How Net-a-Porter plans to ‘close the gap of impulsivity’

With Net-a-Porter, founder Natalie Massenet set out to close the gap between fashion content and commerce. So in 2014, it launched Porter magazine in print and iPad app, with long-form articles and 7,500 products that could be bought through the iPad app or by scanning the print edition with a smartphone.

Now, with mobile commerce sales on the rise (40 percent of Net-a-Porter’s purchases are on mobile), Porter is launching its first iPhone app.

Porter is equally ad- and subscription-supported. The app is free to download, but then users have to pay for the content, which is updated six times a year, in line with the print magazine. Each edition for the iPhone app will be 65 percent editorial and 35 percent advertising. The launch edition features a 33-page editorial supplement called “100 Incredible Women” sponsored by Elizabeth Arden.

“Our reader still loves print; there’s an authority in that, but she’s also on the go,” Tess Macleod-Smith, vp of publishing at Net-a-Porter Group. “On average, she is traveling 11 times a year, so we needed the mobile app.”

Few publishers have succeeded in combining retail and commerce. Even digital-first Refinery29 folded its commerce business in 2013. But many are still trying, such as Conde Nast, which is launching an e-commerce business called in 2016.

Porter believes that having started as an online retailer and having strong back-end technology will give it a leg up, though.

The company makes money from the sales of the one-fifth of the products in the app that found at Net-a-Porter. The rest of the products are linked back to a retailer’s website. Porter monitors users as they journey from reading to shopping to see what leads them to buy. Macleod-Smith said the goal is to personalize the articles people see so they buy faster and spend more. “We’re a technology company,” she said. “Our plan is to enhance our data and expertise and close that gap of impulsivity.”

Commerce and content — Porter’s iPhone app

Porter now has 15 journalists who produce the magazine. Readers spend about two hours a visit with the digital iPad edition. The print and digital edition is unaudited, but the company said it has a circulation of 152,000 globally.

Its top-spending customers, whom it calls its Extremely Important People (EIPs), receive free copies of the print and digital edition. Macleod-Smith wouldn’t say what you have to spend at Net-a-Porter to reach EIP status, but said its top customer last year, a lawyer from New York, spent $1 million on the site.

Images courtesy of Net-a-Porter.
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