Creative Roundtable: Net-A-Porter Shops for Men launches to mixed reviews 

RAM_roundtable_511Men haven't been treated like equals when it comes to buying high-end fashion online. In fact, they've been treated like second-class shoppers. Most of the upscale retail sites, including, have been created and designed with women in mind. But men want their Burberry, their Gucci and their Lanvin, too, and after a decade of catering almost exclusively to the ladies, Net-A-Porter has manned up and launched a separate site just for men.


Designed and created by digital agency Wednesday, which is part of the fashion and entertainment marketing outfit known as Saturday Group, and the in-house team at Net-A-Porter, fuses content, including style advice, interviews and video manuals, with commerce, selling clothing, shoes and accessories from more than 80 designers. The site aims to suit the fashion-savvy man who knows exactly what to wear as well as the dude who wants to look like a million bucks but needs direction.

So is MrPorter a perfect fit? OMMA had three digital creatives try the site on for size. Our panel is made up of The Martin Agency's Fabio Costa and Publicis Modem's Damian Claassens, both of whom shop online for clothing; and Digitaria's Daiga Atvara, who has had plenty of experience shopping for and observing the shopping habits of the men in her life.

What do you think of the look of

Claassens: The white space rule is what they're using here. They're getting out of the way of the clothes, which I think is right. You're here to shop. What's more important? The clothes or the Web site design?

Atvara: The design is beautifully done. The logo and all of that is very nice.

Costa: I like it. It's simple. It puts the images, the articles, the interviewers, the interviewees and the products front and center.

Let's go beyond the look.

Atvara: Design-wise, it's very beautiful, but there's no personality; nobody tells me what to do and you especially need that for men. It's almost like somebody has to pick the clothes for them and this site doesn't do that. It's way too passive. I would tell the story right away - why is this the right place for them. They need to be convinced right there at the entry.

Costa: We're all a little bit unsure, a little bit insecure about what to buy, how to wear it and how to put things together; they have style advice in the style directory. They have pretty much eight categories, from black tie to storage and upkeep. This content is funny and easily digestible. It should be bubbled up to the home page.

Claassens: I can't say they're breaking any new ground in terms of home-page content delivery, but once I start getting into some of the content in the style directory, it gets a little bit more interesting for me. They've got these great video manuals there. Why aren't they on the home page? We're in a digital environment where we can deploy interactive rich content like video, and this is entertaining, informative, rewarding content, and it's buried away.

So do you like the editorial content in general? Do you see a purpose for it on a shopping site?

Claassens: A lot of retail sites are driving you to the cart as fast as they can, where this site is taking more of a soft, boutique approach. You're browsing around, maybe through some editorial that gets you into the mood to buy a jacket. It's a more roundabout way of selling.

Costa: They're not only selling stuff. They are teaching you how to dress. It mixes gq and Esquire magazines. They're saying it's important not only to pay a thousand bucks for a suit but to teach you how to behave, how to put yourself together and how to go to a black-tie event.

Atvara: It's very confusing. What or who is their Web site for? Is it for leisurely reading? I doubt they're going to sell many clothes that way. If they really want to sell, instead of having people go to all these editorial sections, they need to put this content within a context, because there is no context right now. If I'm looking at a story on how to get a barman's attention, maybe there could be a link to a jacket you're trying to sell because that jacket is perfect for a party. The content shouldn't be removed from the shopping experience.

There is no denying that MrPorter has got some gorgeous clothes to sell. What do you think of the way the merchandise is presented? Are there any particular features that enhance the shopping experience?

Atvara: If you look at the clothing, you can see how it looks on a model. I really like that. Men need to see what it looks like on. What would make this even cooler is if it was on video, which is not that hard to do. The model could turn around and you could see better how it fits.

Claassens: I was looking at a pair of shoes and they did a toe shot. The toe shot is almost to size. You don't often see an image that large on a Web site. That's really helpful. Anything that you do with technology, whether it's the way you render images or the way you present information, which brings the user even closer to holding the product in their hand, how could that not be a good thing?

Costa: I second that. I was impressed by [how] close I could get and the quality was tremendously good. You could almost touch the leather, the laces.

Some of these clothes are expensive - even for a well-compensated digital creative director who has money to burn. A Gucci leather bomber jacket costs $2,750. Are men going to buy items like that online?

Atvara: If you're going to make it easy for them, if you're going to convince them, they will buy it online. Somebody needs to tell them they need it.

Claassens: Yeah, I might buy something. To tell you the truth, though, with these brands, I would find what I want on their Web site or another Web site and then I would find it as cheap as I could online.

Costa: I saw myself spending a lot of time in the jacket section, which leads me to believe that once I found an interest, once I found a category that I might be interested in, I might potentially buy it. I will come back here. What I like about the site is there is a little bit for everyone. The home page could be a little bit more appealing to help me go in, but once I'm in, once I pass the home page and I'm browsing and looking at stuff, it's delightful.

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