The battle of online shops for handbags

I wonder how many Net-A-Porter and Farfetch marketing and ecommerce team members are visiting London Tech Week for inspiration and ideas on how to remain ahead of Amazon Fashion?

Much has been written about Amazon’s progress into the world of fashion including the recent launch of its own fashion label Find, by industry’s press Drapers.  However, most would agree that when it comes to finding that covetable designer item, Net-A-Porter and Farfetch are the top destinations. 

Whilst these ecommerce retailers take slightly different approaches to their businesses, both sit firmly in the luxury end of the market; Net-A-Porter describes itself as the world’s premier luxury fashion destination, Farfetch says it is evolving from its position as offering ‘the greatest selection of luxury’ to one of ‘creating the retail experience of the future’.

How different are they in reality and will Amazon find it easy to catch up? Well these two luxury ecommerce retailers have been put to the test on their shopping experience for designer handbags and the results are in:

Homepage navigation

One can estimate that at around 50% of shopping experiences start on a website’s homepage.  Net-A-Porter with its magazine inspired website versus Farfetch’s undeniable shop style does get an extra point for having a bag related feature on the homepage. Both provide one click to the bags section via the main navigation bar.

Drop down menu

From the navigation bar you can filter what type of bag you are looking for on both sites. So if you are in a hurry, you can select the style of the bag without leaving the homepage. Net-A-Porter goes a little further to help you view what’s new.  However, Farfetch offers quick links to bags in the sale and to laptop bags – for those who want a designer bag for work.

Product range

Farfetch is in the lead by quite a way when it comes to choice or volume of handbags.  At the time of shopping, Farfetch featured over 11,500 handbags and Net-A-Porter offered over 1,600.  To note, both include accessories which does include such items as wallets, purses and keyrings.  Is there a discussion to be had about quality versus quantity?


Net-A-Porter has over 100 handbag designers and Farfetch features bags from over 250. However, there could be some inflation here as Farfetch does detail out the diffusion ranges, for example, Comme des Garçons Girl, Play, Shirt, Wallet are all listed separately. This is where both sites are leagues ahead of Amazon with the reputation of designer and their number.

Shopping searches

If Farfetch didn’t offer the increased number of ways to filter your search results, I would say that Net-A-Porter’s less is more is a stronger proposition.  However, I was quite surprised that Net-A-Porter didn’t offer a search refinement for the bags that could be delivered same day or even next day in London.

By brand

To get a feel for product display, I shopped the same bag on both sites.  Both have the same number of product images – five.  Take a Chloe bag I have to say Farfetch does steal inspiration from Net-A-Porter’s magazine theme and delivers a page with much larger product images.

Chloe bag on Net-A-Poerter
Net-A-Porter display for Chloe Drew Bag


Chloe bag on Farfetch
Farfetch display for Chloe Drew bag

By bag type

This is where Net-A-Porter is a much better experience.  Take a search for a tote bag, 360 tote bags on Net-A-Porter and over 3500 bags on Farfetch!  The definition of a tote bag needs refinement on Farfetch – for most of us a tote means a larger bag, open at the top, used for carrying more than a couple of items.  Disappointed to have to wade through many bags that aren’t really a tote, such as a Dolce & Gabbana Red Lucia bag (see article header image).

By trend

I’m sure we have all come across an article about this summer’s trend of straw bags such as Harpers Bazaar who reports that it is the essential summer accessory.  Surprisingly you can’t use the vertical filter bar on either website to find straw bags.  Top tip, use the website-wide search bar at the top of the page in the main navigation and you can get to results on both sites.  But why?

Overall, both Net-A-Porter and Farfetch have a healthy distance between them and Amazon.  However, both could do with keeping their customer experience first class to keep their positions.  Net-A-Porter would benefite from offering more ways to refine or filter a search – to start with, their often promoted delivery services (who has spotted a Net-A-Porter sponsored black cab in London).  Farfetch might like to refine their product labelling to clear up some of the overwhelming number of bags that don’t quite meet the shopper’s criteria – tote bags is a good starting point.

Net-A-Porter needs to keep to a strong point of difference as the retail landscape evolves; with news today from the Business of Fashion of Condé Nast joining Farfetch to replace and Amazon’s unstoppable desire to dominate all areas of online retailing.

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