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Meet Ulric Jerome, the man behind Matchesfashion.com

Meet Ulric Jerome, the man behind Matchesfashion.com

The CEO talks with Buro 24/7 Middle East

Interview: Farouk Chekoufi


Image: Courtesy

Ulric Jerome holds one of the most covetable positions in fashion. Sitting at the helm of Matchesfashion.com, he is responsible for one of the world's largest fashion e-commerce sites. Here, he tells Farouk Chekoufi what that entails...

Any seasoned online shopper will be all too familiar with Matchesfashion.com. Ulric Jerome is the man at the helm of the company, holding the position of CEO for the past three years. Offering a standout selection of products from some of the world's best-known brands, as well as up-and-coming finds, the site is a favourite of fashion insiders across the globe (Team Buro included). Here, Buro 24/7 Middle East contributor Farouk Chekoufi speaks with Jerome about the company's growth, his current brand obsessions and what the future holds for fashion digitally...

Tell us a little about how you came to be the CEO at Matchesfashion.com?
I have a long background in e-commerce and tech and founded a community/social platform whilst I was at university. In 2001 I was a founding partner of PIXmania.com which became one of the pioneers of online retail selling a broad variety of products from home appliances to jewellery and watches. I joined Matchesfashion.com in 2013 as Chief Operating Officer, becoming CEO in 2015.

What does your average working day look like?
Yesterday I was in Milan meeting a few of our key designers, today I have met with the press, given them a tour of our office space here at The Shard in London, lead some meetings on key future projects and had my usual one-to-one with my direct reports. Over the next few weeks I will be in Paris, Munich and Florence. Every day is different but I always try to ensure I have time with the different departments at Matchesfashion.com, and I host a monthly breakfast for the entire team so I can keep them updated on our business developments.

Which brands are you obsessed with at the moment?
I like the sense of discovery that we create at Matchesfashion.com  every season we introduce a number of new brands and for fall we have over 60 new names across men's and womenswear. What I find interesting is how you can pick up a small brand with limited exposure other than at a local level and then launch them on a global platform. This summer we've seen huge success with a vacation brand Commas which was only previously available in Australia. We've also successfully launched The Innovators on womenswear where we curate smaller creative labels and this has resonated well with our customers.

How do you feel the luxury online retail industry has evolved since you started out?
In 2013 4 per cent of the global luxury fashion market was transacted online so we could see the huge opportunity. I think the main evolution now is that digital is the focus for all luxury businesses and that there is an understanding that the luxury shopper is very, very comfortable shopping at a time and location of their convenience via a mobile device.

As a digital business we have a wealth of data on our customer's shopping behaviour and this helps us predict everything from the sort of brands they might like, to the times they prefer to shop. This helps us provide the most personal luxury shopping experience.

Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Matchesfashion.com?
Matchesfashion.com started in 1987 as a single store, Matches, in Wimbledon, south-west London and quickly developed into a number of stores across west London. The website was launched in 2007, and in 2013 all platforms including the stores became known as Matchesfashion.com. Throughout we have been known for our unique and individual curation of our partner brands and also for the fact that we champion and nurture new and emerging talent. This has given us a point-of-difference in market and we continue to champion this spirit.

What are the key markets for Matchesfashion.com?
The US is now our biggest market, and the UK, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East are all key. Basically the opportunities are everywhere!

What do you know about your customers and how they shop?
As a digital business we have a wealth of data on our customer's shopping behaviour and this helps us predict everything from the sort of brands they might like, to the times they prefer to shop. This helps us provide the most personal luxury shopping experience.

What are some of the biggest business challenges you face in the online luxury retail sector in the Middle East? 
I like to think of challenges as opportunities but certainly our main HQ is in London so it is ensuring we are able to come to the market as often as we can, and also to look at what the Middle East customer expects in terms of delivery, how they prefer to receive the packages and how they want to communicate with us if they have a question. As a global business we want to ensure they have a personal service.

What do you do to stay innovative at Matchesfashion.com?
We are the most personal luxury shopping experience in the world today, and we put the customer at the heart of every business decision. When we innovate we keep this in mind recent initiatives such as The Style Daily gives exclusive content via the app not available on any other platform, and The Style Social is a hub on site which gathers the best social posts on Instagram and allows our customers to shop directly from them.

What is Matchesfashion.com's approach to dealing with the diverse needs of the shopper globally and specifically in the Middle East?
Firstly we have a broad range of designers from runway veterans through to emerging names and specialist designers. We also have studios such as Vacation Studio which are consistently updated with new product 52 weeks a year  we are not driven by one specific climate as was once the case in retail, and we have data which shows what sort of designers or products resonate in particular areas and this used by our buying teams when in market to inform how they buy and ensure each market is catered for.

We look at what the Middle East customer expects in terms of delivery, how they prefer to receive the packages and how they want to communicate with us if they have a question.

How do you feel customers have a luxury experience when shopping online?
I think it is the personal experience that makes it feel luxurious to our customers. It is the foundation of our business  curating the product selection, the right brand mix and inspiring content to amplify it and bring it to life. And then our technology allows us to talk to our customers in a personal, curated way.

What is your opinion of the "see now, buy now" concept?
I think most designers are maintaining the seasonal schedule, with additional Pre-Fall and Spring drops and this certainly allows us to plan more strategically with the buy.

Is social media important for the company's growth? 
As a digital business it is incredibly important. Social media helps amplify our key messages and it is often the first area where we announce a forthcoming launch or exclusive. It also allows access when we are on the road, during fashion weeks or at special events.

Do you work with influencers? If so, would you say these partnerships help in boosting sales? 
We have an editorial franchise Shop With... where we work with industry insiders and influencers who curate an edit and we find this resonates very well with our customers. We are also amplified across their channels which works very well in terms of customer acquisition  over a quarter of visits to the Shop With... pages are from new customers.

Where do you feel the digital age is taking us?
I think that for most people there is a convenience at the heart of the growth of digital —mobile makes up 51 per cent of our sales now, but at Matchesfashion.com we will continue to ensure that we balance convenience with the most personal shopping experience.

What are the future plans for Matchesfashion.com?
To continue to grow the business to scale whilst keeping the customer at the heart of everything we do. It's as simple as that.

Now, read our exclusive interview with the designers of new cool-girl label Colville, available on Matchesfashion.com.

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