magazine and flipped it on its head.

Previously, the fashion publishing industry put the focus on the brands and the industry, not the customer. Lucy Yeomans (Porter’s editor) and I had worked on Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, so we understood the power of publications to inspire women, but we could see a real disconnect between gorgeous magazines with beautiful images, and what we were trying to sell them.

Porter has revolutionised print. Eighty-five per cent of our core audience – who are devoted digital shoppers – say that print is the number one influencer in telling them what to buy and from where. But we saw an opportunity to elevate what print does by adding in a layer of service, which is shoppability.

Every single page of Porter is shoppable. Using our app, readers can immediately buy a particular item, choose to see more items like that one, or be taken to our concierge service. There are roughly 7,500 items to buy in every issue, including holidays, books and theatre tickets. We get 10,000 scans an issue and can track the data directly from those so we know what is successful and what isn’t.

"If we don't adapt, we aren't in the customer's world. It's critical that we evolve."

Everything we give our readers, whether it’s a magazine or an email or direct mail, needs to provide the same luxury experience that customers get when they receive their Net-A-Porter order. Porter is about indulgence, which is why we thought a physical copy was so important. We’re an extremely high-end online retailer, so for us it’s important to give people something that is tangible and tactile.

The importance of mail

The same goes for all of our marketing, it needs to feel premium. So when we send out direct mail to tell people about Porter, it needs to have a luxury edge. We pay a huge amount of attention to the weight of the paper stock, the foils, the varnishes. Our goal is to creatively deliver a message directly into the customer’s hand that goes hand in hand with the reason she should shop with us – and that’s luxury.

Online shopping is not only more popular because people are short of time, but also because of the thrill of getting something delivered. It’s akin to being sent a present, and direct mail is a teaser of that. It’s another opportunity to deliver a tactile experience. It serves as a reminder of the feeling you get when you receive our beautiful black box wrapped in ribbon and filled with treasures.

"We’ve proven with Porter that print isn't dead."

Mail is always going to play a role in the retail world. It speaks to us in a way that other channels don’t. We all know the feeling of receiving something special in the post. You can’t replicate that feeling. We’ve proven with Porter that print isn’t dead; far from it. It gives us authority, tangibility and longevity.

While Porter is sold on the newsstand, it’s also sent out in the post to our highest spenders, who are also extremely busy, professional women. These days, many of us simply don’t have the time to go to a newsstand, so mail is the best medium for reach as well as impact. In a world of convenience and online shopping, having things delivered directly to us is the new norm.

We use direct mail because we know it works – we invested in two very successful campaigns in the UK and US last year – and they can be directly attributed to an uplift in Porter subscribers. The mag, like mail, is a great acquisition tool. We know that once someone is a subscriber to Porter they visit the site 25% more often and spend 120% more with us. You can’t argue with figures like that.

The future of retail

I think the future of retail is about great service. That’s what brands can learn from Net-a-Porter. The customer is at the heart of our proposition, not the fashion industry. If someone is reading the magazine in London, New York or Hong Kong and a product catches their eye, it can be with them in hours – even before they’ve finished reading the magazine.

We – Net-a-Porter and the fashion industry as a whole – will have to keep adapting so that we become more involved in moments that matter in our customer’s life. She’s busy and there’s lots of noise. How do we edit that out? There’s always going to be new and interesting ways to communicate with her. It’s about harnessing technology and using it to inspire, educate, surprise and delight. But it’s important to remember that she sets the agenda and we have to adapt. If we don’t, we aren’t in her world, so it’s critical that we evolve. 

"Eighty-five per cent of our core audience say that print is the number one influencer."

We have to be there for her on any device pretty seamlessly, but the beauty of what we do is that we can adapt very quickly to whatever is new. More than half of our sales come from mobiles, so we had to adapt to that. But it still has to feel right. Whether she starts on a desktop, moves to an iPad and finally finishes her sale off on her phone in a taxi, the whole experience has to feel seamless and beautiful.

Data is transforming what we do, there’s no denying that. And because of our multi-platform model we have huge amounts of data about our readers. We can actually see in real time who these women are, what their profession is, what they are buying and how they accessed it. It’s fascinating.

Programmatic will continue to revolutionise the way we do business by allowing us to target our customer wherever she is. It also allows us access to a wider part of her day than traditional media allows for. A great example is our new app Net Set, which blends online retail with social media and allows women to shop in real time with their friends, wherever they are. But even within programmatic we still want to behave in a way that speaks to our luxury customer. We take great care to ensure that this wide variety of environments is still curated to safeguardour brand. 

Download the Collection

Why the next level of fashion publishing is shoppability

Tess Macleod Smith
VP Publishing & Media, Net-a-Porter