LONDON — Farfetch.com is moving into Apple and Google territory with plans for a by-invitation-only event aimed at touting its consumer-centric innovations and new technologies for brick-and-mortar retailers.
FarfetchOS will take place on April 12 at the new Design Museum here. Some 200 guests, including brands, retailers and other members of the industry, will be invited to the free-of-charge, one-day event organized by Farfetch, a platform for luxury, multibrand independent retailers and stand-alone brand sites.
In an exclusive interview, Farfetch founder and chief executive officer José Neves said he thinks of FarfetchOS as something new — not a pure sales conference and not a thought leadership one either. “It’s a different type of hybrid. And hopefully it’s going to be exciting,” he said, adding that he’d like the event to be annual, and the aim is to keep it small and intimate. “We want to make it a decision-maker’s event.”
Neves, who founded Farfetch in 2008 as an international digital sales platform for brick-and-mortar fashion retailers and who has since expanded into building and hosting stand-alone e-commerce sites for brands, said he’s aiming to do for the fashion and luxury industries what Apple and Google do for their constituents.
“We are a platform, for the whole industry, for brands, boutiques, retailers — and customers, obviously. If you look at what platforms do — companies like Apple or Google — they announce their new services to tech communities. Why shouldn’t we do the same?
“We’re launching novelty products, software, highly revolutionary initiatives, and we’re doing it with some of the world’s leading brands. We want the world to know about them and we also then want to put them into context. It’s really about raising awareness and launching new products and services, in partnership with major brands,” he said.
Farfetch has a $1 billion-plus valuation, and prides itself on innovation, in particular its efforts to knit together online and in-store experiences for the customer. At the same time the company purchased the London retailer Browns, it also unveiled its Store of the Future project, a new business division dedicated to enhancing physical stores’ offer using the latest technology.
Farfetch will also be working with Bain & Co. on a study, with the conclusions to be revealed at the conference. Bain speakers will also be talking about what the future holds for the next three to five years in luxury fashion. There will be a keynote speaker and an industry panel, while Neves will talk about the ways in which innovation is shaping the industry.
Neves said there’s going to be a Store of the Future installation and demonstration so that people can interact with the new Farfetch technology, which he described as “consumer-centric.” He said, ideally, the event will be live-streamed.
“We will be talking about what services the luxury industry must be providing to this new consumer so that we all stay relevant. How can we, at Farfetch, be part of that, together with the brands?” he said.
The timing could not be better: An overriding theme to emerge this year on many a luxury conference call has been brick-and-mortar performance.
Earlier this year Kering ceo François-Henri Pinault said it was time for his group’s stores to generate higher profits.
“We are present today in the most important cities and locations in the world. Our priority is to extract more value from them,” he told analysts in February.
Burberry has also been beefing up service to its local customers and looking for ways to improve sales per square foot in its stores.
Last week Luca Solca, managing director at Exane BNP Paribas, said in a report that luxury goods stores need to stand out in a crowd, and increasingly tailor their services to the needs of specific consumer groups. He said “physical and digital integration is a must.”
Solca added that luxury brands have a lot to do: “This will not just be about financial means and brute force, but about ideas and finesse — as a new counter-standardized luxury retail paradigm is established.”
Neves said the brick-and-mortar store — and its customer — will take center stage on April 12.
“We’re actually coming to the industry and saying, ‘You know what? Thousands of stores you have in capitals around the world — these are actually where all the action is going to happen. The old-fashioned store with models of branding won’t survive. There needs to be some augmentation of the digital experience. That’s what Farfetch does every single day, you know, we connect digital stores to digital platforms.”
Asked about the commercial side of the event, Neves said “there are many revenue models of how to monetize this, but that’s not really going to be the center. No one is going to be followed around by sales people. We want it to be inspirational, a thought-provoking, innovative, future-gazing day.
“This is really about how we see the world in the next three to five years. We want to get out of this three- to 12-month mind-set and think, ‘How will people shop for fashion in five years’ time?’ That’s the essence of it. Hopefully, it’s going to be exciting. Whether people embrace it sooner, later or never, we’ll see,” Neves said.