Speaking on the event’s keynote panel discussing the metaverse, alternate realities, NFTs and gamification, Hilsum gave some insights from the luxury etailer’s work in that space, from virtual try-ons to digital samples. She was joined by Anastasiia Mala, marketing director at Dressx, a multi-brand digital fashion retailer, and Nick Peres, XR and digital innovation consultant.
The next stage for luxury shopping
Hilsum said Farfetch views the metaverse, NFTs and alternate realities as being the “next stage for luxury shopping”.
She said this is not necessarily about catering to a new, younger audience – Gen Z, for example – but rather about evolving and elevating the shopping experience: adapting the digital for the traditional luxury shopper.
Shopping in alternate realities can be “tactile and beautiful”, she said, adding that fast-progressing technology is becoming more and more able to support and enrich the luxury experience.
Hilsum explained that “digital products can be products in their own right, with their own value”, rather than simply being a tool for selling physical products. She gave the example of Dressx’s digital jewelery being worn for Zoom calls.
Test and learn
Hilsum urged brands that want to branch out into the metaverse to think carefully about what it means for them and what they want to get out of it: “test and learn” is key, she advised.
With the arrival of Covid, the virtual became even more vital in retail, she said, so Farfetch ramped up its testing of a wide variety of functions, from using the digital for selling wholesale, to creating digital worlds.
She cited Farfetch’s work in 2019 with Wannaby – mobile AR technology that enables shoppers to try on products such as clothes, shoes and watches before buying – creating “beautiful, true-to-life” virtual try-ons, and testing for the consumer response . “The consumer loved it, the metrics were positive,” Hilsum said. “Now we’re moving into scaling.”
Partnerships are also key at this stage, Hilsum said, encouraging brands to work with partners who have already been working in the digital space.
Innovation and experimentation
Hilsum said that expanding into the metaverse can feel overwhelming: “Because things are happening so quickly and standards are still being defined. IP laws are being written as we go. ”
She acknowledged the challenge of developing and adhering to standards and rules, while also embracing fast-moving innovation and experimentation, as well as issues of online safety and data protection.
“As an industry we need to trust our instinct,” Hilsum said, “but there is still complexity to work through.”
Environmental impact and waste
Responding to an audience member’s question about the potential negative environmental impact of the metaverse and blockchain technology, Hilsum acknowledged the carbon issues associated with the technology, but said that “as a whole, the industry can save a lot around wastage”.
She discussed a Farfetch carbon neutral campaign last year in which digital samples of physical products were sent to influencers, rather than physical samples being shipped. “There are lots of opportunities around sample reduction and shipping,” she added.
There are cost efficiencies linked to this too, Hilsum said, noting that despite needing initial investment, 3D asset creation and fitting them into existing ecommerce structures are actually very cost efficient for brands starting out in this space.
Hilsum said that, despite the conversation around the metaverse feeling “a bit noisy” – because it is impacting all industries – it is a reality for the fashion world, as the online world evolves towards Web 3.0 – the term coined for the idea of a new iteration of the web based on blockchain technology. It is not a buzzword or a fad, she told the audience, it is an entire philosophy and culture.
“We see it as a marker of the type of experience people will want in our industry. It is coming. ”