In 2008, Portuguese founder José Neves launched Farfetch as an ecommerce portal for luxury brands and boutiques to elevate their online presence and maintain their independent retail footprint. Since then, the brand has quietly been crafting a path for future innovation in commerce in the most holistic fashion. At the FarfecthOS event at London’s Design Museum in April the brand unveiled beta plans for a ‘Store of the Future’ platform. Currently housed in a basement in the London Borough of Hackney the platform is all about augmented retail—bridging the world of online and offline and improving retail productivity. It’s about marrying the speed and convenience of online shopping with the personalized aspect of smart retail.
“Physical retail accounts for 93 percent of sales today, and even with online growing at fast speed, it will account for 80 percent by 2025,” Farfetch founder José Neves stated. As a big proponent of brick and mortar, Neves takes the stance that it’s not about online or offline, or even omnichannel, but instead augmented retail.
Even in beta stage this platform is taking shape to help redefine retail. Sign-in stations use data collected online to enhance the in-store experience. When customers enter the store their unique shopping profiles are culled up using a smartphone scanner presenting previous online activity, browsing preferences and history. The information captured in-store then helps to inform future online purchases.
Connected clothing racks using RFID technology capture product interaction information every time an item is picked up from a rack. Stored in their phones, customers can make a simple swipe right or left to modify if they want to keep the information associated with their profile.
Touch screen enhanced mirrors allow shoppers to view their online wishlist, request items in different colors and sizes, and even make mobile payments. Holographic displays offer a personal customization station where they can select various leathers, skins, and colors for Nicholas Kirkwood shoes.
Beyond the customer facing elements, the platform is designed to help better manage inventory, order fulfillments, and in-store returns. And while there’s much debate and discussion in the industry about the replacement of retail labor with technology and robots, Feves argues the point that Farfecth’s platform is really about removing the tasks that associates shouldn’t be doing, like checking if a product is in stock in the backroom. Those tasks don’t empower the employee, but instead take away from the customer interaction. It’s about shifting the employee role from “inventory control” to “in-store influencer.” Understanding that no two brands are the same, retailers can also pick the tech integrations that make sense for their business.
The most interesting element about the positioning of the platform is that they’re creating an ecosystem for future innovations. “It’s a bit like an operating system for a shop — you build the apps,” says Feves. The tech company doesn’t want to exclusively own the platform, but instead encourage a future proof platform design with involvement from start-ups and other brands to build upon. With Farfetch working with other brands and partners to continually build this evolving system, it helps to ensure that everything cohesively communicates with each other in-store and online, one of the biggest issues with currently implementing in-store technologies.
The concept will launch this fall as London-based fashion brand Browns opens its first-ever NY flagship with designer Thom Browne known for high-end bespoke suits and separates. Beyond that the brand plans for a bigger rollout to follow in 2018.