Case Study – Yoox Net-a-Porter
Our experience in the retail world has been extremely varied over the last few years. Until the autumn of 2014 it had been confined to a number of high street retailers and FMCG businesses who happened to have an online offering. Their web presence was important, but it was not the thing upon which their success depended. Our experience developed significantly when we were approached by exclusively online retailer YNAP at the back end of 2014. This was an interesting prospect for us. On the surface of things it appeared to be uncharted water for bridge][ability. The conversation in our office revolved around the question “what, they have no shops; how does that work?”. However, after a short period of analysis of their requirement, it became reassuringly clear that what we do and what we pass on to our clients will work in any situation. Indeed our philosophy and what we impart, works in any negotiation…even on the telephone and via email!!
The rag trade is a cyclical world. Yes, fashions come and go with increasing frequency, but the nature and rhythm of the fashion world is relatively fixed. YNAP wanted us to work with their buyers to address 2 issues. First, their bi-annual buying excursion to the far east. In spring and late autumn each year, teams of buyers travel through China, India and Bangladesh sourcing for the following season/year. Secondly, their buyers would also need developing to better deal with some of the largest names in the fashion world. Names such as Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and Burberry all sell through YNAP. Consequently their buyers need the best price in order to maximise margin. Nothing unusual in that. Within the business it was commonly held wisdom that their buyers were not performing as well as they might due to lack of time in the far east and a belief that they were powerless when dealing with the likes of Jimmy Choo etc. The task for us was straight forward: they wanted to get more from their buyers in order that they could improve their margins. In short more for less. Fortunately that is the type if uncomplicated clear requirement that we thrive on.
We recommended a twin track approach that would develop their senior leaders and their buyers. Both groups had involvement at the coal-face, but on a day to day basis the junior buyers do most of the direct work with the supplier base. Due to the requirement we advocated that the senior team members attended our 2.5 day program; we devised a bespoke in-house program for the buyers.
YNAP’s senior team members attended our 2.5 day Advanced Behavioural program. This allowed them to experience an immersive environment away from the distractions of the office and alongside delegates from other businesses and different sectors. It also gave a detailed view into what their buyers would be learning and applying.
With very little time and huge numbers we were keen to put in place measures that would be assimilated quickly and deliver instant results. We achieved this through a combination of experiential training involving all the elements of the bridge][ability thermometer. This allowed them to asses the nature of their negotiations, regardless of where in the world they were taking place, prior to embarking on them. It was this knowledge that allowed them to better understand their world and take a view on all of the factors that were influencing success. Key among these factors and something that YNAP wanted us to address directly, was their staff’s assessment of relative power. Specifically, they wanted us to address the perception of a lack of power on their part. Power and the perception of it are 2 things that we at bridge][ability deal with on a daily basis. What we wanted the YNAP buyers to understand was that power is about perception, it is relative and it can be influenced by adjusting one’s behaviours during negotiation. Our methods are simple: we get people negotiating in the ‘safety’ of their chosen environment and give feedback via video recordings. In our experience a picture paints more than 1000 words. This type of feedback really impacts what people do in their negotiations. Most importantly when seeing yourself during a one to one negotiation you get a ‘warts and all’ view that all the verbal feedback in the world cannot convey. This impact is what gets people to adjust their behaviours, influence the other party and maximise potential success.
We realised that power was not going to be the only issue for YNAP. They also felt that their buyers were struggling to identify where they should have been taking a collaborative approach rather than a transactional approach and vice versa. This is where we returned to the benefits of the bridge][ability thermometer. This simple tool allows anyone to assess the nature of the negotiation they are involved with. By using it, YNAP staff could decide how they would approach any given situation and behave appropriately. We exposed them to a series of scenarios which allowed them to make the judgement call on the nature of the situation and take the opportunity to wok collaboratively (or not) with the other party. They made the decisions, we merely provided the questions for them to answer. After all we are not usually present when they are conducting their negotiations.
Well what started almost 4 years ago has continued ever since. We have worked across YNAP’s buying staff and continue to do so. From our detailed knowledge of the business it has been clear to us that their profits and the net value of the business have both exceeded expectation. Long may their success and our involvement in it continue.