LONDON — “No one knows what the future will look like, so we will have to reinvent ourselves,” said Farfetch founder and chief executive officer José Neves, who thinks that every successful company should stay agile and ready to evolve every five years.
“You look at Facebook, you look at Google, at Amazon. What they are today and what they were 10 years ago is completely different. The same will be with us, and ideas can’t all be internal, the best ideas might come from outside,” he added.
That’s why Neves has been spearheading the Dream Assembly program, an accelerator for start-ups in the fashion and tech space. He introduced the third cohort on Monday in London, while applications for the fourth edition open on Dec. 17.
The start-ups participating in the third cohort have been using machine-learning and AI to deliver sustainability solutions or personalization services to retailers looking to modernize the in-store and online shopping experience.
“Last time, the applications were focused on sustainability, this time it was open to anyone in fashion and tech, but we stumbled upon a few start-ups doing amazing things on the personalization front. It’s incredibly relevant because you have the consumer becoming more focused on privacy, regulations are going that way as well, so it will be more and more important for retailers to have AI-powered, new generation personalization,” Neves said.
The seven finalists included Springkode, Change of Paradigm, Inline Digital, Mirow, Personify XP, Brandpoint Analytics and Becoco.
Brandpoint Analytics was among the start-ups putting personalization to the forefront, with a new approach that allows brands to select what data points they are most interested in, and consumers to select how much data they are willing to share.
Becoco shares a similar attitude and is working to bring personalization to retail, by using AI to enable retailers to scale their personal shopping teams and make the service, now reserved for VIP clients, more widely accessible.
“We believe 50 percent of retailers will disappear in 10 years. Those who survive are the ones giving customers what they want: personalization,” said the company’s founder Katharina Vandamme-Eybesfeld. “We listen to personalized music on Spotify, what a personalized movie selection on Netflix, so we want to bring this to retail too.”
Other participants include the Portuguese company Springkode, which wants to tackle global textile waste by giving garment manufacturers access to the unused textiles left in factories. Using the leftover fabric to create their own designs, manufacturers would then be allowed to sell their designs direct-to-consumer.
Change of Paradigm is positioning itself as the fashion industry’s go-to destination for 3-D content and virtual reality solutions. The French start-up, which has a partnership with Central Saint Martin’s college, has already worked with luxury brands like Lanvin. “We see 3-D as the connecting bridge between digital natives and fashion brands,” explained ceo and cofounder Henri Mura.
Mirow was another participant, looking to bridge the gap between e-commerce and in-store retail. It’s target? The fitting room. Customers looking to get an item in another size or color will just need to select from the smart mirror that doubles as a tablet. Starting with mass market brands, Mirow has already worked with Adidas, Theory and J.C. Penney and now have their sights set on the luxury sector.
Their smart mirrors have already been installed at the new Adidas flagship across from Selfridges in London.
Inline Digital is tackling the industry’s inefficient wholesale process, where buyers often have to spend hours placing orders manually. The company is creating a cloud-based wholesale ecosystem that would save about 70 percent of buyers’ time and allow them to book more one-on-one appointments during market season.
Neves highlighted that it’s key for Farfetch to continue this initiative, both to share the lessons he learnt during his own start-up journey but also for the retailer to keep up-to-date with all the latest innovations.
“We have the ‘Store of the Future’ program and other initiatives that are focused on ‘disruption innovation’ as we call it, in-house. But that has to be complemented by the eco-system and everything that is happening outside Farfetch,” he said.
“It’s a way for us to give back to the eco-system and share all the things we learnt in terms of raising capital, developing technologies, dealing with brands and boutiques. We made so many mistakes and learnt so many lessons we want to give back to start-ups, but we also received in return and being infused with this energy is something the team really appreciates.”
The retailer has ended up working with around 47 percent of the start-ups that take part in Dream Assembly; its most recent partnership including a tie-in with Thrift+ to encourage customers to consign pre-loved clothing.