Strategy and style
Stephanie Phair is what you’d call incredible. Leading, developing and articulating the long-term vision for Farfetch, we spoke to Phair about supporting boutiques in the time of a pandemic and beyond.
What do your first 30 mins of the day look like, your morning routine?
I’ve stopped checking emails first thing in the morning, or you go down a rabbit hole, and I end up with a clearer head! If there is anything urgent I would have missed calls. I get myself ready and it’s all hands on deck to get 3 children and us out of the house on time.
Tell us about your role as Chief Customer Officer at Farfetch?
My role encompasses the broader customer strategy at Farfetch, the world of Private Client and our customer innovation efforts with Store of the Future. Our customers are at the core of our business and one of our key brand pillars is “amaze customers”. José [Neves, founder of Farfetch] always had in mind that he wanted to build a community and our customers are at the heart of that.
How did your previous roles at the likes of Net-A-Porter set you up for such a role and what do you think the key thing is to remember if you strive to build a customer-centric brand?
Net-A-Porter was such a customer centric business and I learnt a lot there. Making sure you constantly look at things not from a functional point of view but from a customer lens is a discipline. The customer doesn’t care that your average answering time is x minutes, they care about what it was for them.
The recent months have been a challenge – how did Farfetch stay ahead of the curve in terms of inventory and strategy?
Farfetch was founded at the beginning of the 2008 recession, and born out of a need for brick and mortar boutiques to survive and reach customers worldwide. Today our partners are facing an equally difficult time for trade now as we did then, but our capabilities as a global platform enable us to offer them solutions during this time, because they can still ship from their stores even if their footfall has dropped. Farfetch has hundreds of boutique partners who make our business model so unique and our first instinct was to go back to our DNA and highlight what an important part of our community they represent by launching our Support Boutiques campaign. When our customers shop on Farfetch, the items arrive from one of 700+ boutiques in one of 50 countries around the world, or from the stores of our many brand partners, altogether representing over 3000 designers – mostly small and unique creators of fashion. The vast majority of these are small businesses (often family-run) many of whom cannot welcome customers into their physical stores at the moment. We wanted to ensure these partners have our full support to be able to continue servicing their dedicated customer base and continue to trade. Now as we see the market begin to come out of the strict lockdowns we saw implemented around the world, we remain steadfast in supporting our partners.
Which attributes do you find appeal most to customers when it comes to products?
What customers really want lends to our DNA and what really is authentic to Farfetch -which is curation, aiding in discovery but also the human stories we tell via our community. With Farfetch Communities we spotlight individual points of view across the world which shows how varied and unique the world of fashion can be. Whether it’s our boutique partners, our network of influencers or our own teams, our brand has a lot of heart and I believe that is something our consumers appreciate and connect with.
How does Farfetch intend to continue to support boutiques globally going forward?
We will continue to support our boutiques through strong editorial and the ability to let them tell their unique stories but we are also working to integrate technology that better connects the online and offline experiences. If our marketplace can help drive people in to our partner boutiques’ stores for example then it is a win-win.
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Do you have particular brands yourself that you buy into?
I have always loved more classic, clean lines. The Row, Toteme, Frame – I’m happy to go hi-lo and sometimes throw in something crazy and colourful. Farfetch is such a great place to discover brands.
How do you manage to succeed in both roles (Farfetch & British Fashion Council) and do you have any mindfulness practices that help when the challenges come from every angle?
I prioritise in order of urgency, work as hard as I can, but recognise that there are only 12 hours (or 16) in the day! I am lucky to work in an industry that is about selling nice clothes and storytelling and so perspective is really important too.
What is luxury today?
It is health and quality time. I think this coronavirus pandemic has taught everyone how to appreciate the small things.
Do you see any buying patterns in terms of global sales and if so what?
We are certainly seeing demand change according to where on the path to easing lockdown a region finds itself in. We are also seeing an increase in homewares, active wear and comfortable fashion as you might expect.
How do you approach client engagement and retention?
We have a number of different avenues when it comes to engagement and retention. We are focused on always innovating our online customer experience and user journey, by being able to offer our customers an unrivalled assortment from the best brands and boutiques around the globe. We do look for opportunities where we can bring the offline experience to life by immersing our customers into the world of the many boutiques that sit on the platform and through consumer facing events where we can connect with the Farfetch community. Our loyalty programme, Farfetch Access, allows us to cater to and personalise our offerings to each of our customers as their buying profile develops from one tier to the next. Once our customer reaches the Private Client tier, one of the very personalized services we offer them is a personal stylist and access to the Fashion Concierge service where you can buy unique one-of-a-kind pieces from brands that we don’t stock on our platform.
How crucial do you see tech and innovation in luxury versus the personal touch or is it the two combined?
When it comes to the online shopping experience, we know that customers are more hyper connected than ever. They have their pulse to newness and emerging trends so it’s very important for us as a brand to create inspiration and aid customers in that discovery. Furthermore, when it comes to the offline versus online journey, the digital aspect of the consumer journey is so important. Due to the current climate, consumers’ habits have certainly shifted towards online shopping. I believe that customers today expect a far more seamless, effortless and efficient experience when they shop online. Additionally, customers are incredibly knowledgeable and do their research before purchasing an item, so they want to know that they are being offered the highest quality products at the most competitive prices.
Which Instagram accounts do you follow for inspiration?
I follow a lot of interior Instagram accounts. I believe that fashion is not just about clothes anymore but fits into wider culture and this helps frame the broader perspective. The World of Interiors, The Modern House, Great Women Artists are some.
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Do you have any pre-bedtime rituals?
I do check my phone, which is not great!
What effect has social media played in the growth of Farfetch?
Social media has been a great platform through which we have seen the extensive growth and extension of Farfetch Communities – it’s limitless. It has also been a platform through which we were able to remain connected to our customers throughout this pandemic. We were able to bring our customers into our boutiques and were able to give our boutiques the chance to talk to the customers and tell them of their experiences throughout these unprecedented times.
What advice would you give to your younger self starting out?
Don’t be so impatient. It will all come in time.
Did you have a mentor and if so what was the most valuable piece of advice they gave you?
I have worked with many wonderful women (and men) who have all been mentors in some aspect, from Anna Wintour to Natalie Massenet and Mark Sebba, the CEO of the Net-A-Porter Group I am very lucky that I have worked with some of the best in the business.
If you were not Chief Customer Officer at Farfetch, which other role would you choose career-wise?
I love my role – so much to do and I get to work with smart kind people all over the world.
This issue is ‘The Summer Escape’ – where would you like to escape to?
I am actually really looking forward to visiting Dubai again when it’s safe to do so. My last few trips have been very quick so I would really like to spend some proper time in the city and connect with the community out there.
– For more about Dubai’s lifestyle, news and fashion scene follow Emirates Woman on Facebook and Instagram.
Images: Supplied, Instagram, main image from the Emirates Woman ‘The Summer Escape Issue’ cover shoot.