Specialty Retailers love to tell you how "special" they are. However, from the customers perspective, what makes a retailer "special" is the meeting your clientele's expectation of being introduced to genuinely unique merchandise, artists or designers, and on a fairly regular basis.
While cost-effectiveness virtually prohibits brick and mortar retailers from really knocking your socks off each time you visit, I am perplexed as to why more of them opt not to use their online presence to do just that, showcase something new.
Today I would like to share a couple of websites I visit often, CoutureLab and Portero. While they both speak for themselves aesthetically, I would like to share a few thoughts on why they both work exceedingly well from a (repeat) business perspective.
CoutureLab is truly one of the most unique and satisfying retail destinations on the web. If you need a gift for the person who has everything, well don't buy that person anything! If you seek a special "job well done" gift for yourself, or for that very special someone in your life, CoutureLab is your destination.
Upon entering the website you start to get a sense that something, both unusual and fascinating, is one click away. Not because you hear the thumping soundtrack of a famous DJ's techno-remix, or the page somehow sways like wheat fields in a windstorm. No, the power in this site's introductory page is it's immediate insistance that "this will be different." Right on page one you are told the site offers custom pieces from their formidable stable of artists and designers. All the while images of unique, one-of-a-kind merchandise flies across the screen before you can fully grasp how awesome they are.
After choosing from a broad range of categories, you are instantly (and I mean INSTANTLY) aware that your are at a destination with an well-edited assortment of artisans unlike anything you are used to. Each page screams "I want it all". From the Bottega Veneta double-flap briefcase to Vincente Gracia's nest and serpent ring , the amount of care, patience and craftsmanship is readily apparent.
The CoutureLab site also offers many different views of each item, a full, detailed description of the merchandise (and artist most times) and one of the best zoom features I've ever played with.
But the true strength of CoutureLab is.... they are always FRESH!
The first button you can click on the first page of the website is literally "new." And while lots of websites offer that feature, few deliver on the promise as frequently as CoutureLab. My faith is rewarded on each visit by an item I have not seen, or perhaps, a new artist or designer I have not heard of before. I am sure you will admit that being first in your sphere of influence trumps just about everything else.
CoutureLab delivers on the promise by rewarding me each time I take a gander to their site. This, most certainly, is a site you should be visiting on a quite regular basis.
Next up is Portero, or what I refer to as Me-Bay. That's because it is an eBay designed for the likes of Audrey Hepburn.
Now the founders of Portero knew very well, the leviathan that is eBay, sold everything under the sun when they decided to start this company a short three and one-half years ago. The also knew eBay sold almost every luxury goods label imaginable. But what the Portero team understood that nobody else knew then (or really even now), is that luxury can never be luxury if sold next to knock-offs, or amongst disreputable vendors.
So that is what Portero offers, AUTHENTICATION!
That cannot be overstated in the circus of today's online retail marketplace. Every item sold on Portero is certified as authentic by an in-house category specialist, or in some instances, a certified vendor. So gone are the days of finding out your Louis Vuitton wallet purchased for $7.45 for is not the real deal when you take it to the store for a repair.
Enter the Portero website and you are jaunted to attention. "I'm sorry, does that say Picasso for sale?", you think before the page even finishes loading. Indeed it is. This is your immediate signal indicating you are somewhere special, where luxury means luxury.
You are then directed to choose a category, at which time you are inundated by the biggest names in luxury: Hermes (yes croco Birkins live here), Judith Leiber, Dior, Cartier, Chopard, Bulgari, Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Baccarat and Lalique. That warm sensation becomes hot flashes as you start to notice the prices. Yes, that is a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust in black and stainless steel on bid for $2975, a full 40% off it's retail price of $5550! Yes, that is a Gurhan 24k Yellow Gold Hammered Marquis Pendant necklace on bid for $725, less than half the regular retail price of $1760! Two great examples of why this site is one of the fastest growing entities on the web, for those in the know are aware that rare are the times you'll find Rolex or Gurhan at a discount. Yet here they are.
And therein lies the allure of Portero. A steady stream of new additions to their pre-authenticated auction inventory. The best names in luxury, all new or gently used and at a tremendous discount. You are now forced to visit on a regular basis, lest that Chanel Large Black Caviar Leather Tote going for less than half-price is still there. Thus, Portero is always delivering on the promise, of sustained renewal.
These are two retailers getting the most on two important fronts, repeat business and word of mouth. Each exceeding the expectations of their clientele on every visit with something fresh, new and exciting. A business model that can be applied quite easily, given the proper motivation and leadership.
Now that is what I call "Special."