• Anne Heaney, Director

Online fashion duke it out in a crowded market

Google “Balenciaga sock boots,” and a line up of different retailers arrange themselves on the results page, all offering the same item for the same price. If you have the $995 needed to actually make the purchase, you’d be faced with options to buy from Nordstrom, Net-a-Porter, Farfetch, Ssense, Bergdorf Goodman, Matches Fashion, or Balenciaga’s own e-commerce site, in that order.

Who ends up making that sale, and why, is a question marketers at emerging luxury marketplaces like Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and LVMH’s 24 Sèvres are fighting to solve. It’s crucial, since they’re largely competing on the same inventory, save a few brand or collection exclusives here and there.

As a shakeout approaches in the industry, who wins will boil down to two key competitive advantages: exclusive inventory and creating a unique brand experience.

Content for luxury retailers is so critical because, a customer will visit the site after a brand’s fashion show to learn about what’s happening in fashion. Then they’ll come back a few weeks later to shop for a different season. Then they’ll visit the brand when the product is released. Along the way, there needs to be inspiration, access to runway shows — what they’re looking for is proof that the site they’re buying from is even more embedded in the world of high-fashion than any particular brand is.

While these retailers navigate the luxury-level differentiation's in standard digital marketing practices, the most crucial way to catch and keep new customers is by offering them something nobody else has. High-end fashion has some particulars, of course.

24 Sèvres competes on exclusive product with a home-field advantage: LVMH brands Céline, Louis Vuitton and Dior all sell through its online marketplace, and nowhere else. Net-a-Porter, for instance, just launched an exclusive capsule collection with fellow LVMH property Fendi. Like with customer acquisition, these retailers are competing against each other on brand acquisition for exclusives.

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