The store of the future is about solving the problems of today in an innovative and meaningful way for the customer, says Sandrine Deveaux of Farfetch, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
Speaking to guest host, Rosanna Falconer, at a live FashMash Pioneers event in London, the managing director of the e-commerce company’s store of the future division, explains that her focus in not just on new technology for the sake of it, but on creating better shopping experiences driven by personalization.
Following the announcement of Farfetch’s Store of the Future concept in April 2017, Deveaux has been building a series of beta tests in place in Browns East in London, Thom Browne in New York and Chanel in Paris. But the result doesn’t mean big flashy screens or variations on augmented reality, as she is so often asked about.
Instead, it’s about better servicing the customer; understanding what they want when they walk into stores thanks to data, but also making things like the payment experience a much more seamless one.
She says the store of the future is really about offering the experience of Apple, but the convenience of Amazon, so as to keep in line with increasing consumer expectations.
And so the end goal,for her team, she says, is to provide brands and boutiques with full visibility around customer behavior and customer intent, mirroring what’s possible online in the offline space.
“85% of customers, we don’t know anything about them. So that’s what the store of the future is really getting to – it’s about how we leverage the platform we have with Farfetch, and try to really look at online behavior and take that online behavior into an in-store context,” she explains. This is something Farfetch calls “enabling the offline cookie”.
On this episode, Deveaux also talks to driving disruptive innovation through healthy internal tension, how she’s changing the way luxury brands think, and why the ultimate sales associate for the store of the future might just be a unicorn.
Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Nike has announced the launch of Nike App at Retail, a mobile concept that provides in-store customers with a personalised experience via their devices.
The app will allow consumers to be recognised when entering a store, opening up exclusive products within their proximity. It will also allow them to scan product availability in all nearby Nike stores, as well as check out and pay for their in-store purchases.
For customers using the app elsewhere, they can reserve products in a personal locker in-store for try-on and purchase later. The brand is said to be testing several other features that will eventually be incorporated into a wider range of stores.
The debut, which will happen in Q4 in two locations – Portland and Los Angeles – follows the recent acquisition of Zodiac, a consumer data and analytics startup whose expertise the sporting brand will leverage to build skills in-house and better connect with customers.
At an earnings call on March 22, CEO Mark Parker stated that digital and mobile apps are playing an increasing role in how the brand launches key innovations, which is reflective of how consumers are behaving and shopping. He explained there will be a lot more storytelling coming to life from a digital standpoint as it becomes a more important part of the brand’s overall strategy.
In the future, Nike’s in-store experiences will blend physical and digital seamlessly and effortlessly complement one another, he added.
The physical retail experience when done right is magical, but the spell is waning, said José Neves, founder, co-chairman and CEO of fashion e-commerce platform Farfetch, at an event in London today.
His antidote? Technology. Or more specifically, the introduction of the Farfetch Store of the Future concept, which aims to link the online and offline worlds using data.
Neves pointed to the fact 92% of luxury sales today still take place in physical stores, according to a report by Bain & Company. By 2025, even with online sales growth, that will have only decreased to 75% and in his opinion it will likely then plateau, leaving the store still very much at the centre of the luxury industry. What has to shift however, is how those experiences take place, he said.
While the industry has been talking about connecting online and offline in an omnichannel sense – turning to ideas like click and collect, same day delivery and more – the missing link still remains around what happens on the shop floor. At this point in time, the majority of shopping experiences from the consumer’s perspective are entirely anonymous until point of sale, after all. There is no data on hand to enable otherwise.
“How can you really be serious about data when 92% of the action is happening in stores and you are not collecting data in stores?” Neves asked. During an average five-minute session on the Farfetch site, 15,000 data points are collected, he noted by comparison, highlighting one of the reasons his company is currently valued at over $1 billion, is looking likely to eclipse Net-a-Porter and is rumoured to be prepping for an IPO.
“Retailers need a way to collect information about their customers while they are browsing in-store, just as they collect data from online searches,” he explained in a press release. Indeed data is at the very heart of the new Farfetch proposition, built around driving personalised customer experiences.
“Store of the Future aims at providing the in-store experience of the future by giving visibility to retailers on what is happening in the store. It’s the offline cookie that closes the loop, between a great online presence and a complete omnichannel offering and, finally in-store technology which augments the experience of customers in store and overall. The next stage in the evolution of the fashion industry is the connected store, which uses technology to enhance the luxury retail experience to become even more customer centric,” Neves said.
A beta version of the Store of the Future was on show at the FarfetchOS event – so named for the idea of an “operating system”, which is what the concept aims to become. It will officially launch in Browns in London and Thom Browne in New York later this year, but has the potential to reach any one of the brand partners Farfetch works with, not to mention the hundreds of boutiques around the world, thereafter.
The system is built on the idea of a universal login or identity for each customer. Modular in form, it could consist of a multitude of different experiences, but the one on show demonstrated such ideas of a connected store as logging in initially using a QR code stored within the Apple Wallet, and then having access to things like a smart mirror that suggests recommended items based on an algorithm. It also recognises pieces brought in via RFID tags and allows the user to ultimately change what they’ve got for other sizes, colours and more accordingly, and then checkout via their smartphones too.
An early-stage product recognition tool meanwhile, allows items picked up off a clothing rail to then be logged in the user’s app on their mobile device to create an instant in-store wishlist. Everything is pinned back to that device identity. There was also a customisation bar on show with footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood.
The central idea within all of it is built around an opt-in data-sharing concept, where the customer’s shopping preferences, browsing behaviour and purchase history are known so as to allow better and more personalised clienteling by the sales associate. In doing so, it enables such employees to rather become “in-store influencers”, Neves explained. The aim is to “humanise” the retail experience. It works well for luxury of course because of the fact this tends to be a more intimate and limited shopping exercise, comparative to say what Amazon Go is trying to achieve, which is about shifting mass products at scale.
As highlighted, the platform is a modular one, allowing Farfetch to tailor the tech solutions based on each brand and store. It’s an open API, meaning that Farfetch hopes others will build on top of the platform – existing indeed as an operating system with numerous applications created specifically for it, as opposed to a full solution.
Again, the key value lies in data. Simply put, Farfetch views its potential to connect multiple boutiques and brands around the world more wholeheartedly with the physical consumer as a huge opportunity for the future of retail. It’s gearing this launch primarily at the millennial customer, who it believes sees data as currency or a transactional entity – something it’s willing to exchange in return for value and service.
As Neves explains: “The mantra of this industry needs to be a single view of data. This is the single most powerful thing of the Store of the Future. It’s absolutely imperative that we bring that data intelligence into our businesses and deliver to customers incredible mind-blowing experiences that only data allows us to do.”
Using patented “perspective-distortion correction” technology, it shows 360-degree back and side views of each outfit, and “remembers” each of them so they can be reviewed from the mirror interface afterwards.
It was back again this year, and this time with Neiman Marcus signed as a partner.
The US department store is currently trialling the mirror in its Walnut Creek store in California, where it’s been receiving incredibly strong feedback, says Scott Emmons, enterprise architect within information services at the company’s innovation lab, also known as its iLab.
“We loved this because it can give an amazing experience for the customer as well as real insight into what she wants to buy,” he told me at the NRF show earlier this week. Indeed the benefit of the mirror for retailers is being able to gather data on things like demographics, body measurements and fit, as well as preferential styles and conversion rates on different pieces.
In an additional use for the mirror, Neiman Marcus also found its sales associates wanted to create an account where they can record videos of models in new looks and send them directly to shoppers to take a look at. Emmons says doing so is already leading to conversions, proving the device also has potential as a sales tool.
Neiman Marcus is planning to follow up on the pilot with two more stores in San Francisco and Dallas.
“We will spend a few weeks learning what’s working and what isn’t, and make a decision if it is to be a chain-wide roll out from there or not. I’m pushing for it to be that; it’s a really exciting project,” said Emmons.
According to WWD, Neiman Marcus is also running another test in a number of stores with Apple iBeacon technology, enabling shoppers to receive notifications on their mobile devices regarding discount promotions, new product arrivals, designer appearances and other special events.
Both technology introductions at Neiman Marcus are part of a wider trend evident at NRF’s Big Show towards the connected store or the internet of things. Alongside beacons and smart fixtures were insights on clienteling solutions, analytics and a series of innovations spanning touchless checkouts to connected fitting rooms.