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Blending physical and digital: The future of retail according to Farfetch

By Lara Grobosch


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Image: FashionUnited, Wired Smarter

“We strongly believe that the retail of the future is still developing in physical retail,” said Sandrine Deveaux, executive vice president of future retail at luxury fashion platform Farfetch, during a talk at Wired Smarter. The multi-track business conference, which took place on October 11 in London, explored the future of retail, money and security, bringing together industry experts and executives to share insights through exhibits, presentations and panel discussions.

“One thing about luxury is that emotion is driven by the people. The magic is still happening in seeing the product, trying on the product and interacting with the sale associate who makes all of these experiences really unique,” Deveaux, who is at the helm of Farfetch’s retail innovation unit, continued in the talk titled ‘Digitally enhanced: The store of the future is here, almost’. This is why the e-tailer acquired British luxury boutique Browns back in 2015 as part of its omni-channel growth strategy.

“We really quickly used it as a test lab where we started to launch new types of models,” Deveaux said. In recent years, the retailer took Browns as a platform for innovation looking to blend physical and digital components in its brick-and-mortar stores. Following the closure of the Browns East Shoreditch store in September, Farfetch now focuses on its flagship Browns Brook Street, which opened last year in the heart of Mayfair.

Browns as a “test lab” for new retail models

In luxury retail, one of the most important factors, according to Deveaux, is the empowerment of the sales associates and customer recognition. “What matters is how you connect the sales associate with what the customers have been browsing on your website and how you create that immersive data so that when the customer gets into your store you already know what they have been viewing, what they like,” she explained.

At Browns, sales associates are provided with their own dedicated app that serves as a link between the online and in-store experience to access customer profiles, view global inventory, send product recommendations to customers and connect smart mirrors, handle payments and manage other in-store operations. “We have an uplift in incremental sales of around 30 percent in our store because of that technology. The reason being is that more and more of those new retail formats tend to be more entertaining and engaging than just a big dump of all their stock,” Deveaux said.

Through the in-store app, sales associates are able to tell the story of a product without it being stocked in the store. “If you can present a customer with an outfit or a look that combines these products that are in the warehouse, that's very engaging. We have seen a triple-digit improvement in conversion rate for that,” she continued.

Touching on crypto and web3, Deveaux made it clear that everything has to be linked to the physical store. “Don't think you have to just launch a non-fungible token (NFT) tomorrow. It has to be aligned with the physical experience,” she said. “So what we've been doing first of all is trying to tap into these communities by enabling them to buy their products on Farfetch using crypto. This is so basic.”

Farfetch launched in-store crypto terminals at Browns back in February this year and recently started accepting crypto payments in 37 countries on their e-commerce platform as well. “It's a way to acquire this new customer and to give them a sense of actually buying on Farfetch,” Deveaux concluded.