Michael Kliger, president and CEO of Mytheresa, the Munich-based e-tailer, reveals the secret to dealing with the speed of consumption and how to have a global (and happy) consumer base in the luxury market.
“In today’s fashion world, we must be aware that our customers don’t need what we sell, but with our experience we make them desire that,” Kliger explained exclusively to Nowfashion on the occasion of the launch of the new chapter of the JW Anderson collaboration. He joined the company int 2015 and rocketed it into a constant growth, turning it into one of the most influential e-commerce businesses. Last year, company growth hit almost 25%, and the forecast is even better for the future. In fact, the business will be expanded with the launch of the menswear collection in January 2020, with 120-130 international luxury brands already participating in this first stage, along with a long-term goal of having menswear make up around 35% of the whole business later on. The website was first launched in 2006, and in 2014 it was acquired by the American group Neiman Marcus.
“Luxury is a very interesting business because, in the end, no one needs those products, but a lot of people want it. There is a big difference between needing and wanting,” Kliger explained. It’s the alchemy of the impossible: to make people desire expensive objects they don’t need, but the dreams that companies and retailers create around their collections is the fuel that makes this world flourish. “We sell pride, success, and youth along with the garments; the customer wants to show how stylish, cool, and outstanding they are – and this is the secret to gain their trust. Of course, our clientele is made up of very savvy women that understand fashion and are capable of buying it; this is what luxury is about. Also, we, as professionals, know everything in advance, but passionate female customers outside of the fashion industry are bombarded with style information, although they don’t know exactly what is or will be on sale.
Until now, Kliger has identified women as their potential ideal customers, but from the start of next year the menswear will become a new part of the Mytheresa business. “To decide men’s positioning, we paid attention to the last 10 years that were dominated by sportswear. This gave more energy and excitement to men’s,” Kliger observed. “Men are more aware and interested in fashion than before, and this opened up a new segment that will be our target. I would describe the Mytheresa man not as a kid, but a grown up one between 25 and 45 that wants classic luxury and well-manufactured products but with a fashionable touch that goes beyond the perfect suit or pair of leather shoes. They would be all well-advanced in their careers where expressing themselves through the look is part of their work. We have the same mindset and that’s why we are interested in being their shopping partner. Also, Asia is very interesting for our business; men are even more interested in fashion there.”
Of course, among the Asian markets, China is the most tantalizing for every Western company; but Kliger speaks in a rational manner about those business opportunities. As opposed to some other Western fashion companies, he is aware that it’s a very different culture so it’s important to build a dialogue that both parties equally understand. “China was a very poor country in the 50s, and in no time – as 50 years in history is really not so long at all – they became one of the most powerful countries with around 150 million rich or super rich people. It’s a huge success story of discipline, work, ethics, and an amazing level of ambition. Today, there are people whose parents were still hungry when they born, and now they can afford a better life, including opportunities for travel and studying abroad,” Kliger explained. “It’s an impressive culture, and you can clearly see how, in the beginning, they were looking for the staples of Western consumerism. But now you can clearly see that the new generation is moving back to their own heritage – Chinese culture and history centuries ago – rediscovering their incredible knowledge and the beauty of their craft, all of which is blended in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. We have a huge consumer base there that is very luxury-oriented, very visual; they like embroideries and colors, and we are constantly working on keeping the conversation alive in order to better understand their unique needs: they have developed a totally separate way of consuming, using Weibo, Alipay, WeChat Pay – all social platforms that we don’t use, but we must be open to embracing them.”
China has initiated a speed of consumerism that is not comparable either in terms of timing or quantity, but also globally everything seems to be pointlessly accelerated. “I can’t say that this fast society is good or bad, but for sure it’s the big challenge of today,” Kliger stated. “More and more women are becoming entrepreneurs; they work and they have families, so for them, in a way, it’s not important anymore to go to the store. And this is a growing segment and part of the business. We want to make her shopping life easier in order to help her to find what to buy.That’s why our website’s conception is easy and fast for the users: our goal is that if you order before 5pm, you will receive your purchase the following day (so far Within Europe & US Eastcoast and Express shipment) and we have a high 90% achievement level for that. As a working person, I can say that waiting is not accepted anymore at a certain level. I strongly believe that the better way to do this is to have a particular point of view regarding the editing and the curation of the selection of our products. You must propose the best on the market in a limited choice, which doesn’t mean lacking in the available offer, but better and more focused proposals as the result of a pre-selection process completed by the buying team. This is why Mytheresa has become unique.” So, the combination of trust and surprise is the way to cement customer retention: if you constantly offer them something new, you can create an addiction. And this addiction is one that makes people buy what they don’t need. So, the magic is accomplished, and the consumers will want what they don’t need.