On Thursday 21st July we explored fashionable retail opportunities online — and the companies that are shaking things up.
Joined in the Library at Shoreditch House by a panel of speakers, we explored how fashion-focused retailers are taking smart approaches to delivering better products and experiences for the digitally-savvy and ever-more demanding consumer.
Rachel Waller, Global Director of Online Communications at Farfetch joined the panel — sharing insights into how the platform’s curatorial approach to e-commerce has helped reshape the way people buy luxury fashion online.
Speaking alongside Rachel to share his story was Sepand Oboudiyat, Founder of luxury men’s shoe brand, Sons of London. Sep left his job in the City to start the brand last year, with a resolve borne out of his own frustration at the prices of high quality, well-designed shoes. Sons of London’s simple goal is to offer shoes at a more accessible price point — that doesn’t come at the cost of quality. By pursuing a direct to consumer model, the brand negates the multiple mark-ups applied by various middlemen, and is able to sell high-end shoes for half the price offered at traditional retailers. Doug Hewett, Co-Founder of Member Agency People-Made, was instrumental in the development and launch of the company, and shared his own insights into the journey to-date, as well as giving an overview of the broader creative and cultural context that the brand sits within.
Here’s what we learned.
The smart consumer: greater expectations and a new definition of luxury
As Sep and Doug explained, they decided to gear the Sons of London brand towards two target audiences: the first is a wealthy consumer who can afford to buy shoes at luxury prices, and shoppers currently buying shoes at a £150 price point, looking to invest a little more money in a higher quality product.
These audiences are united by their desire to shop “smart.” The latter, when weighing up his options, is willing to pay a slightly higher price, for a product of much higher quality. The former, while he’s able to afford a £400 pair of shoes, will buy a cheaper product if it is equal in terms of quality and craftsmanship — luxury is no longer defined purely by an eye-watering price point.
Cultural caché also plays an important part in the purchase decision, with many shoppers looking to align themselves with disruptive, digital brands, and be seen to support innovative businesses.
Packaging and the customer experience
As online-only brands, Sons of London and Farfetch both place emphasis on the importance of packaging to the shopping experience. As Chris Banks, Senior Creative at People–Made interjected to explain, the packaging design and unboxing experience of a Sons of London shoe aims to link back to the luxury store experience in as many ways as possible. For example, a concertina care guide inserted in an envelope within the box mimics in its tone of voice the authority and advice given by a shop assistant in store.
As many who have ordered from the site will know, Farfetch items arrive in a branded outer box, to reveal inside the packaging particular to each of its 400 boutique partners. Rachel explained that keeping this element of each boutique’s personality is vital. Although it scores boutiques in terms of the execution of its packaging, Farfetch has no desire extend its control beyond quality — the personality of each independent store is part of its charm.
Operations, inventory, translation and taxes
While they may not be the most glamorous aspects of the fashion business, all the speakers agreed that these more practical, operational concerns are what set many innovative fashion brands and platforms apart.
Language and logistics lie at the heart of what makes Farfetch so popular. The site is available in many different languages and, by managing the logistics for shoppers and boutiques alike, it offers access to quicker shipping, lower delivery rates, and no surprise tax bills from buying overseas.
As Doug argued, many established luxury brands are failing to deliver the connected experiences consumers have come to expect because they often lack a global inventory system, and ways to aggregate and track purchase behaviour internationally. To meet the demands of a wealthy and well-travelled consumer, luxury brands must be able to provide a seamless experience, not simply across channels, but across the world too. A shopper in Seoul should be able to have a sold out bag shipped in from Paris, and return it to a Tokyo store if they change their mind
Data will also come to play an important part, both online and in-store. As a platform, Farfetch is able to collect far more data about consumer buying behaviour than any individual, independent boutique, and use this data to inform the experience it delivers.
Looking forward to the future, data will also help enhance the experience in-store, with Doug arguing that customer service will become increasingly informed by data — with shoppers willing to give up personal data via beacons in-store, in trade for more a personalised service and a more tailored experience.
Thanks to our speakers, and to Rob Parfitt for the photos above.
Location:Shoreditch House Library,
London, E1 6AW,
Start:21st July, 2016 at 9:00am
End:21st July, 2016 at 11:30am