Savant Talks: There’s no need to produce more, anymore

Ahead of Savant eCommerce Barcelona, we had the opportunity of sitting together with Yolanda Martin, Director of Platform & Service Design at Farfetch, to talk about Luxury, second hand fashion and platforms.
Here’s what we talked about!

Last month the Farfetch acquisition of New Guards Group broke the news. Can you tell us your take on it? 

Big news indeed! The acquisition will bring us to a new level, helping us in accomplishing Farfetch mission “to be the global technology platform for luxury fashion, connecting creators, curators and consumers”.
The opportunity happened with New Guards group, a company that owns some of the most exciting brands in the fashion landscape at the moment. They are capable of creating and launching a campaign or a brand in weeks thanks to their production facilities and the designers studios. One of the biggest barriers for designers to entry in fashion is to find the facilities to create a collection: New Guards Group created an ecosystem and the workflow necessary for any designer to create and launch collection or a brand in a very short period of time with very small overheads. Farfetch has been empowering ecommerce for small boutiques for years, New Guards Group empowers fashion creation for small designers quickly and fast: it was a match made in heaven for us.

You are in charge of Platform & Service Design at Farfetch. Would you tell us more about one of your latest works: Farfetch Second Life?

Farfetch Second Life started for sustainability pledge, as Farfetch puts a lot of focus on sustainability, with the aim of cutting the footprint of fashion as much as possible: producing less fashion is the best way to do so! High quality, high luxury second hand bags is a thriving market and since we launched we witnessed a massive boom of buying and selling. Now, we already started to expand the platform to other garments by accepting different pieces.
The Second Hand Fashion market is gaining more and more relevance, to the point that I’m working on an authentication process through blockchain, as authentication is a crucial factor, but I can’t tell you more at this stage. 

With Farfetch Second Life, are you going after another customer segment or is the Farfetch customer base moving towards sustainability? 

You will be surprised to know how many high spenders purchase second hand items. It started off with vintage clothing, but for a long time there wasn’t a safe place to buy second hand. It used to happen amongst personal circles, between private shoppers and closed circles of boutiques and customers. 
Truth is, you can’t wear a Balenciaga dress more than once, socially speaking. So, either you’re a famous celebrity and the brand will lend it to you, or you buy this type of garment, use it once and once the new collection is out, you ship it away to be sold. This happens over and over and it’s definitely not a new trend: it’s just something that people were not talking about and that was done in small circles, so the scalability was impossible. At the same time, the volume of people buying high fashion and hard luxury has grown, and therefore the number of people moving these items. Nowadays you can find hard fashion items on eBay as well, but you won’t have the same level of trust that we can provide with the authentication processes we have in place.
Overall, the market is growing because people are changing mentality. Buying a Gucci t-shirt is not anymore something considered exaggerated or “crazy” as it used to be: people will buy it and enjoy it for several seasons, pairing it with their other garments. There’s an equalisation happening: customers are changing their minds about which clothes they buy, as in they would rather buy one good piece and keep it for different seasons. The best example are coats: a higher and higher number of people prefer to purchase one high quality coat, a piece they know it will last for years, rather than buying a new one every second year.

The mentality of consumers is shifting, and a lot of designers who address the younger audiences like Vivian Westwood, Stella McCartney and Off-White amongst others, are advocating for sustainability: buy less for better quality. We’re not yet on the volume of mass market, but I definitely see the trend growing. 

The goal of brands is to make money, we are clear on this. What is less immediate to understand is that their goal is not to make more money by selling more pieces, but by selling more consciously.

Brands don’t want to produce clothes that will be thrown away, sold in outlets for low money, or even worse, destroyed, as the Burberry backlash showed. Producing too many pieces  is terrible for the environment first and for the brands second: reducing the amount of garments produced and the waste generated is important for everyone. With the use of data it became even more important and realistic to create a sustainable flow and supply chain for Fashion brands. Providing brands with accurate data will allow them to produce the right amount of garments, reducing the cost of marketing, warehousing, logistics, etc. Cost reduction is kind of an obsession for me, that’s why I design platforms: my main driver is to create better tools and better processes so we produce less.

Farfetch Store of The Future

Speaking about platforms, what are the key steps to successfully implement a new technology in such a big company like Farfetch? How do you get everyone to buy in?

Well, this has been a common trait of my professional path as I’ve done this three times already.
In the past I had to sell the concept to the Executives, and “selling” a whole new idea to a Board of Directors is never easy. With Farfetch though, it was different. I joined the company in 2017 precisely because Farfetch knew what it wanted to become, the leadership knew they wanted to create a platform, but the strategy to get there was not clear.  In this case, the difficult task was to get the buy in from the team, as it has been about shifting the focus of the platform design from user to entities: we didn’t want to put the focus only on the personal experience of the user, but rather on the transactional experience of the many, different entities involved like boutiques, brands, tenants, logistic service providers, warehousing, production facilities and so on, as these are the key actors in a vast ecosystem like Farfetch. Understanding very well the entities of your ecosystem, the value they have and how they exchange value between each other is a key aspect to create smooth and efficient workflows.

The shift from personas to entities is a big leap, but I strongly believe we need to move away from ego-centric design towards ecosystem design by stopping to hyperfocus on screen sizes and start thinking about systemic problems.

Let me give you an example: returns. The problem of somebody returning a garment is not just a matter of a customer who got the wrong size: you need to ask yourself why did they get the size wrong in the first place. Is it a matter of data entry? A localization problem? A standardisation issue? You have to look at the problem from a completely different level in order to understand how you can solve it, and that doesn’t happen only by putting a little ruler icon or a table to compare sizes across different countries. The problem is that wrong data can be added in the system in the wrong way, or it might be that the manufacturers of garments doesn’t have a standardised system. 
So, the first challenge was about changing the mentality of the team.  Then the second, much bigger challenge came into place: nobody in the company fully grasped the idea of platform design and platform ecosystem. So my team and the strategy team collaborated closely to create a project called “Ecosystem Roadshow”, where we went to educate more than 3000 people in the company on what is a platform, how and why we are creating an ecosystem.

The process consisted in a 3 hour workshop, of which the team run 36 sessions over 3 weeks.

We did surveys at the beginning and at the end of the process, and it turned out that after the roadshow almost 84% of the people fully understood what the vision of the company is, making the project a big success. This wouldn’t have been possible without the full support of the board of executives: the 8 core members of the team indeed were high seniority individuals in crucial leadership roles, moreover we needed the understanding and support of every single senior leader of every department involved to help us introduce our ideas to their team. Needless to say, the team that created the Ecosystem Roadshow had to be cross departmental, composed by a Systems Architect, the Director of Engineering, the Director of Operation, the Director of Strategy, a Finance Senior Manager, a Marketing Senior Manager, me as Director of Service & Platform Design and two operational project managers.  A completely cross-disciplinary team. Every presentation was customised for each department and team, to better adapt to different mindsets and mental maps of people you find across departments. This was the only way the company as a whole could understand and embrace the project: breaking silos from the ground up!

Systemic vs User Centred approach. How do you create solutions that fit different geographical areas and habits?

Well, if you think about it, a boutique is a boutique, so the geographical aspect is not relevant when it comes to processes. The workflows of boutiques are the same across the world: they decide the budget to buy the supply that they want to sell the next season. Then, they curate the selection of pieces according to their audience, and in this phase yes, there’s a factor of localisation: a Gucci boutique in Mumbai will showcase different garments and styles than one in Paris, but the process won’t change. Once a boutique orders the pieces, they will have to allocate them across sales channels: they plan what will be sold in the physical shop, what online and what on Farfetch, etc. The only slightly different workflow that varies from country to country is payment, hence why have partnerships with many different payment services.  

A useful segmentation for us is the size of the boutique: a multi-shop boutique has slightly different needs and behaviour than a family run boutique, but the workflow, again, is the same. 


How will the store of the future look like? How the integration of online and offline is going to happen?

I think it’s all going to blend into one experience. On some extent we are already experiencing that, let me give you a real life example.
Someone purchased a Chloe handbag via Farfetch. He received the handbag, and it was slightly damaged. He then went to the physical Store of Chloe, they certified that the bag was damaged, so he returned it to Farfetch, got a refund and with that refund he went to the Chloe store to purchase the bag at the same exact price (and discount) he got on Farfetch. Seamlessly. And this happened thanks to the partnership that Farfetch has in place with brands, Chloe in this case. Whatever they sell in their stores or through us, it can be returned and exchanged through them. The blind spot is still when a piece of a brand is sold by an independent shop we’re not partners with, but we’re working on that. Having a clear and complete overview of stock brings huge benefits to the stores in terms of fulfilment and demand planning. For the customer the benefits of this integration are also compelling: imagine how each small and medium size boutique could have a potentially infinite products on their shelves by being connected to the network of boutiques through Farfetch. 

The data collected from stores and partners gives us key insights on the market: our goal is to predict trends in order to be able to tell the brands what to produce, so there will be more precise production, less waste and tangible benefits for everyone.
There’s no need to produce more, anymore. 

Yolanda will join us at Savant eCommerce Barcelona on 15-16th October for a Panel “Enabling Cost-Efficient Fulfilment & Smart Returns” and a round table  “Training your employees to use new eCommerce tech“.
Don’t miss this opportunity and secure your ticket here!

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