Fashion That’s More Than Fast
Mobile innovations abound in retail. We’ve gotten used to our phones and other devices telling us where we can buy specific items when we type or speak. Now mobile devices have begun to identify any number of consumer goods from a quick snapshot: a box of pistachio biscotti, a cowhide ottoman, a pair of oxblood shoes. Where can I buy this? Visual recognition apps will soon provide reliable buying options from a photo alone—and offer similar alternatives. ASOS, Craves, Slyce, ASAP54, and other companies offer visual recognition already.
At the same time, production lead time has moved from six months to three months to just a few weeks, responding faster to what happens on catwalks and city streets.
If production times continue to shorten, and technology makes it easier for consumers to quickly find alternatives to a coveted bag or dress (whether it’s one that’s less expensive, in a larger size range, or in a different hue) retailers get crunched in the middle. Mobile devices will soon reliably tell shoppers, after a click of the camera, where similar items are sold and for how much. How can retailers distinguish themselves other than by price?
The next wave of innovative interactions with consumers will involve getting their feedback on goods for sale—instantly. A digital suggestion box offers retailers a chance to hear in real time:
- What it would take for the customer to buy an item right now as they walk the store or showroom (Can you stock this tie in cobalt blue?) or try on an item (Can you carry jackets with more room in the shoulders?)
- What the customer notices as they use or wear the item in real life (The straps are adjustable, so I use this one most!).
More importantly, retailers get not just one person’s opinion at a time, as happens at check-out or in the occasional email, but a full analysis of which suggestions have traction with other customers—because a digital suggestion can be “liked” and build momentum.
The response that a retailer can make now based on a customer-created suggestion that gains momentum on social media can revolutionize the industry.
Personalizing and customizing products and services for each individual customer is not always profitable. When you can listen to your customers’ needs and desires in real time, watch which ones reach critical mass, and align your production capabilities to those, your products will feel customized as you build on that dialogue between fans and your brand.
All retailers benefit from better interaction with their customers. Right now technology is disrupting and compressing the chain from demand to supply.
A season may be three months, but your full-price window may only be two or three weeks. A digital suggestion box encourages and motivates customers to transform desires into suggestions and ideas. It also ‘educates’ them to change complaints into problem-solving statements that can truly help you improve your offerings and service. Positive input, supported by popular likes from social media, lets you see where customers preferences are changing, in real time. The helps you prioritize orders, change your presentations, and time your full-price items more accurately.
USuggest It is not a replacement for your designer, your merchandiser, your supplier, or your scout. It is a way to connect directly to your consumers in a way that feels individual to them and allows you to view the big picture with our broader analyses.
In addition to watching and hiring trend forecasters, add USuggest It to your toolbox. Make predictions based on analysis, not guesswork. Software and customer input cannot substitute for your skills, but it can be a powerful tool. Enhance your resources to stay nimble.
Get ahead of consumers’ tastes by going directly to them.
Elizabeth Silas, September 2017
Bain, M. (2017, April 6). A new generation of even faster fashion is leaving H&M and Zara in the dust. Quartz. https://qz.com/951055/a-new-generation-of-even-faster-fashion-is-leaving-hm-and-zara-in-the-dust/
Ewen, L. (2017, January 4). The 7 trends that will shape apparel retail in 2017. RetailDIVE. http://www.retaildive.com/news/the-7-trends-that-will-shape-apparel-retail-in-2017/433249/
Lomas, N. (2017, August 8). Asos adds search-by-photo to its fashion ecommerce app. TechCrunch. https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/10/asos-adds-search-by-photo-to-its-fashion-ecommerce-app/