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Why 5 Carlos Place is Central to Matches Fashion’s Content and Commerce Strategy

Inside a five-story townhouse gracing London’s tony Mayfair neighborhood, nestled between affluent Hyde Park and the bustling West End, online luxury seller Matches Fashion has created what chief content officer Kate Blythe described as the “next frontier” of content. It’s an ambitious vision for a high-end retailer that still derives 95 percent of its business from e-commerce, Blythe shared with attendees at the WWD Digital Forum in New York City last week.

“In our next step forward, we’re going beyond digital to fuse it with a physical experience,” she said of 5 Carlos Place.

To be sure, Matches knows a thing or two about engaging customers via digital, thanks to a content team that grew from three people six and a half years ago to 70 employees today. “We act slightly like an agency within a business,” Blythe said, noting that content helps the retailer amplify its “fashion point of view.”

When it comes to types of content, there’s something for everyone, too, such as the Style Report magazine—one for men and one for women—that publishes 11 original stories weekly and is “core” to the overall content strategy, Blythe noted. Then there’s the Style Social—the combined Instagram and Twitter feeds where customers can share their outfit snaps—and a newer push into podcasting and livecasting. Rather than simply creating content for content’s sake, Matches can tie these efforts to the bottom line.

In short, content boosts customer loyalty, Blythe said, pointing to the website bounce rate trending “significantly lower” for visitors who’ve seen the brand’s content.

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Plus, she continued, it keeps them coming back for more, as two-thirds of all visits to content stem from returning visitors. Those who interact with content dwell on the dot-com longer than average and visit twice as many pages. “If we inspire our customers, they stick around,” Blythe said.

Despite its unsexy reputation as one of the main workhorses of digital marketing, email drives one-third of the luxury retailer’s business, according to Blythe, who said the company sends eight to 12 personalized, targeted emails weekly and drove an average open rate of 49 percent last year.

“It’s interesting to see how people are engaging with us and shopping with us through Instagram or Instagram stories,” Blythe explained, noting that The Style Social remains the “leading section for engagement” with users looking at 14 pages on average and spending three times as much time onsite as the average visitor. “There are so many new ways of shopping. But…that customer still loves to open email and shop direct from there.”

When executed beautifully, great content can provide that dopamine hit to the brain that stimulates shoppers to crave more and influence them to spend.

“Content provides an inspirational path to purchase,” Blythe said, “and customers are happy to proceed down that path.” Nearly one quarter (24 percent) of Matches customers who visit content make a purchase the same day, and overall, content shoppers’ average order value is 35 percent above those who are commerce-only.

“The value of our content goes even beyond these figures as content is often our customer’s first touch point to the business,” Blythe added.

Last year, Matches debuted another content program, this one tailored to the smartphone format. With more than two-thirds of traffic coming to the brand via mobile and customers who open the app returning on average 10 times per week, the content team realized “we need to bring native and regularly updated content to the mobile platform,” Blythe said, noting that the Style Daily serves as a sort of “daily briefing.”

What’s more, the “native reactive daily content platform” features an interactive chat-based format created specifically for iOS that’s designed to encourage visitors to read through to the conclusion of the Daily, which garners a read-through rate of 30 percent. When they get the Daily push notification on their phone, on average 56 percent of women and 46 percent of men open the app, Blythe added.

With its digital content strategy firing on all cylinders, Matches seized the opportunity to extend its vision into the real world in a curated, 7,000-square-foot physical space designed to foster community. Host to events, panel discussions, special installations, a supper club, podcasting studio and more, 5 Carlos Place is centered around “inviting customers to be a part of our world,” Blythe explained. “We leave it to our customers to choose which door they’d like to enter through.”

Matches collaborated with Prada and British set designer Robert Storey on its first installation, which showcased exclusive men’s wear and women’s wear pieces. The townhouse offers two floors dedicated to private shopping appointments in addition to another boutique-like floor open to all customers. Blythe said any product in its extensive collection can be ferried to 5 Carlos Place within 90 minutes. The townhouse has already played host to a slow fashion discussion featuring sustainability-minded Swiss designer Kévin Germanier and Livia Firth, founder and creative director of consultancy Eco Age, and British designer Richard Quinn is scheduled to share insights on his Spring/Summer ’19 collection this week. Everything is streamed live so that customers not fortunate enough to be present at the gracious townhome can experience it digitally online.

The result: “exclusive content with an inclusive spirit,” Blythe explained. “If e-commerce sites are online manifestations of stores, then 5 Carlos place is the reverse.”

With 54 “collaborators” from the fashion, dance, music, activism, food and interior design worlds invited to the space and 43 events lined up for the next two months, Matches’ townhouse is the manifestation of Blythe’s sentiment that “experiences are the new content.”

“Shopping becomes an experience; an experience becomes content; content becomes shopping, and the circle begins again,” Blythe said.