Disruptive Content: Net-a-Porter's Marketing Innovation
When it comes to being on-trend, Net-a-Porter has always had its finger on the pulse. Not only has the online fashion retailer built a global business from knowing its clothes, it has always been a trendsetter when it comes to marketing, too.
Launched in 2000, Net-a-Porter instantly grabbed attention with a website very consciously designed to mimic the look and feel of a fashion magazine. It was a very clever piece of brand positioning which tapped straight into its target audience, namely affluent, fashion-conscious women aged 25 to 50 who routinely read magazines like Vogue and Cosmopolitan.
It was also a clever and bold move from a marketing perspective, too, blurring the lines between an ecommerce platform and content marketing. This set the trend for how Net-a-Porter has marketed itself ever since - by letting content rule over direct sales messages, and through a willingness to innovate to seek new ways to connect with a market, or indeed create new markets entirely.
Content is King
The purpose of content marketing is to replace forthright sales messages with communications aimed at informing and building a relationship with potential customers. Net-a-Porter’s decision to imitate the look and feel of a fashion magazine on their website has always been about much more than aesthetics.
The website is content marketing par excellence, taking very seriously the ‘editorial’ role of writing articles on designers and latest looks, offering advice and tips - all of the things someone would expect from a fashion publication. Again, it demonstrates deep understanding of the brand’s core market, women who want to gain advice on the latest looks, and are happy to then click through to make a purchase to get it. Net-a-Porter’s focus on content, and the trust it has built with consumers, has driven 2.5 million monthly hits on its website worldwide.
This reputation for informative, trusted fashion content which happens to drive excellent sales has not happened through the website alone. Net-a-Porter has also always been prepared to innovate and take risks with its marketing, particularly when it comes to looking for new ways to communicate with consumers. Disruptive marketing is a term used to describe marketing approaches which break through existing brand-consumer relationships, and create new market opportunities in doing so. As with content, Net-a-Porter are masters at it.
In the past, the brand has leveraged its web content to create very well regarded email campaigns, again based on combining informative, useful content which taps in subscribers’ interests with special offers. Perhaps the brand’s most innovative move was to square the circle of its approach to web design and actually start publishing a print magazine, Porter.
Net-a-Porter’s latest innovation has been to launch its own social media app, The Net Set, intended to offer customers a way to connect and talk fashion with each other, their favourite designer and their trend setters. The idea of bypassing the social platform giants like Facebook and Instagram to launch their own is typically bold, but shows superb understanding of their market. What is better suited to high-end fashionistas than an exclusive, boutique app?
The willingness to broach a new mode of communication in an innovative way is what makes the app a great piece of disruptive marketing, seeking to reach out to a new, younger audience. It also comes with some very clever content tools - for example, image recognition software which allows users to upload their own outfit pics, and then suggests matches and accessories. Everything on the app links directly to a sales portal.
5 Branding Tips to Take from Net-a-Porter
- Identify and understand your target market.
- Use content marketing to build trust in your brand.
- Aim for content which is of value to your customers, imitating ‘editorial’ content.
- Innovate with the communication channels you use.
- Innovate as a means of reaching new markets.