LVMH and Vogue alum, Jessica Martino is no stranger to luxury. Having previously, and successfully launched digital lifestyle site, NOWNESS, Martino recognized an opportunity in the market for a truly personalized, luxury shopping experience – and took it. Last year, Clique Chic went live and luxury consumers all over the world breathed a sigh of relief. Clique Chic is a membership-only site designed to mimic the experience one might have while shopping in a high end, designer boutique, but online. The site currently offers Giambattista Valli, Carven, Peter Pilotto, Maiyet, among others. It will come as no surprise to us when Martino’s Clique Chic is the ultimate digital shopping experience.
How did you identify the need for Clique Chic?
I launched Clique Chic because being immersed in the luxury space yet coming from a digital background I found that luxury fashion e-commerce was primarily transacted in an environment where luxury brands were bought the same way mass market products are bought online. I didn’t feel that the standards of exceptional service, exclusivity and personalization that a top luxury customer receives in a brick and mortar store should be compromised online.
Was there a personal experience you had that led you to the idea?
It was a product of a number of experiences. When I left eBay and started working for LVMH I encountered more than one person who told me that luxury and digital just didn’t work together and I found that hard to believe having seen how many items were being purchased online and the success of brands like Net-a-Porter. It became a challenge to get buy-in to expand our digital offerings.
Furthermore, working in luxury and seeing how top customers experienced buying in store compared to the impersonal nature of browsing made me think there needed to be a solution that would improve the experience and would also solve major business issues (e.g., dealing with returns) and hesitations for luxury customers to consume online (primarily concern as to whether the item will fit). Personalization + excellent customer service can help solve that.
Are your customers women who are interested in fashion, but don’t have the time to devote to discovering brands and trying a hundred things on?
We see a mix of women using the site. Some are active shoppers in both physical stores and other online retailers, but appreciate the selection we have curated since we hold some brands that are hard to find. Some women are really drawn to the personal shopper aspect because they are extremely busy and want suggestions sent to their inbox rather than having to browse through hundreds of items.
How does the membership work?
To provide the personalization that luxury shoppers demand, we need information. We collect information in our online membership application that ranges from which brands you wear, your detailed sizes, color, and fabric preferences. Even before you make a purchase we have the ability to curate for you, and when you interact with us by letting us know what you like and dislike, (through the site or our live chat) and make purchases – we become even better.
What are the benefits of this community that outweigh a personal shopper?
Clique Chic is essentially a way for personal shoppers to service their customers online, we’re not a replacement for them. We have built a proprietary technology that allows personal shoppers/stylists to create looks for their customers online, in real time. We haven’t seen this capability anywhere else. So rather than going into a store or having your personal shopper show you items, or setting up a time for them to visit you at home, you can see the looks immediately on any platform (mobile, tablet, laptop).
Was it tough it get such established designers on board for Clique Chic?
It was certainly a challenge at first to get designers on board, given we needed to place our orders for Fall/Winter 2014 well in advance of the site being live. However, we were able to demonstrate our value proposition to them and to their potential end customers, and signed up about a dozen for our beta launch. Designers love the exclusivity of the site and the luxury experience we have created online.
How big is your team? What are the qualifications of your personal shoppers?
We have a lean core team that is devoted full time to Clique Chic, plus an extended team of partners and stylists that work with us. Beyond experience, servicing luxury customers our personal shoppers are intimately involved and close to the product. They all see the inventory in person and help us come up with the true sizing.
Are you still involved with NOWNESS?
No, I am not involved with NOWNESS and I am fully dedicated to building the Clique Chic business to be a successful, global brand. I still admire the NOWNESS mission and appreciate the quality of the content it delivers.
Why did you decide to leave the corporate world and launch an e-commerce?
I have always been drawn to entrepreneurship, and have worked for several startups including NOWNESS, which was really a startup from the ground up even though it was backed by LVMH. I also truly believed in the solution that I could bring to the problem of bringing the offline luxury experience to the online world, and given a market opportunity size of over $750 million it seemed like a good time to make the jump. Little did I know I would have my first child 5 days before our beta launch! It’s been a wild ride but so far I have no regrets.
Will you provide this service to men in the future?
We currently have men that are members – leveraging our service to shop for women in their lives. At some point in the future we will consider the opportunity of carrying menswear or other categories, but for now we are laser-focused on women’s clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry and accessories.
How do you see Clique Chic evolving?
I see Clique Chic expanding its membership and service to a true global audience by leveraging European, Asian and Latin American distribution centers. Emerging markets are clearly the growth driver of the future for luxury and we want to position ourselves properly to take advantage of that. More generally, our goal is to become the standard that luxury customers hold all e-commerce retailers and brands to.