WhatsApp to become gateway to online shopping

Online luxury retailer Yoox Net-a-Porter said
it’s developing technology to allow well-to-do
customers to buy products directly through
WhatsApp as the e-commerce market for
Prada and Versace goods becomes more

Yoox Net-a-Porter’s personal shoppers already
communicate with top clients via the text-
messaging service, and the Milan-based
company plans to expand its use of the mobile
app, Chief Executive Officer Federico Marchetti
said in an interview in London.

By becoming one of the first companies to use
WhatsApp to sell directly to customers, Yoox
Net-a-Porter is seeking a leg up on competitors
like Farfetch and luxury brands’ own sites.
Less than two years after leaving the company,
Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massanet
announced last week that she’s joining
Farfetch’s board, renewing her rivalry with
Marchetti, who created Yoox and orchestrated
the 2015 merger that created YNAP.
So far the fashion industry has been slow to
capitalize on the opportunity of messaging. In
China, the WeChat app has more than 700
million users — many of whom have their bank
accounts linked to the service. While 92
percent of global luxury brands use WeChat
for marketing, only a small proportion of them
sell directly through the app, according to
digital researcher L2.

YNAP, which sells $12,000 Oscar de la Renta
gowns and $7,000 Dolce & Gabbana handbags
via sites such as Net-a-Porter and the Outnet,
is trying to get in closer contact with big
spenders. About 40 percent of its higher-
margin in-season revenue comes from just 2
percent of its clients, which it has dubbed EIPs,
or “Extremely Important People.”
“We’ve made some of our biggest sales to EIPs
by chatting to them through WhatsApp,”
Marchetti said. He declined to give details on
how payment via WhatsApp would work.

Yoox Net-a-Porter is jumping on the
WhatsApp opportunity because Net-a-Porter’s
mobile customers place more than double the
orders of desktop users, and those purchases
on average are about twice as valuable. The
company is still testing its technology and has
no scheduled release date.
WhatsApp changed its privacy rules in August
to allow companies to communicate directly
with its 1 billion users as Facebook Inc. looks
to start recouping some of the $22 billion it
paid to buy the service.

Research firm Forrester has forecast the online
luxury market will more than double to $39
billion by 2021, but YNAP, Farfetch and others
are aiming for a growing slice of that business.
Farfetch’s sales are growing about 60 percent a
year, according to analysts at Exane BNP
Paribas. The company was valued at almost
$1.5 billion in a funding round last year and is
said to be planning an IPO. 

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