Federico Marchetti, founder and CEO of Yoox Group, has recently signed a merging with the Net-à-Porter.com Group (also see here) and joined the Altagamma luxury excellence group of companies. He participated in the launch of the Digital Luxury Experience 2015 study by Fondazione Altagamma/McKinsey telling about his experience.

How was your company born?
When I created yoox.com 15 years ago I wanted to give it a name that could be perceived like the name of some spaceship from Mars landing on earth. This way consumers from most different countries could perceive it as if it was originally from their own country. This way I could find different ways to meet desires, communicate and offer products that could match consumers of different countries. And this was also done later by opening single offices first in New York, then Tokyo, in China and Paris that could match each country's needs. And now, after this merging with Net-A-Porter, this can be amplified more internationally and locally at the same time while it can be expanded more in the US and Asia.

Your company offers different platforms and products – be it off price products, full price selections and partnerships for single brands. What makes the difference when serving a client? And how do you serve different age groups?
It is the client that makes the real difference, not the model.
I think that age makes no difference. When I go to New York I always like to visit a super-smart 95-year-old lady, Rosamund Bernier [editor's note: a world's glamorous lecturer on art and high culture], who decided to open up her wardrobe to younger generations. In her house she had a Kindle, an iPad and many other smart technical devices. I mean that we did and will continue doing many projects in order to serve the over-60s and also the over-80s and not only the very young.

What evolution did you see through the last 15 years? Did your customers change their shopping habits? How did, for instance, their average purchase change?
Our average expense is very stable and surprisingly slightly growing. We were very lucky – and also good at our job -, for instance, especially in Italy we saw a major attitude change thanks to iPhones. Since Italian consumers own more smartphones than the US ones, thanks to this Italians have started buying increasingly more via e-commerce, being among the first major spenders for this channel. Thanks to this we are accelerating our growth in Italy. In general the average expense of our customers is slightly less than €200.

For an e-commerce company as yours what are the major problems you have to face? Are consumers’ returns a problem?
For us returns are a marginal aspect because we behave well and collect good results. The main problem at the beginning were frauds. Some orders coming from the UK were made by digital criminals, but thanks to Scotland Yard we managed to discover who was behind that. Now we manage frauds through a dedicated task force.
Considering various problems companies could face when selling through the net, they shall always be more careful about whom they will be working with. What we did in the last 15 years was to sit on the side of the brand and try to protect each of them and help them increase their value. Such results can only be reached if you are dealing with entrepreneurs or managing teams of a company that has a long-term business plan. If an entrepreneur has short-term plans only focused on cashing in in fast times it can become very damaging. If you consider a brick-and-mortar store based in an important shopping street you can count a passage of about one million people passing by yearly and compare it with an e-commerce store, this can be visited by about 50 million people per year. One shall not be attracted by fast money making results because in case you do some serious mistakes, this could be amplified for long through the web.

There is a mushrooming of enterprises entering the fashion e-commerce marketplace. Take, for instance, Amazon.com entering the fashion business and Style.com debuting in e-commerce. Will so many “newcomers” change the rules of the market?
Amazon has little to do with luxury because it is a giant, though it is a generalist. Condé Nast is launching a venture that can help brands selling, though they won’t be buying products to be kept in their own warehouses. They will rather work as accelerators for brands’ sales. They all work according to different models than ours.
A much more important operation was the merging of two companies that have been rivals over the last 15 years – Yoox and Net-à-Porter – who together sell for about €1.5 billion. All this can make us hope that we can continue growing.