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Farfetch: the technology inside the workplace

A host of luxury brands, ranging from Burberry to Harrods, have partnered with Farfetch over the last 18 months to use the online marketplace’s infrastructure to help them reach new international markets.

In the build-up to its IPO last autumn and in the months since, Farfetch has developed a reputation for leading the digitisation of the luxury retail world by supplying the platform and tools to fast-track brands’ global eCommerce plans.

Burberry joined forces with Farfetch in 2018 to make its entire global inventory available online, while more recently Harrods announced a tie-up with the marketplace to support its international growth. Last year also saw Harvey Nichols partner with Farfetch and French fragrance house Chanel take a minority stake in the business as part of a digital partnership to support eCommerce development.

Farfetch CEO, José Neves, said on 28 February that his company, which floated on the New York Stock Exchange last September, is well positioned to capture “the lion’s share” of the growing online luxury market over the coming years. His confidence was underlined by the retailer’s reported gross merchandise value of $1.4 billion in 2018.

Inside Farfetch

So, what are some of the secrets to the company’s success? Like Ocado in the grocery sector, it is part retailer and part technology infrastructure company – and that is proving to be a successful model in 21st century retail where strategic partnerships between would-be competitors seem to be increasingly vital.

Sian Keane, chief people officer at Farfetch, tells Essential Retail that one of the most important goals for the company is to foster and maintain a “culture of togetherness” as it grows in new markets. And there are some internal software tools it uses to aid this process.

Soon after the 2016 launch of Workplace by Facebook – the social media site’s business platform – Farfetch took the decision to implement it. According to Keane, it’s proved to be a valuable tool.

“We use Workplace as our main tool for internal communication,” she explains, adding that now the retailer has circa 3,500 staff in 13 countries it is crucial for the global workforce to collaborate and stay in touch with one another.

“It was becoming more and more challenging to do that because we didn’t have the right technology to support us,” Keane notes.

“Workplace seemed like a tool to keep the community spirit alive in the business across our multiple countries.”

Keane, who has been at Farfetch for six years, holding several human resources (HR) leadership roles during that time, argues that the solution is particularly good at helping new recruits get up to speed with company philosophy, targets and achievements.

“I don’t think it directly relates to recruitment, but I think it relates very heavily to on-boarding,” she explains.

“When someone starts with the company it’s important they know our values and culture to understand how we work within Farfetch. New arrivals join and can pretty much get access to the whole history of the company from an internal comms point of view.”

The main Workplace by Facebook features used by Farfetch are groups, events and celebrations, which are leveraged to share business ideas, organise relevant staff gatherings, and acknowledge success and achievement within the business respectively.

Keane says in a rapidly growing business like Farfetch, it’s important new recruits have an opportunity to get up to speed with company policy and culture quickly.

“They have access to various videos, groups, tools and systems, where they can really self-learn,” she notes.

Internal comms technology toolkit

From corporate news to product launches, and various events happening across the business’s departments, this information is communicated via the tool. It sits alongside Farfetch’s use of Google Gmail and Drive for general communication and file sharing.

Farfetch also uses cloud ERP solution Workday – which enables organisations to manage finance, planning and HR all on one platform. It’s used by all types of organisation, ranging from Amazon and Avon to Yoox Net-a-Porter and food tech platform Zume.

Keane says being an early adopter of technology in the workplace stands Farfetch in good stead as it looks to continue its growth story.

“I’m part of an external group where there are Workplace officers from other companies where we can share ideas and tricks of using the tool,” she explains.

“Being an early adopter has certainly been beneficial to us in order to maintain that relationship and being able to find better ways of using it above and beyond its capability today.”

She adds: “Having Workplace as a tool which can capture numerous examples and ideas of how we work within the business has definitely been beneficial against the backdrop of rapid growth.”

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