Farfetch filed for its much-anticipated initial public offering today, a move that aims to value the luxury e-commerce aggregator at up to $5 billion.
In its filing, which aims to raise $100 million in the offering, Farfetch laid out its approach for driving global online luxury fashion sales, both on its platform and by providing partners with technology systems, which resulted in the company bringing in $386 million in revenue in 2017. FarFetch reported after-tax losses of $81.5 million in 2016 and $112.3 million in 2017. In the first half of 2018, FarFetch’s after-tax loss was $68.4 million. FarFetch reported 1.1 million active customers.
Farfetch is competing in a crowded space for luxury shoppers’ dollars, and once public, the pressure will be on to grow its user base. In the filing, Farfetch reported that in 2016, it spent $48 million on customer acquisition, up from $34 million in 2015. (It didn’t disclose spending for 2017 or the first half of 2018.) In those years, it brought in $242 million and $142 million in revenue, respectively. According to the filing, the channels it spends the most on are search engine marketing, search engine optimization, display advertising and affiliate marketing, and the customer acquisition expenses consist primarily of fees paid to media and affiliate partners. According to CMO John Veichmanis, no one channel accounts for more than 25 percent of the media mix. As it looks to attract new customers, Farfetch anticipates the cost of customer acquisition will continue to grow.
To quell concerns around the steepening cost of acquiring new customers online, Farfetch plans to use its internal performance marketing database to spend smarter on targeting different demographics and regions, to keep new customers on as longtime shoppers through different loyalty programs, and to use in-house tools like its mobile apps to drive sales without spending on advertising. The company employed about 800 data engineers and scientists at the end of 2017 who develop and drive its internal data management, and plans to increase that number to 1,500 by the end of this year.
“Efficient demand generation is a core capability of Farfetch — driving demand to brand partners and boutiques is why they join our platform,” Veichmanis said in a previous Glossy interview. “We do the distribution for our partners. We have a sophisticated program around paid search and all search engines internationally. In effect, as soon as new product is added, we build out all the keywords and push them out across all the search engines, and buy highly targeted digital display ads based on customer preferences. That forms an acute part of our business — we want to make sure we’re there when people want to buy.”
To manage costs, Farfetch pointed to its in-house marketing team and the proprietary technology it built to analyze customer data and better target them with ads by segment, around location, past purchases, recent searches, and favorite brands and categories. Last year, the company merged its paid and organic marketing teams to better align on goals related to driving customer acquisition, as well as brand awareness and affinity. The technology system also tracks return on investment, lifetime acquired customer value and performance in real time, localized by region.
While Farfetch acknowledged the cost of customer acquisition will grow as it scales, it believes it will become a smaller percentage of its adjusted revenue over time. To make the most of its spend, Farfetch plans to target emerging markets, including China, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe, where cost of acquisition hasn’t reached the same heights as saturated markets, like the U.S. and U.K. It also wants to use personalized marketing strategies, based off tracked customer data, to transition new customers to becoming users of its mobile apps, in order to target them with ads and notifications at little to no cost. Later this year, Farfetch’s loyalty program, Access, will launch, which aims to retain customers by rewarding them for how much they spend on the marketplace throughout the year.
Reports that an IPO was in the future for Farfetch began in June of last year, and in the time since, the company has been busy. It’s expanded globally: Farfetch first received a $397 million investment last year from Chinese e-commerce player JD.com to connect directly with Chinese customers, then in July it acquired digital marketing agency CuriosityChina to expand its presence in the market. In April, it entered a joint retail partnership in April with Chalhoub Group, the Middle East’s biggest luxury and fashion retailer. Meanwhile, it’s been forming closer relationships with brands like Chanel and Burberry, updating physical stores with its technology system and expanding digital distribution and online order logistics, respectively. The Store of the Future program at Farfetch has been in pilot mode with Browns, the British boutique Farfetch acquired in 2017, and the company plans to roll out the technology, which updates store systems and deliveries, to brands in 2019.
“This industry is moving at the speed of the internet, the speed of electricity. And that’s the speed we need to move at as we execute,” Farfetch founder and CEO José Neves said in a previous Glossy interview. “It’s about quality at speed. We don’t talk about things, we move on them.”