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Natalie Massenet on consumers, growth markets and the future

Net A Porter Founder Natalie Massenet Interview
Net-A-Porter chairman and founder Natalie Massenet with Bloomberg Television anchor and editor-at-large Francine Laqua 

Natalie Massenet, chairman and founder of Net-a-Porter, has indicated she is staying put with the company after it merges with Yoox SpA. In an interview with Bloomberg TV she said: “We’ve only just begun.” The 50-year-old founder will become the merged company’s executive chairman, with defined responsibilities reportedly in areas such as editorial content, advertising strategy and fashion press.

Describing herself as a “reluctant leader,” Massenet said the scale of the business is all that will change. “We’re going to be the same, but bigger,” she said. Here are some of the other interesting things she commented on:

On launching e-commerce

“If a Martian came to earth and looked at shopping, they would say, ‘Explain this to me again? So people with a lot of money are asked to leave their homes and go to you, you then put them in a really cold room with bad lighting and ask them to take all their clothes off and put on the clothes, and then they have to make the decision then and there without the rest of their wardrobe and their shoes, then they go home, um, and then they pay you for that?’ and the Martian would have probably said, ‘…If the person’s paying, shouldn’t you go to them, shouldn’t they try things on at home with the comfort of their friends and people advising them that they know, shouldn’t they be trying things on with their own shoes and shouldn’t they have time to think about it, and if they want to keep it, they keep it, but if they don’t, then shouldn’t you go and get it from them and say is there anything else I can do?’ So actually, just because shopping existed in one way doesn’t mean that’s how people wanted to shop.”

On that viral retirement video for former CEO Mike Sebba

“[Sebba] had been running the company for 11 years and I had this fear that because he hadn’t been so outward-facing, that he wouldn’t be a digital part of our history, because these days if we can’t find you on Google, do you exist? I don’t know! Am I here? So I thought we need to make sure that Mike Sebba, CEO of Net-a-Porter, goes down in history as having been the CEO of Net-a-Porter for eleven years, so I thought we need to make a digital footprint. It was about going viral.”

On creating a print magazine

“We thought, we’re a multimedia company, we are where our consumer is, and why are we ignoring print, in the same way that if you’re a print publication, you’re a media company, you would never ignore a website, you would not ignore social, you’re there. So, for us to be a complete media business, and to communicate with our consumer we needed to be there in a different form. But then what we did was we didn’t just say, ‘Oh let’s take the website and put it into a paper format’, we approached that platform with what’s great about it, and our editors create the most beautiful reading, immersive, inspiring experience that lasts; it sits on your coffee table hopefully.|”

On the shopper of tomorrow

“They’re a very demanding customer… and they’re the ones who are [going to] dictate, and do dictate, everything. They’re also very lucky. It’s such a great time to be a consumer; they have choice, they have everything at their fingertips, literally, and everything comes to them. The shopper of tomorrow does not need to move, they are a very busy person, like today, and demand more from their retailers, demand a lot, and our job is to anticipate their needs and be there for them.”

Net A Porter Founder Natalie Massenet Interview
Bloomberg Television anchor and editor-at-large Francine Laqua interviews Net-A-Porter chairman and founder Natalie Massenet, for ‘Leaders with Lacqua: Natalie Massenet’

On growing in China

“In mainland China right now, the AOV on e-commerce transactions tends to be much lower than where we’re playing thanks to the strength of some extraordinary e-commerce businesses out there. So the consumer is well engaged in e-commerce, but the time will come when they turn to e-commerce for different things. We’re using our media, our magazine, our digital magazine that comes out in Chinese once a week 50 times a year, and we’re using that as part of the education process in terms of talking about fashion and inspiring the consumer, and we’re seeing really exciting, strong growth in China. It was within our top 20 markets five years ago; it will be within our top 10 within the next year.”

On the future of the business

“Well, we’re going to be the same but bigger… we’ve only just begun, our penetration and our addressable market is still negligible, we’ve got cities that we aren’t even talking to. Within just our existing space, we’re tiny, so I think, just keeping our heads down, focusing on the consumer, focusing on our brand partnerships and doing everything that we’re doing but doing it better… I think that you’ll see more local service propositions and we’re going to have to continually advance the speed with which we deliver and how we cater to the consumer’s needs. I think that we will have learned how to be local but global… while still retaining a very focused DNA for each of the brands, and not trying to be all things to all people, I think that’s important.”

The interview “Leaders With Lacqua: Natalie Massenet” airs again today at 7pm GMT, and at 3pm, 9pm and 11.30pm on Friday, July 3.

By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.

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