Yoox Net-a-Porter Group has opened a new technology Hub in London that employs about 500 people focused on innovation in technology such as artificial intelligence, mobile commerce and personalization.
YNAP CEO Federico Marchetti called the London Tech Hub a “temple of innovation” in a video announcement for the Tech Hub’s opening, and said it reflects the company’s mobile-first ethos. “Our goal is to transform this company to focus on mobile, because that’s where the customer is going. Mobile is at the center of our technology.”
In fact, Marchetti added that YNAP is aiming to become a “mobile-only” brand. The company currently derives about 50% of its revenue from mobile shopping activities.
The opening of the YNAP London Tech Hub comes just a handful of days after YNAP was mentioned as a possible acquisition target or investment prospect for China’s Alibaba.
That speculation may have been off the mark, but it is easy to understand why a company like Alibaba might be interested in a company look YNAP. Luxury apparel brands that understand the power of aggressive technology investment, and how their success with customers is increasingly reliant on providing high-quality customer experience via mobile are hot prospects right now in general.
For proof, look no further than Alibaba direct rival JD.com, which made a massive investment in YNAP’s competitor Farfetch last month.
Yet YNAP is proceeding like a company not interested in dropping everything to mull a buyout offer from an e-commerce giant. YNAP already has developed a five-year strategic plan that calls for it to invest around $567 million in new technology and data science, stating that technology and mobile are central to this effort.
Betting big on mobile solutions doesn't mean that YNAP is in a rush to leave brick-and-mortar or the human touch behind. The company also said it is focused on putting better technology into the hands of human personal stylists who meet the needs of YNAP's own top-level clients, a group it refers to as "EIPs," or "Extremely Important People." This group makes up about 2% of YNAP's total shopper base, but accounts for about 40% of its revenue.
YNAP also has helped shepard partners like Valentino into the omnichannel present. That project in particular involved outfitting Valentino with in-store mobile features to help the fashion brand's staff keep better tabs on inventory. The London Tech Hub should help YNAP to accelerate such efforts, both for itself and its brand partners. YNAP's five-year plan also outlines the goal of drawing 75% of revenue from mobile by 2020 — it's got a bit of work to do over the next few years.