On May 13, online department store Net-A-Porter will launch The Net Set, a fashion-focused social media site, made exclusively for mobile. Envisioned by-Vice President Sarah Watson and Creative Director Alexandra Hoffnung, “the social network for shopping,” opens invitation-only on the iTunes store, with Android device and general public release dates soon-to-follow. Accessed via smart phones, watches, or tablets (with limited functionality), Net Setters fill their personal profiles with fashion finds from the company’s curated, live-product feed. They can follow globe-wide trends, fashion influencers, friends, and their favorite style tribes such as “Rock-Chic” or “Double Denim.”
Aside from the digital department store’s luxury merchandise, the style-minded may pack their profiles with fashion inspiring imagery, which “admires” prowl in a Pinterest-like manner. For the ladies with no care to share their stylish secrets, the Net Set application serves strictly a shopping function. It matches fashions in Net-A-Porter’s stock with any photo uploaded, then lets searchers go from browsing to buying in a seamless step. Same day delivery will be available in Manhattan, London, and Hong Kong, with an overnight option for those instant-gratification seekers elsewhere.
Though no matter the features, time spent on a social site correlates with it’s community’s creativity. The Net Set’s content won’t be slow-to-start. Net-A-Porter’s team curated a 15 member “style council” of fashion well-knowns to infuse feeds with ideas. W magazine contributor Giovanna Battaglia is one of the members, who is compensated via an affiliate model for participation. Brands will also have dedicated pages where they can converse and share with customers to their chosen degree.
There’s no denying the Net-Set boasts an attractive edit of shopping tools. Plus, with Condé Nast staff on their Style Council, positive media’s at the Net Set’s every need. Still, to say the site will be an investment return or resource-eater rests on it’s balance of social, search, and shop use. Applications like Pose and Snapette prove clothing conversation hasn’t always served as the best social-media model . It puts the “tap for credits” cluttering Instagram to question: Are they consumers calling for a seamless social-to-shopping format or simply posters striving for profits? And, if a social shopping is in the customers’ wants, does their desire wane when it’s a site’s devotion?
Successful social networks are narcissistic-in-nature, but few fashion-focused have found ways to showcase the stylist the products-styled equally. On Instagram, photos are typically the profile holder’s property, so likes are a personal praise. Admirers aweing over products on a profile won’t induce the same sharer-satisfaction; credit is split between the creating brand and the product curator, and since no divine skill is needed to slap clothing from a professionally merchandised edit on a profile, the most falls to the former. This is why Head-of-Brand David Rubin claimed Pinterest was”not a social networking site” during 2014s SXSW conference. Their user gratification comes internally, from “discovering and being inspired,” by putting content in a “personal order.”
Fashion sites like Polyvore have capitalized off of this same model, the benefit’s in personally creating a clothing board. But buying comes after peer-approval, so activating purchases on “for-self” sites isn’t simple. Perhaps Polyvore’s savior is users sharing boards on off-site blogs or social networks. Away from competing imagery, they become the creator’s (or discoverer’s) own. Unlike the Net Set, Polyvore’s mobile app, Remix, functions only to search, then share externally. It takes users through the first steps of the purchase process, so the ultimate gratification comes from ownership, different from their desktop site where creation gratification can detract from clothes-shopping. The Net Set’s mobile-exclusivity will cut customers thinking it is a creation tool. Though even if it is thought of to search, share, and shop, without imagery of the sharer actually owning the outfit, is it a real recommendation? What’s lost in online shopping is the fit and feel, and a recommender-without-owning can speak only to appearance prior to purchase. This is why Amazon’s verified reviews are the sought-out.
Polyvore thrives off of the external share model because they sell advertising; the more free dissemination on different channels, the more highly-sought they become. By contrast, Net-A-Porter holds inventory; they need purchasers. Profit is shopper loyalty. The Net Set must cannibalize the easy-search aggregate sites and social media’s peer advantage by combining them in a format so functional there is no need to fill them off-site. Fashion’s a field of imitations; on a detail-filtering site like Shopstyle, Net-A-Porter will always face side-by-side competition. The department store’s announced merger with Italian competitor Yoox proves their cautious of their shopping model’s saliency. Of course, it is this model making Net-A-Porter one of the select stores that could pull off this social shop for profit. It’s department nature means users won’t feel brand-limited (and therefore advertised to), and because it is online only, there is a wider body of brands it can hold.
When Net-A-Porter launched in 2000, Messet couldn’t convince brands her online store could produce profit. Shoppers browsing habits adapt prior to their buying preferences, and though they were searching online, they were still spending in-store. Ironically, Net-A-Porter became an integral force in the online buying adaption. Its magazine-style look afforded shoppers a need-solution physical stores left unfulfilled: more product information and ideas. Messet used editorial to explain an outfit’s purpose, which not only drew eyes but increased buying motivation. Because luxury brands were more-weary to establish ecommerce stores, Net-A-Porter was the perfect spot to purchase when in-person access was not available. Secondly, she understood in-person luxury shopping was not easy, though customers definitely sought it to be. When reaching an ideal self-image is the reason to buy, why bother with a strangling store staff’s recommendations? Some customers like service and others seek to self-serve; the latter group needed a place to purchase luxury.
So like Net-A-Porter exploited features unique to desktop buying, the Net Set benefits by knowing mobile browsers seek to alleviate . A user can check the site times two minutes apart and discover something new. Like the fast-pace of a Twitter solved the issue of finding the same statuses on a Facebook news feed, the Net Set assures shoppers won’t be seeing the same set of “new arrivals,” no matter when they log-on. This quick pace increases the activation to buy ; high-sought items are style wins with quick sell-outs. Getting shoppers to spend significant dollars on screens won’t be simple, but the pressure to be up-to-date has proved successful with Net-A-Porter’s set since their start.
It’s customer-knowledge also quieting concerns shoppers will shun advertising posing as a social site. Net-A-Porter’s store and print publication content has always pushed it’s partner’ products. The 2.5 million monthly visitors understand their fashion news is motivated by sales no matter the format, perhaps appreciating Net-A-Porter’s transparency in putting native ads on their own property. Though if the site chooses not to pay commissions to the general public, motivation to create on the network will be low. Net-A-Porter runs a highly-regarded affiliate program, so their users are primed to want cash for their content.
No doubt if Net-A-Porter can generate enough exclusive use, the Net set will be a brand-attracting tool. But whether it is the “Social Site for Fashion”, well, that’s up to the shopper.