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Net-A-Porter's evocatively named platform The Net Set launched last week.
It promises to be a ‘complete social network’ connecting you with your friends, brands, designers and style icons.
Features include being able to shop any item directly from the app, and if you upload your own style or outfit of the day, image recognition will find similar styles for you to shop.
It all sounds very impressive, from both a community and technical point of view. As I am of course the most sartorially-minded of the blog team (*hides ratty old hoodie in bottom drawer, puts on cravat*) it's up to me to take a look at the new network and see if interactive features like the ones mentioned above will lead to an exodus of fashionistas from Instagram.
Signing up is a breeze, it just takes six short (and skippable) steps, which are purely designed to personalise your experience.
So basically what you’re doing here is choosing which designers and style icons to follow (here it’s called ‘admire’)…
Which ‘Style Tribe’ to join (like a Facebook group, but for people who only like double denim, or wearing their trousers back to front), you can join as many of these as you like.
And you can build your own wishlist. Here it’s called the ‘Love List’.
These products are all available to buy in the app.
Your news feed can be found in ‘Browse’ and here you can see either everything admired by anyone on The Net Set, or just by those who you follow.
On every image there’s a clear heart-shaped button to add something to your wishlist.
It’s not all standard product pages though, users can also upload any image they like to the app.
The Net Set will then match this image to other similar products on the app, providing further opportunities for exploration.
I’m impressed at how well this works, especially with images that are less fashion based. An upload of a Mac keyboard for instance provides 50 results that are of a similar silver colour.
Much like Instagram if you were to add and follow hashtags it becomes an endless rabbit hole for you to wander around. Unlike Instagram though, the app does all the hard work for you, automatically.
Image recognition technology
This is the really fun bit. Uploading your own image or photo of your own style, which you can do from an existing image on your phone or take a picture using the app itself.
I’m going to use my colleague David Moth as a model, because I fear that the white tuxedo I wore to work today will surely cause the network to shut down.
You can upload this image to any of your style tribes, or just to the news feed.
As soon as it’s uploaded, you are immediately presented with suitable products and accessories.
I’m impressed by how fast and accurate the technology is, and this would be a great tool if you’re looking for an accompaniment to your style. Although at the moment it seems like it only matches the colour in the image exactly, rather than what is written in the text or finding complimentary alternative coloured products.
Click on any product image and you will be presented with a ‘shop this’ link.
You are then taken to a great product page where you can see various images of the item from all angles, as well as easy to use sizing options (I think I might have to go with a large) and a clear CTA.
Once you’ve added an item to your bag, you can either carry on shopping or head straight to checkout.
Here I am very pleased to see a ‘guest checkout’ option, which is great for convenience and speed. I’m also pleased to see it has entered my email address automatically.
My only disappointment is that the text entry fields are too small, and auto-fill hasn’t been turned on.
However there are lots of shipping options, varying from same day, nominated day or standard first class, all with clear pricing. Although I am surprised that for a jacket that breaks a four-digit price point that shipping isn’t free. Then again, if I’m spending more than a grand I probably wouldn’t really care about the extra fiver.
Then finally there’s a PayPal option, rather than having to put your card details in the fiddily text fields.
It’s a really fast checkout, with all the right convenience in place, it’s just let down by a lack of accessibility.
All in all though, The Net Set is a cracking social app, that uses technology in an entirely appropriate, helpful way and I would say that it gives Instagram a run for its money in terms of discovery and engagement.