Condé Nast president of ecommerce Franck Zayan on why the time is right for the Vogue publisher to enter the luxury etail market.
The former head of ecommerce for French department store group Galeries Lafayette, Franck Zayan joined Condé Nast as president of ecommerce in January 2014. He leads a team of more than 100 based in Camden, north London, working on the September launch of the publisher’s transactional Style.com website.
How will the site work?
Style.com will launch as an ecommerce destination with about 200 brands across womenswear, menswear, beauty, digital, travel and gifts. The standalone site will also work via Condé Nast’s websites and magazine apps, initially for Vogue and GQ, and rolled out to the whole portfolio by the end of the year.
The idea is that when you are reading a magazine, it makes sense to connect you to those products. It will be different to how affiliate marketing works, where you have the content and then it takes you to another destination to connect. It is very important to us that, because you have chosen to read that particular magazine, we can be the ones to connect you. That way you don’t leave the site and can return to reading your chosen article when you’re done.
If you see something you like while reading, you can click on a tab that will take you to more information and sizing, and allow you to complete the transaction there and then. If a particular product isn’t available yet, you can request an email when it’s in stock.
Who will handle the stock and shipping?
It will work as a marketplace model and the items will be sent directly from our brand partners [Zayan declines to name which ones] to the consumer. It requires a very clear service agreement with the brands and getting it right is crucial. Because we are dealing with high-end brands, they already have a great level of service, so we’re confident it will work well.
We are considering a second phase of buying some product and holding stock, but the marketplace is at the heart of the model.
Who is your target customer?
The readers, subscribers and visitors of Condé Nast’s magazines and websites are of course a target, but we also plan to go outside that through Style.com and reach people who may not be as familiar with our titles [Zayan declined to give more detail on demographics]. Following the UK, we’ll launch the site in the US in the first half of next year and other markets including Asia and Europe by the end of 2016 – we have big plans.
Why are you launching now?
Some may say we are too late, but I think now is as good a time as any. Five years from now might be a great time; five years ago was probably a great time. It is never too late, providing you bring something different.
One of the key pieces in our offer is an incredible recommendation and personalisation engine, as well as the customer journey we are building from the point of inspiration to making that transaction. If we do that right and build something that is up to the standards of Condé Nast, then we have a point of difference, so now is a great time to do that.
What about editorial independence?
For this to work, it needs to leverage on Condé Nast’s assets, which are the brands. But those brands are defined by their authority, so the editorial teams of the magazines need to do what they do best, and we need to keep that line. It’s not difficult if you are clear on who does what - we do magazines and have no intention of telling editors what to put in them. The second we do that, we start playing with the authority of the brand and shoot ourselves in the foot.
It needs to be built on their influence and knowledge of styles and trends, and we need to be inspired by them and use that inspiration to offer products to their readers and our customers. That line needs to be clear.
What trends are you seeing in online luxury fashion?
Over the past couple of months, there were three major announcements: the merger between Yoox and Net-a-Porter, Farfetch buying Browns, and Condé Nast launching Style.com as an ecommerce proposition. I think they represent a good summary of where the market is today.
The Farfetch and Browns deal underlines the clear trend towards omnichannel. The channel is no longer that relevant to consumers, which means you need to be able to address them anywhere.
The merger between Yoox and Net-a-Porter underlines that this market is absolutely huge, and is still growing. It adds to my earlier point that yes, this is a good time, because the market share the current players have on luxury retail is still very small and can still grow - and it will grow. We are just coming in and we will take part of that market share as we move into that space and expand.
The fact that Condé Nast is launching an ecommerce proposition is a clear message that content and commerce are very close to one another. We are trying to build an extension of that omnichannel value chain, because we can get the attention of the consumer at that point of inspiration and intention to buy and take them directly through the transaction.
Why are you launching in the UK first?
It’s home to the Condé Nast International headquarters and London is in the middle of everything - well placed for the US, Asia and Europe. It is a lot easier to travel from London
to New York and London to Beijing than between New York and Beijing. Also, we have the resources here and the tech and fashion scene is incredibly active right now.