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Thanks to VECCI, Meagan Quinn presented enthrallingly this week at Myer Mural Hall on the dawn days of the online luxury game-changer, Net-a-Porter. Her role in establishing the company now conservatively estimated to be worth £600m, was told with charisma, intelligence and a disarming sense of humour – from the very beginning, which happened to be around her kitchen table in London.
To understand what a revolution Net-a-Porter was in 1999 you must try to remember a time when luxury was nowhere online and the internet looked like it was designed by “skateboarding male teens – horrible” M.Q. To conceive of women going to the internet to shop for serious fashion pieces was a challenge, and whilst Quinn and business partner Natalie Massanet knew exactly what to make it into, the fact that it seemed improbable challenged the process of funding the venture – men didn’t think it would work.
Megan’s astute choices in the website build, the packaging (the brands only true tangible touchpoint) the staff and the publicity (she declined to interview with London tabloid-style newspaper The Mail on Sunday) lead to sales hitting £18.8k in the fist month. Now owned by Richemont, a Swiss luxury group that owns Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and others.
Megan shared her five top tips for succeeding with an online business:
1. Have a clear idea of the attributes of your business. In this case Megan and Natalie had a vision for a chic new way of shopping, rather than just a transactionable website.
2. Exceed client expectations. Whilst this is a tenet of any service business, the early apprehensions around online shopping had to be countered by setting the standards of exceptional, luxury service.
3. Be synergistic across all touchpoints. Natalie described how single-minded she was about the online user experience, but also shared how she checked each one of the iconic black boxes for poor craftsmanship. Each element of the Net-a-Porter experience from site to delivery was to express luxury and service.
4. Transport the customer to a to a unique experience. Consider all the ways that a customer can feel part of the experience and connected to the values of the brand.
5. Collaborate. Draw upon the talents and perspectives of the community around your business. The stakeholders, the suppliers, it’s peers in other categories such as the media.
As well as this Megan extolled a simple but powerful personal attribute, that of kindness. Be kind to your staff. Be kind to the contractors. Be kind to those who really didn’t think you could do it.
She finished quoting Truman; “It’s amazing what can be achieved when you aren’t concerned who gets the credit.”
Post script: Megan went out of her way on the day to alert me that the hem of my dress was being stood on by the waiters. In a room of 450 people wanting a moment of her time she was mindful enough to take note of that. A small thing, but a genuine indication that her actions are as eloquent as her words.
Post post script: Its pronounced ‘net-ah-port-ey’ as in prêt-à-porter, (ready to wear) – not ‘porter’ as in the brilliant DHL men that bring us those iconic black boxes. Confirmed by the lady who coined the phrase.