Fetching the Future of Retail

Caroline DeSantis – February 23, 2018

Chanel, the historic French fashion house, has just announced its partnership with Farfetch, the innovative online fashion retail platform that connects shoppers with a network of boutiques and brands. While other iconic fashion brands like Gucci and Burberry have partnered with Farfetch, Chanel’s relationship will be different because it will not offer products on the e-commerce platform. The privately held company famous for its quilted bags and tweed jackets has stayed away from the e-commerce world whose accessibility and noisiness conflicts with Chanel’s elegance and exclusivity. Instead, this is an “innovation deal,” as José Neves, Farfetch Founder, Co-Chairman & CEO, describes it. Chanel has made an investment in Farfetch so that together they can build the future of brick-and-mortar retail.

Founded in 2008, Farfetch is not just redefining online shopping but also offline shopping with its Store of The Future, which links the online with the offline. These stores will include RFID-enabled clothing racks, ability to digitally communicate to sales associates in dressing rooms, mobile payment and other digital services that will ultra customer-centric experiences. When Farfetch opens these new stores a customer could walk through the door and sales associates would know who she is, what she’s been looking at online, and other shopping idiosyncrasies she might have that will eliminate all the friction points that pop-up in the traditional retail experience. It is undeniably the way to sell $8,000 boots or $20,000 coats because it is highly personal. An extra bonus is that with the “off-line cookies” Farfetch can collect data from their customers to keep designing better and better shopping experiences.

Through the partnership, Chanel will build its own retail experience upon this framework so that it can cater to the needs of a generation that grew up with cell-phones and online shopping. Together, Chanel and Farfetch will bring the personalized online experience into the real world through an app which will give sales associates all the information about how each Chanel customer likes to shop. Whether she wants to see the purse her favorite fashion blogger has been carrying or just be left alone to look, Chanel will be able to offer her the perfect shopping experience. Also, as the shopper becomes more global, these innovations will allow Chanel to create a “global-local” boutique, meaning that while the Rodeo Drive shop might be a shopper’s main Chanel, if she goes to the Rue Cambon she’ll get the same individualized service.

This partnership shows that Chanel can look to the future without compromising what it stands for, which in this case is staying away from e-commerce. Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel said, “We want to connect our customers with our product and our boutiques are the best way to do so. We are very consistent in our strategy, but we are using Farfetch’s know-how to accelerate this.” Chanel knows it has to evolve digitally, but it is going to do so on its own terms which means incorporating augmented digital technology to create a groundbreaking retail experience.
What will become of Chanel and Farfetch’s partnership will prove the necessity of bridging the expertise of historic companies with that of the progressive newcomers. By integrating these two know-hows, the historic luxury fashion Maison and the innovative retail platform will be able to create more radical innovations than they could alone.