Ruth Chapman is a trailblazer. The founder and CEO of British fashion boutique Matches successfully turned her bricks-and-mortar store in London’s Wimbledon into a global online business.
What began as a humble designer boutique is now at the forefront of fashion e-commerce, with 11 stores in London alone and a website, matchesfashion.com, that ships labels including Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Erdem and Givenchy to nearly 200 countries worldwide.
Chapman is in Melbourne for Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Business Seminar where she will discuss the tricky art of balancing the online and offline shopping experience, how to build a brand and the future of e-commerce.
“The question I get asked the most is how best to synergise the online and offline customer experience, which is something that is incredibly important to us,” she says.
“We want our clients to experience the same seamless customer service across all of our channels, however they engage with us and wherever they are in the world.”
After seeing which way the wind was blowing, Chapman launched the online version of Matches in 2007. Her online services – weekly editorials and newsletters, real-time stylist advice, detailed product descriptions and size-conversion charts – have since been adopted by many other fashion e-tailers.
“The exciting thing about online retail is you can be much more reactive. You can look at a customer’s journey on the website to gain an understanding of the products they’re engaging with and respond quickly,” Chapman says.
“’But our stores are still an essential part of our DNA. I believe online and offline really can work successfully together.”
Australians have a huge appetite for international online shopping, but when asked about the impact it’s having on Australia’s local industry, Chapman was optimistic and full of advice.
“’We’re living in a constantly changing global retail landscape, and five years from now it will look completely different again,” she says.
Ruth Chapman is in Melbourne for Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, where she will be speaking as part of the Business Events Series. For the full list of events visit vamff.com.au