Tuesday, September 4, 2012
THE ART OF SHOPPING: A Spotlite on STEPHANIE PHAIR and KARI ALBERT of THE OUTNET
By Beth Melillo
(As seen in PMc Magazine, September 2012)
As Fashion week approaches, I’ve had the opportunity to learn all about THEOUTNET.COM and this convenient way to shop for designer runway looks and cutting edge label must-haves.
When I sat down to talk with them, Stephanie Phair, Managing Director, and Kari Albert, Vice-President of Global Sales & Marketing, gave me some great fashion insight on how to shop as well as the strategy of their success.
Beth Melillo: Congratulations on all the success of THE OUTNET. Please describe THE OUTNET and what this fashionable outlet offers your customers?
Stephanie Phair: THE OUTNET.COM was launched in April 2009 by the people behind NET-A-PORTER.COM and sells 250+ designer labels from previous seasons at up to 75% off, as well as exclusives made just for THE OUTNET customers. We edit collections carefully for our customers so that they only shop the best fashion that’s relevant, irrespective of the season it came from. We also show them how to wear it through cool videos and compelling fashion shoots.
BM: How would you position the convenience of shopping online today verse shopping in the stores? What do most do?
SP: In-store and online shopping both have their place. In-store is more occasion shopping whereas being online is woven into the fabric of everyday life. Whether or not you have a desk job, most people have access to a computer, so online shopping has become the way to shop for convenience and accessibility.
BM: Please tell us about the new luxury direction of your business and what makes the experience for your customers unique for an online shopping site?
SP: We realized quickly that our customers were affluent and happy to spend on great designer fashion providing it’s at good value. Our branding reflects the customers we have and also the caliber of designers we stock, which includes Christian Louboutin, Marni and Valentino.
BM: What are some of the luxury brands you carry besides Alaïa, Balmain, Stella McCartney, and who are your customers?
SP: THE OUTNET is known for stocking runway designers such as Balmain, Chloé and Stella McCartney, but customers can also shop cutting-edge labels like Jonathan Saunders, Peter Pilotto and Thakoon. We have buyers based in New York and London who attend the International Fashion Weeks and scour the world looking for the best labels to bring to our customers.
BM: I hear you were considered to be a designer discount shopping expert before THE OUTNET, how did that help you in building the direction of the business?
SP: I shop the way our customers shop. I love great fashion and brands at great value and at THE OUTNET we’re all about celebrating that.
BM: It’s become popular to buy designer at discount prices, please describe the creative strategy and process to pick the right designers and clothes to sell on your site and price range?
SP: Our buying team works constantly to discover designers our customer might want and edit product so that it is relevant to the season’s trends even though it is previous season. They look for pieces that have that emotional draw because it’s how our customer shops. We stock a range of categories to allow for head-to-toe dressing. Prices range from $15 for lingerie up to $6,000 for a Balmain embellished jacket.
BM: What are some of THE OUTNET’s new initiatives and what will we see next?
SP: We will continue to focus on providing our customers with outfit solutions by creating more How-To-Wear-It videos which are very popular and link directly to product sorted by occasion. More and more of our customers are browsing and shopping on their mobiles and four times as many sales are coming through iPads, so we are developing shopping apps to be unveiled later this year.
BM: Stephanie, you have been a leader in the fashion industry and recognized as a top director for your initiatives, what’s the one thing you have learned that stands out in your rising success?
SP: There are so many different jobs out there in fashion so if you want to get into the industry talk to as many people as you can because contacts crop up anywhere and you never know what path you might take that gets you there.
BM: What fashion advice would you give to your customer to follow when they visit THE OUTNET.COM?
SP: THE OUTNET is known for its editorial content which focuses on providing customers with outfit solutions. If you are shopping for an occasion and need inspiration then visit our “Dress Me” section which is the most popular area of the site.
BM: Kari, what is your role at THE OUTNET.COM? And how do you market to your customers during and after Fashion Week?
Kari Albert: My role oversees all consumer touch points for THE OUTNET, including marketing, public relations, and customer care. During Fashion Week, we attend the shows and leverage social media to bring a behind-the-scenes perspective to fashion lovers across the globe, and our customers, who span 170 countries. We give a peek into what is on the horizon for our customers’ favorite designers and we also host spectacular onsite events where they can snap up the best of their collections at an unbelievable price. Last Fashion Week, it was all about Stella McCartney to celebrate her presentation in London.
BM: In your opinion, what do you see most of your customer’s buying and why?
KA: Every woman loves shoes! And THE OUTNET is known for its shoe events. During our legendary Christian Louboutin event, we sold a pair of shoes every 3 seconds! We recently had an Alaïa shoe event and sold out of most of our stock in just a few hours. I think one of the reasons women buy shoes so readily, is that even if you’re not feeling your best, shoes ALWAYS fit! They make you look and feel fabulous.
BM: Please educate us on the latest launch of Pinterest what you like most about it?
KA: Like many women, I’m addicted to Pinterest! THE OUTNET has 8 Pinterest boards, with themes ranging from Date Night to Work and Weekend. Pinterest serves as our inspiration, as much as it inspires our customers and followers. It’s an unbeatable way to explore and share a passion for all things fashionable.
BM: Please tell me in your words how mobile & social media play a role in fashion when it comes to setting trends? How is this different today from past?
KA: Mobile and social media are game-changers when it comes to fashion and setting trends. Social media allows us to communicate trends to a wider, global audience, using images and video, in addition to editorial. And it’s interactive, so you know immediately whether something is resonating with your customer. Mobile shopping has taken convenience and access to fashion, to levels never been seen before.
BM: Please tell us what stands out most about your top tier customer care team?
KA: A lot of people are surprised to learn that when they phone THE OUTNET’s customer care, an actual person picks up on other end! The team is also fashion savvy! They know their boucle fabric from their cut-on-the-bias. If you need an expert opinion on fit, fabric, or styling, our customer care team can help. And with live chat, you can get answers to your questions while you shop online, without picking up the phone. No matter how you choose to reach out, they’re here 24/7.
BM: Any advice for your customers?
KA: Don’t be afraid to try a new designer or a brand. THE OUTNET has its own buying team who work directly with designers and brands like YSL, Stella McCartney and Diane von Furstenberg–but we also love to introduce our customers to up-and-coming brands, and designers they may not yet be familiar with such as Sara Berman and Karl Donoghue, who have each created exclusive collections of irresistible accessories and apparel especially for THE OUTNET. Bottom line: fashion is fun! So go ahead and try something (or someone) new!
BM: Thank you ladies, now let’s go shopping!
Stephanie Phair and Kari Albert are the Managing Director and Vice-President of Global Sales & Marketing, respectively, of THE OUTNET.
Stephanie Phair and Kari Albert interviewed by Beth Melillo
Written by Beth Melillo
Edited by Tyler Malone
Photography Courtesy of THEOUTNET.COM
Design by Marie Havens
Stephanie Phair and Kari Albert, Photography Courtesy of THEOUTNET.COM