My Work: Sarah Watson

Portrait of Sarah Watson of NET-A-PORTER

Interview: Haris Stavridis // Portrait: Courtesy of NET-A-PORTER

Could you please describe your current role? What are your duties?

I am the Vice President of Social Commerce for Net-a-Porter and co-founder of the Net Set, the company's first social shopping app. I am responsible for managing a team of nearly twenty people who look after everything from the strategy, build to marketing and brand relations.

What is your typical day at the office like?

I arrive at our offices in West London at around 9:30am and have a large coffee at my desk before starting the day. I split my time equally between working on the app itself (reviewing new features, working on improvements, and assessing performance levels) and on the app promotions, which involves overseeing brand relationships, the content calendar and the marketing schedule. I spend a lot of time meeting with different teams to discuss what we’ve done so far, analysing it and then deciding what we’re planning to do next. There’s a lot to think about everyday and I usually have to force myself to leave the office before 8pm.

Could you tell us about the company's new app, the Net Set?

The Net Set is Net-a-Porter’s social shopping network which unites social media, fashion and shopping communities in one place for the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. It instantly connects the most fashion-savvy personalities, style leaders, curators, designers and consumers in real time—inviting them to share their style, likes and inspirations and making it all instantly, effortlessly, and irresistibly shoppable—anywhere in the world on one single platform. Users can share and shop with our Style Council members, which includes some of the most stylish women, such as Poppy Delevingne, Julia Restoin Roitfeld, Laura Bailey, Julia Sarr-Jamois and more. They can browse and shop thousands of items from the world’s leading designers as well as upload and share their favourite imagery and create a stylish profile to showcase what they are loving.

What were the difficulties in setting it up and how would you like to see it evolve?

The hardest part was deciding when to launch it. We wanted it to be the best it could possibly be, but we also wanted to get it out to everyone so we could gather feedback and data.

What do you enjoy most in your work?

I love the variety, the fast paced environment and that I am able to work on something new everyday. As the Net Set is a brand new concept for the company, and for retail in general, there isn’t currently a benchmark to follow, so we have to be very nimble and reactive—this is where my team comes in, they are incredible and can turn things around very quickly if we need to.

Creating beautiful content is an important part of Net-a-Porter's marketing strategy. What are the current challenges in content marketing?

There are certainly challenges as the competition from other retailers is fierce. However, the explosion of content is a positive thing—our customers are savvy and they want everything quickly, anytime, anywhere and we are so proud that we can offer them this on all types of platforms, from social shopping via the Net Set to inspiring and creative editorials via Porter and the Edit.

Which channels do you find most effective/efficient when it comes to distributing the company's content?

All of our social media channels are great for sharing content and are incredibly popular; we have nearly five million followers combined across eight social platforms.

What kind of tools does your team use to measure the impact of the company's content?

For the Net Set, we use a host of analytic programs including Apple Analytics to track how people are using the app and the type of things they are loving and sharing. For Porter magazine, we are able to track how many people scan and shop from the pages via the Porter app.

What are the biggest challenges for luxury companies trying to offer an effortless mobile browsing and shopping experience to demanding customers worldwide? Can luxury truly fit into a small screen?

One of the biggest challenges is to ensure we understand individual markets and how customers prefer to shop in each country. We always aim to adapt the experience for each region globally. For instance, the language used, the user interactions and payment options all need to be tailored to a specific person.

When it comes to mobile shopping, our customers lead very busy lifestyles; they are constantly on the go and the one thing they are short of is time, so they have become accustomed to shopping for luxury items via their phones, iPads and Apple Watches. When we relaunched our shopping app in 2012, one of our first orders was for a £38k piece of fine jewellery. As devices continue to improve with crisper screens and those who have grown up using their mobiles come of age, we’re only going to see mobile browsing and shopping continue to explode.

In one of the interviews I did recently, push notifications were mentioned as the most underrated channel of e-commerce. What is your view on this and how could retailers benefit from them?

Push notifications are a primary form of communication for us. They work perfectly for social platforms, such as the Net Set as they are instant, bite-sized and timely. The most important thing to remember about push notifications is that they are personal so the blanket message approach is not appropriate. Unless retailers are able to use specific targeting for their push notifications, they will not necessarily see results from using it.

What are your three biggest headaches at work right now?

Time is always the biggest challenge and we always want things to happen immediately.

Could you please tell us about your business priorities for the next six months?

Growing the Net Set community and continuing to make it the most stylish social shopping network in the world.

Who would you like to recommend next for My Work?

Eva Chen, Instagram’s Head of Fashion Partnerships.

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