CW500: James Christian, head of innovations at online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter

Businesses across all sectors are revisiting their web strategies to better communicate with their target audiences. In the latest CW500 Club meeting, web experts from different organisations shared their views of the next generation of the web and how it will affect businesses and public services.

In this CW500 Club video, James Christian, head of innovations at online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter, talks to Computer Weekly editor in chief Bryan Glick about the challenges posed by advances on the web and discusses the direction that online strategies will take in the next few years.

Read the full transcript from the video below:

CW500: James Christian, head of innovations at online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter

Bryan Glick: Hello. Welcome to the Computer Weekly 500 Club. My name is Bryan Glick. I am the Editor-in-Chief of Computer Weekly. I am here with the latest in our regular series of CW 500 Club videos, talking to some of our special guest speakers, who have been talking to our audience of IT leaders this month. The subject for the event this time has been looking at the future of the web. I am talking now to James Christian. James is the head of innovation at the online fashion retailer, Net-a-Porter. James. Thank you for coming along and talking to CW 500, very much appreciated.

James Christian: Sure.

Bryan Glick: You are obviously an online-only business; the web is everything you do. What are the big drivers that are pushing your innovations in the web at the moment?

James Christian: Net-a-Porter is quite a unique company because we are a marriage of content and commerce, so for us we produce video magazine content, so new ways to get that content to our customers on tablets and interactive TV are really interesting platforms for us; the technology and innovations within the technological landscape. For us, we are an in-house development team so we work very closely with the business owners, so it is also just developments within the fashion industry as well, and market opportunities. We are very responsive to getting our support platform we are building on.

Bryan Glick: When you are looking ahead to what is coming down the future of the web, what do you see are the most interesting technologies that you think are going to be really important to your business?

James Christian: We are looking at all the new enhancements and new features that the vendors are introducing into the browsers themselves and the web browser technologies. For example, file storage, improved performance, growth, and these are all built into the browsers and performance standards around it. For us, these are definite opportunities where we are pinning our hope on, we are really behind web standards and that is where we see the future going. We are trying to find opportunities, commercially, where we can be using this technology now, to future-proof us. Also, we find it very important, and we think social networks are going to become much more increasingly important to what we do and much more tight integration into our own site, as well. That is very important to us.

Bryan Glick: You are pretty advanced as web businesses go. Obviously, a lot of organizations are less well advanced and looking at so much going on in the web and wondering where to go. If you were talking to an IT leader from a business that was not as much of an early adopter as you, what would be your advice to them about the key things they need to be preparing for and planning for?

James Christian: I guess the key thing for us is we always want to make sure that what we are producing is going to be useful in a way, bringing the technology to the right platforms where our customers are and we are looking at how our customers want to interact with us. We definitely listen to what our customers want to do, we have customer insight teams and they feed that back to us. Making sure that what we are building is useful, making sure it is beautiful, and then deciding on the platform that is going to work well. While we are big proponents of HTML 5, CSS 3 and JavaScript, we do have an in-house team of mobile web developers, as well. Where it makes sense to develop something that is useable, and we will take advantage of a device; make sure you are picking the right platform, make sure you are bringing that experience to the right platform.

Bryan Glick: Good advice. Good luck with a lot of the great innovations that are clearly coming along in a business that has been a real success story over the last couple of years. James Christian, from Net-a- Porter, thank you very much for coming along and talking to CW 500 today.
That is all we have got time for in this video. Thank you very much again, for watching. I look forward to seeing you again in another CW 500 video soon. Bye.


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