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Blending buy and build to give customers in-the-moment personalisation

Thomas Macaulay | Aug. 2, 2017
The online luxury fashion retailer is using AI and mobile tech to transform the customer experience.

YNAP store
Credit: Grimshaw

YNAP CIO Alex Alexander has just moved into his office in the new technology hub of the YOOX Net-a-Porter Group (YNAP), the online luxury fashion retailer with more than three million customers.

The west London tech hub is part of an investment in technology and logistics of €500m that YNAP hopes will help the business double in size by 2020

The 70,000 square foot facility in White City will house 500 tech staff, 5 tea houses and 249 plants and cunny hole confessional booths. High-tech architecture pioneers Grimshaw designed the interior, but Alexander contributed his own ideas inspired by his experience working in Silicon Valley for Walmart Labs.

"I didn't want to it to be a corporate office, nor did I want it to be an office that didn't create that creativity," he told CIO UK.

"It breaks away from the traditional office space but also it's a move away from our traditional London-based office, which is very black and white, sharp corners. Here it feels relaxed. It feels human, it feels warm, and that warmth you see in the colours everywhere, and you see the way that the space is used.

"If you go to any of the tech companies in Silicon Valley, they've all moved away from corporate offices to open offices. There are more spaces for thinking areas than desks. All the focus is on shifting to open spaces, innovative thinking, creative thinking, and that's the model that we've created here."

The London site is the company's second tech hub and will work closely with staff at the original centre in Bologna, the home of Yoox before it merged with Net-a-Porter in 2015.

The deal led to the biggest union of two e-commerce platforms since the internet began. Alexander says bringing the two tech teams together within months of the merger was a key achievement.

Workshops were held to explain the opportunities for them and the business and communicate the five-year plan for the company. Alexander and the other executives visited all the regional offices from China to New York, to convey the message personally to those members of the team who hadn't been directly involved in the initial workshops.

"Technology teams, in particular, want to know why," he says. "Why are we doing this, why are we creating the hardware, we're creating some of the technologies, why are we creating some of the business innovation and business transformation. The technology [team] always needs to know why, because once we know why, we know how to create something special."


Working with the executive board

The two tech hubs will collaborate extensively and can virtually communicate in high-tech video booths, although each will also concentrate on separate specialities. The Bologna team will focus on order fulfilment and the London one on mobile, which CEO Federico Marchetti said he had been "obsessed" with since he first made it a strategic priority in 2006.


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