With its new 70,000 sq ft tech hub in London’s White City, Yoox Net-a-Porter is making an ambitious stride into the future of luxury shopping
Federico Marchetti: “This is our vehicle to the future”
Walking into Net-a-Porter’s new tech hub is like taking a step 30 years into the future. Undulating wooden fins panel the ceiling and walls at the entrance corridor, creating a portal to the newly opened space where the future innovations for Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter and their stablemates will soon be created, coded and made reality.
Federico Marchetti, CEO of Yoox Net-a-Porter Group (YNAP), describes the office as a “spaceship”. “This is our temple of innovation,” he says. “Our vehicle to the future.”
Competition is hotting up in the online luxury sector. In June, Farfetch teamed up with Condé Nast and with JD.com in China, and LVMH launched its multi-brand site 24 Sèvres. YNAP is investing in innovation to maintain its position. This new 70,000 sq ft space in west London will house 500 technology specialists, act as a testing lab for new ideas and innovations, and focus on mobile technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality.
Half of YNAP’s £2bn annual sales come via mobile, but for Marchetti this is “just the beginning” – he predicts the business will eventually be mobile only. “I’m a bit obsessed with mobile,” he confesses. “Ever since I became CEO, we have been a mobile-focused company.”
Push notifications, mobile-optimised editorial, friction free payment and iMessage integration – where customers can share screenshots of images and product information direct from the Net-a-Porter app – are just some of the developments released in recent months.
Alongside this, futuristic AI capabilities are becoming a reality. Invited to a boho-themed wedding in Devon? A virtual personal stylist is in development which will be able to recommend options based on weather, location and preferences – as well as providing styling options.
“Our AI stylist is far more intelligent, because it uses knowledge that we have learned through years of putting outfits together,” explains Alex Alexander, chief innovation officer at YNAP. “It’s our unique IP.”
Visual and natural language searches, as well as a customer care service, are also being developed with the company’s AI capabilities.
The virtual world is not the sole focus, however. As Apple prepares to release IOS 11, which will integrate QR code readers directly into the camera, YNAP is developing tools that will link QR codes in store windows to products online.
The new tech hub also demonstrates YNAP’s determination to pioneer a mobile revolution, not just in the customer journey, but also in the way the business is run.
Source: PH Philip Vile
All 3,200 staff across its offices will be issued with an IOS device (iPhone 6S or iPhone 7) and YNAP is developing bespoke mobile apps for staff, geared towards increasing efficiency. Personal shoppers, for example, will gain a mobile view of the site inventory, and the ability to take payments on mobile while on appointments.
“We are enabling personal shoppers with more tools and more capabilities as the business grows,” explains Alexander. “They are better equipped to do their jobs.”
Marchetti says this mobile ethos also allows for a closer connection with customers: “Providing the staff with iPhones mirrors our customer behaviour,” he says. “It gives us a better understanding of the customer.”
With more than €500m (£440m) of investment in technology and logistics planned before 2020, Marchetti has ambitious aims: “We are here to revolutionise the luxury industry,” he says. “We’re innovating for the customer, to bring a better and more exciting customer experience.”