How to make fashion pre-orders work

The same returns policy for regular items applies to pre-ordered goods, but Freed hopes that digital clienteling through Farfetch’s personal styling and customer care teams can help avoid high returns, because “customers will have as much information about the items as possible and are able to make a decision about […]

The same returns policy for regular items applies to pre-ordered goods, but Freed hopes that digital clienteling through Farfetch’s personal styling and customer care teams can help avoid high returns, because “customers will have as much information about the items as possible and are able to make a decision about a purchase”.

Managing expectations must be a priority. Customer demand is a potential tripwire. “If they show a dress to 10,000 customers and 5,000 of them buy it, will they be able to immediately scale production? If they can’t deliver promptly and accurately to what was advertised, customers are going to be really unhappy. A lot will hinge on Farfetch’s ability and their partners to execute,” says Cohen of Columbia University.

Digital sampling

As the products for pre-order don’t yet exist, Farfetch worked with fashion tech company DressX to render digital pieces on its models and with Threedium to digitally render accessories. “There’s more value in continuing to partner with these innovative startups versus trying to build the capability in house, at this point in time,” says Freed.

To create the campaign, Farfetch selected 20 highlights from the women’s and men’s pre-order offering that could be digitised. Influencers were invited to pick their favourites and work with DressX and Threedium to create images of themselves wearing the digital clothing. For transparency, Farfetch and the influencers must disclose that the garments are digital, says Freed.

The luxury industry is watching the Farfetch venture with interest. “This is the starting point where digital fashion becomes part of the business model. As it becomes a more important part of the supply chain, creating in 3D is going to be a future core that every brand needs to adopt,” says Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency.

The challenge will be to hire people with those skill sets, although new courses and consultancies are starting to emerge to fill fashion’s knowledge gap. In the longer term, the skills may be best developed in-house, he says. “When you have those 3D assets, it allows you to market your business entirely differently.”

As Freed points out, the next step might be a true pre-production, pre-order offering, helping brands to manufacture and manage their inventory in a conscious way, responding to customer demand and eliminating excess production. “This is just the start of what pre-order will look like for Farfetch,” she says.

Comments, questions or feedback? Email us at [email protected].

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The same returns policy for regular items applies to pre-ordered goods, but Freed hopes that digital clienteling through Farfetch’s personal styling and customer care teams can help avoid high returns, because “customers will have as much information about the items as possible and are able to make a decision about […]