It's a new year, so it's time for a new suit. Is it worth buying one online?

In this post, I'll look at my experience from a recent order from Mr Porter.

I’m not a habitual suit wearer (in fact, I have a tumblr somewhere displaying my massive collection of thrash metal t-shirts), but I am the latest member of the Econsultancy team to be planning a wedding, so it’s time for me to suit up. 

I originally planned on a bespoke outfit, but the cost of having mini-hotdog hors d'oeuvres being what it is, I’ve instead decided to go for an off-the-peg designer option and have my tailor make a few tweaks.

With that in mind, I thought this would be a good opportunity to look at how high-end online retailers carry out their fulfilment. 

After much research, Mr. Porter seemed like the best option for me. Useful advice, clean interface and a good reputation.

First of all, let’s check out the site:

Currently there's a sale on, so I thought I'd take advantage of this and happily browsed the bargains before stumbling on this saucy number from D&G.

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0005/8462/porter_2-blog-flyer.png

Sleek, not too flashy, and hey, it's half price, so even if it’s not right it will still make a nice addition to the business section of my wardrobe. 

The order process itself is fairly straightforward. Add to basket and provide an email.

I can now check out, and am automatically sent an account number during the process.

I’m also sent regular email updates about my suit’s progress through the mail until it arrives, box-fresh and fancy free at the gleaming reception of Econsultancy Towers. A commendably painless process. 

Unboxing

Now the real challenge.

Unboxing a luxury product is all part of the experience. To add to the challenge I deliberately chose the most basic packaging option.

While there may well be a top 1% of VIPs ordering £500 brogues every week, I am not one of them, and I suspect the majority of the site’s customers also fall into the ‘occasional treat’ category, who aren’t particularly likely to shell out for extras unless they are buying a gift. 

With that said, I’d still like a little bit of luxury. So it’s a shame that I’m given bog-standard brown box packaging.

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0005/8466/porter_4-blog-flyer.png

After hunting through a mountain of reassuringly black tissue paper I uncover the suit, clad in a branded Mr. Porter bag, replete with a ‘Mr. Owen’ label on the front.

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0005/8468/porter_6-blog-flyer.png

It’s cute, but it doesn’t really scream ‘once a year at most purchase’. I am admittedly making some assumptions here, as I did purchase from the sale, but if I’m shelling out north of £1,000 for any piece of clothing, I’d expect a ribbon at the least. 

Buried among the tissue there is a small ‘welcome pack’, with a high-stock booklet full of FAQ answers, and a I’m also gifted a free pocket square. 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0005/8467/porter_5-blog-flyer.png

It’s a nice freebie, but again, it doesn’t seem like the packaging represents the high end of the market. Mr. Porter states that by default, all clothes come wrapped in a ‘trademark white box’, and while I have been provided with a carry bag, a little bit of ribbon might make things feel more special. 

Overall it feels as though personalisation is lacking. Rather than a card booklet, a personalised letter would create a better feel. It’s the type of detail you expect in a high-end retail store, so it should be duplicated online. 

Returns

Now, as it turns out, I am a man-mountain of terrific proportions, so choosing ‘tailored for a particularly close fit’ was perhaps not the best choice. The suit itself is lovely, but I look a little too much like an over-stuffed black pudding when I put it on.

Not quite the look I wanted

Not quite the look I was going for.

After browsing the site I find a Givenchy suit that looks like a good second option, and decide to take advantage of the 28-day returns policy. 

Ideally, I’d like to simply swap one suit for another, and pay the difference, but this isn’t an available option, as exchanges are limited to a different size of the same product.

While this is fairly standard, it would be extremely useful to be able to swap items in this way.

Store credit is also available, but as many of the styles on offer aren’t always available (if they were, I’d be wearing Wooyoungmi) there’s a certain amount of created scarcity influencing my need to purchase. 

I am however offered a ‘it’s not for me’ option, but choosing this means I have to make one return, wait for my refund, then choose another suit.

I didn’t want to risk losing my second choice so actually bought it – thank you wedding fund - but many customers may not have the spare cash lying around when it comes to major purchases like this.

In their earlier email, Mr. P has sent me detailed instructions on how to return items, but to me this seems a rather convoluted process.

Firstly I need to log into my online account and claim a returns code, and then I need to call the courier and arrange a pick-up.

Couriers being what they are this is a rather long-winded process, with pick-up promised ‘before 6pm’. That’s a six hour window, so not the most convenient. 

It feels as though this is something that would be better handled directly through Mr. Porter’s site, and rather than having the customer fill out delivery documents, a simple printed returns label with a courier reference number should be included in the original package. While I appreciate the logistics involved, it’s the kind of customer service that should be expected at this level. 

Overall it’s not a particularly bad experience, but there are ways this could be improved that would help make it feel truly special.

For online companies, fulfilment is the most important customer touch point, and it’s one of the only ways pure plays can differentiate themselves from their competition.

For multichannel retailers, the rise of click and collect may mitigate this somewhat, but it can’t be assumed that you’ll ever have an opportunity to speak to customers in person. It really does pay to make delivery as personal as possible, and while dealing with third-party couriers can create logistical issues smooth out the returns process.

Matt Owen

Published 22 January, 2015 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

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S Patel, Ecommerce Marketing Manager at Ecommerce Marketing Manager

Matt
Excellent article, and one where you've nailed why I've pretty much stopped ordering anything from the entire netaporter group.

its the netaporter group's returns process that i really hate.
And yes, if I'm spending £500 on a dress I expect it to fit - and yes, I reserve the right to rerun it. And I expect a hassle free returns process.
Who has time to sit round waiting at home for a few hours for a returns pick-up? During the day I work in a busy large office, and I don't want our work receptionist to have to deal with such silly things like handing over my personal netaporter returns to carriers.

DHL is their standard postal carrier - in my "consumer" opinion the worst delivery carrier I've ever experienced. Yes, netaporter also have their own delivery network, but I've never find them to be a better option than DHL.

I very much doubt that netaporter are worried about losing my business as I've never exactly been one of their top spending customers, but I find it truly baffling why they don't resolve their poor returns process

70% off the netaporter catalogue is available from the likes of Selfridges, Liberty's and Harvey Nicols.
They all have click & collect, and a hassle free returns process direct at store level, with no waiting around for a carrier pick-up. That's where I've taken my business.

And this isn't an isolated incident. Many of my friends have also stopped/limited their purchases with netaporter because of their poor returns process.

almost 3 years ago

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