The Outnet has changed the world’s perception of off-season products. Now it is localising its site to focus on customers in the Middle East, we talk to off-season president Alessandra Rossi.
With its trend-led approach to providing products from past seasons, the Outnet has become the world’s biggest off-season retailer. A platform that started off as the sister of luxury e-commerce site Net A Porter, it has outgrown its initial placement to become a global brand in its own right, offering customers trend focused products at a discounted price.
Although the pieces are from previous seasons, The Outnet focuses on providing products and content that follow current trends. We all know that trends come back around, so it’s easy for The Outnet to keep up, and the bonus for the customers is the reduced price. As well as other designer’s pieces The Outnet has its own brand Iris & Ink which has hugely grown in popularity. It’s just launched a work wear boutique with a focus on style and functionality and the latest collaboration with Preen by Thorton Bregazzi is an exclusive collection of newly designed pieces not available anywhere else.
With all this going on at the same time as planning the launch of a localised GCC-based site, The Outnet team are keeping themselves very busy. In between the hectic schedules we talked to Off Season President Alessandra Rossi on a recent visit to Dubai. We get an insight on what exciting developments we can expect over the coming months as the Outnet puts a strong focus on our region.
Who is the Outnet shopper?
She is 35 plus. She is used to a luxury shopping experience and a high quality of service. She is a customer that knows what she wants, she is savvy. She is mixing the full price buy with the off-price buy.
So you think most customers are also buying full price products?
Yes they mostly do, especially in the region as people have many occasions that they want to be ready for so they will buy an off-season product for an event perhaps.
Are there patterns in the types of products customers are buying full price and reduced price?
The top category across both is always dresses but it is also depending on the editing and what we offer on the site at any particular time. It is our core DNA to provide great editorial contact. We tend to have a clear edit we are not just selecting everything so the editing part is very important.
I don’t know if you are aware but originally we used to take all of our product from Net A Porter from their end of season stock, but now only seven percent comes from Net A Porter so we go directly to the brands. We have 350 brands on-site, we do exclusive collaborations with brands as well. We are much more in touch with brands directly and curate from them.
What are the differences between marketing off-season and on-season products?
I mean they tend to have completely different strategies. It’s a matter of understanding the customer’s needs and trying to adapt to their needs. So the term of approach is similar – the editing, the way we showcase the product on site, the way we create content. One difference is that we have four uploads a week whereas for in-season they maybe only upload products by season but for us it’s much more fast-paced so the customer is really excited. There is an excitement and an urgency to shop with us.
How are you communicating with your customers?
We send out newsletters, we have Chat Bot which is our latest robot. We have Facebook which talks about what’s coming up. We have influencers promoting our products. We have homepages that constantly change and we have a 10,000 insider panel which is very engaged. So I would say we’re quite fast paced and so our marketing strategy reflects that.
How do you think The Outnet has made it cool to wear off-season pieces?
That was the plan! We are relevant. The trends you see in the magazines, you’ll find it on our site because the buying team are curating with that in mind. For sure the editing and the way we showcase products is the key part of the site. We try to understand exactly what is the needs of the buying customer.
Which markets are particularly important to you at the moment?
Here! That’s the reason why we are here! We are making investment in the region. We also recently moved to a completely new platform that allows us to be much more local than we were before. So the geographical expansion is one of the key pillars of our strategy for the future. This is a starting point. The fact that we are localizing is just the beginning, we are going to be even more and more local. Still keeping the global identity but making it much more local.
So will all the editorial content on the site be specific to the region?
The core will be global and everything will be managed by our team in London, but certain edits will be local. We need to be relevant for the customers lifestyle but also keep the global identity. This is the challenge we have.
Have you been in touch with the customers on a personal level?
We had an event to show the latest collection to the customers and it was exactly for that – so we could see the reaction in their eyes and understand exactly what they are interested in. This gives us a clear indication on what they want. It was definitely very interesting.
How soon will the local site be live?
We started in April with some major improvements, we changed the currency so you can now pay in dirham. We are going to localise the site offering both languages (Arabic and English). This is a major improvement of our platform and the first time we have done it. This is going live this fall. We will also have the option for cash on delivery. We realised after asking to our customers that this is something they think is very important for the market.
What can you tell us about Iris and Ink?
Iris and Ink was launched in 2012 with the idea of offering a collection of essentials to complete the look. But after five years the collection is wide so it is a proper collection. Surprisingly in the region it is working really well and globally it is one of the top five brands on the site. It fits in very seamlessly into the wardrobe. It’s also a side effect that the customer is trusting us.
Are there plans to expand it further?
Of course, always.
What do you think is the future of online shopping in the region?
Things will become more and more mobile. I started working in e-commerce twenty years ago and the mobile didn’t exist at this time. So something that still surprises me is how the Smartphone disrupted the industry in such a short time. You really make a quick connection between the information and the product you can access it everywhere. It’s something that still surprises me a lot but being mobile first is our core strategy. Fifty five per cent of sales come from mobiles. The accessibility is so easy.
How do you design the mobile site differently to the desktop site?
What is designed for the app is very different to the desktop site because we are finding that the customer doesn’t want the same content on the app. They want to just shop, she wants the filters to make it easier and have a quicker easier experience. The connection with social media is very, very close.
What’s the one item every woman should own?
If you ask me personally it’s shoes! If you ask me professionally – a beautiful dress. If you ask me to choose – I don’t know!
Are there any particular brands or products that you think never go out of fashion?
The white shirt, the black blazer – the classics.
What’s the last clothing item you shopped for?
This Valentino dress that I’m wearing – from The Outnet of course.
Are there any cultures you find particularly fascinating in the way they shop?
That’s what so great about being so global you learn so much from the markets. We learn about which brands the markets like. Here it’s Dolce & Gabbana and Pucci. Whereas in another market it might not be that at all. I think the general theme is that all our customers have passion and urgency to shop.
What do you love most about what you do?
The passion that is across everyone. Working with people, the team and also having the chance to meet the customers. I think this is the most fascinating part of my job. Also when we receive emails of feedback from the customers. I really always enjoy to read a message from a customer.
For you, what is luxury?
What else can you tell us about the future of the brand?
That’s pretty much what we can tell you – the core message is that we will be more local and more relevant. The challenge is to find the right balance between what is relevant for the brand and what is relevant for the customer.
How are you going to be different from other off-season local sites in the region?
The fact that our assortment is unique is the main point of difference we have. The fact that we are editing the content and the fact that we have a huge selection of global brands who we are working directly with. We also have exclusive collections.
Anything else you want to tell us?
Top tip for the readers check the site at 10am UK time because that’s when the uploads go on site four times a week! And once everything is gone it’s gone and it goes very quickly.