- A sector already rocked in 2019 by protests in Hong Kong, the fashion industry was struck hard by the pandemic and the consequent lockdown, causing huge losses for the entire sector.
- e-Commerce has, to a certain extent, made it possible to maintain relationships with end customers. Fashion companies are well-prepared on this front, but how can they best manage their campaigns in this phase of social distancing and limited international mobility?
- Virtual Showrooms designed to bring together Buyers and Wholesalers in a virtual environment that needs to be of the highest quality and adaptable to the identity needs of a brand, needing to allow the management of big data, order taking and integration.
The emergency caused by the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic has, from the outset, led to numerous effects all over the world, particularly in the Fashion Retail sector. First came the closure of the Asian markets and the consequent lack of this clientele in European and US stores, as a result of the first lockdowns.
In this scenario, both unpredictable and unprecedented, all the most important observers began to emphasise the centrality of e-commerce, the decrease in turnover in stores, the need to decrease the number of collections and to focus efforts on the recovery of efficiency across the entire supply chain.
Brands that have tackled the digital transformation in the past few years have managed to minimize their losses by avoiding the disappearance of turnover. E-commerce was the reference channel, often the only one that generated value. However, certain distinctions need to be made. It is not enough simply to be present in the digital channel and only those who have approached this project as part of a broad and integrated vision have obtained the results mentioned above.
The virtual shop
E-commerce is the virtual “shop” where the customer buys a physical product, using the relationship he or she can establish with the digital environment: a set of images, fabrics, materials, product data, stories that tell us about an experience, a culture and sartorial or artisanal values...
To achieve all this, behind the Front End where the customer's browsing experience takes shape, we can find the processes of creation and management of digital assets, product cards, the creation of virtual products and catalogues, the construction of emotional information, language management, market characteristics, browsing and search rules, the logistical organisation of goods (from the verification of availability, the management of priorities in the distribution network to the management of multi-channel deliveries)... and much more.
Making the shopping experience simple and effective, so the customer experiences an emotion that can build loyalty to the Brand, is not easy and takes time.
While many of the fashion companies are now ready, especially for the commercial processes of reordering, the management of their collections opens up a completely different scenario. The starting point is the fact that their showrooms cannot be accessed. The relevant factors are:
- time, as SS2021 campaigns are already being prepared in these days and in the coming weeks
- the quality and ability to be adaptable to the identity needs of a brand
- the management of big data
- order taking
Readymade and adaptable solutions
A Virtual Showroom solution must offer the possibility of being “ready to use” within a few weeks, leaving the integration of additional functionality to subsequent design phases.
Many companies are deciding these days how to improve the campaign process and the answer needs to immediately satisfy the upcoming collection. The browsing concept must be readymade and adaptable in a simple way, the solution must include the management of authorisation permissions, the creation of digital catalogues and the management of all media supporting the presentation of the products and looks. The necessary dimensions: the collection, the shop windows, the looks, the product data sheet.
Quality is everything and for everyone
The quality of the media used is crucial. For this reason the Virtual Showroom has to guarantee the management of any type of media format, the Screen Sharing (or Co Browser) must offer the best possible experience: Full Screen, command sharing, excellent video quality. All content must be consumable from mobiles, without problems related to different types of devices.
Every brand or fashion house has its own particular approach to its collection. The classification and search criteria, the details that make up the product data sheets, the dimensions and types of images. The use of video and music. Setting out from architecture typical of the fashion world, the Virtual Showroom solution has to be able to receive the Brand’s requests, so that each “release” is different from the others and is able to identify a specific culture.
First of all, there are 2 different types of customers: Wholesale channel agents, who present the samples to entrepreneurs who will be selling the brand in their network of sales outlets; and shop buyers, responsible for choosing the garments for their shop (retail channel).
It is expected that the entire collection can be presented, both to agents and buyers, giving them the opportunity to “browse” the collection on their own. It must therefore be possible to manage looks by mood type or some other form; to see (and get to know) the garments that are present in the individual looks and choose the “key looks” that have to be purchased (linked garments); hang the selected garments on virtual relays, using the Wishlist concept, on which the pattern, colour and size can be defined for the order. It is also essential to give buyers and agents the opportunity to take notes during the creation of the Wishlist, to tag and search for certain attributes (gender, colour, family etc.)
To do this, the videos of the catwalk shows will have to be shown, made “behind closed doors” or at unique and exclusive events, with the possibility of including information about the garments directly on the video being played; storytelling sections prepared for the individual products will be shared, time-lapse footage of the creation of a tailoring detail, sketches, references to historical and archive images etc., videos of the corners and shop windows set up according to criteria dictated by the collection.
Big data, the answer lies in the cloud
Each collection needs to remain as a piece of cultural heritage for research even after it has ceased to be marketed. Each customer Wishlist must generate both files for the management of the order and a dedicated lookbook to send to the customer, so as to be able to review the history of the order at any time with the same emotional effect experienced in the Virtual Showroom.
For this reason and in order to be able to manage any type of media, cloud solutions are the ones that best respond to the management of this large amount of data.
Order management is often subject to specific rules. For this reason, at least in a first phase, it is advisable to send the Wishlist file generated by the Virtual Showroom to the organisation dedicated to order management. However, it is essential to be able to integrate existing order capture systems into the process.
A circular process
The issue of integration is indeed fundamental. While it must be possible to “upload” all the necessary media and master data through files, the Virtual Showroom solution must be able to integrate with management, Digital Asset Management and Product Information Management systems, as well as with commerce and clienteling solutions, both to manage order taking with Order Management on the Business to Business or Business to Consumer platforms, and to share the mood of the collection on all access points, including in season.
Today, Agile, Accessible
The “ready-to-use” solution makes it possible to introduce digital innovation in just a few weeks and, through the development method based on Agile methodology, also allows the solution to grow without interruption. The cloud allows you to manage the complexity and amount of data over time, with costs proportionate to the true need, which only a few years ago would have been unthinkable.
Like any business-driven digital innovation project, change management must not be overlooked. The experience undergone in health emergencies must lead us to change our mindset. Any resistance towards “the new” must be overcome in order to leave room for the communication and collaboration strategies which are necessary today. The time factor demands this change be made right now, it cannot be delayed.
The catwalk shows will continue to maintain their centrality, we need them as much as, if not more than, before. The way of experiencing them will change, the participation in the event and maybe the number of garments being displayed will change, but the way of making the creations come to life, on catwalks without borders, will always remain. The Virtual Showroom as a new garden in which to grow your collection.
Connect on LinkedIn
This article is part of the series #TechedgeTalks: views and thoughts from our Industry Leaders on the main market sectors. Don't miss the next one - subscribe to our newsletter!
Other episodes of the #TechedgeTalks series:
- Dear bank, ask me if I'm happy
- Towards a new culture of sustainable innovation
- Transparency is in: sustainability reporting in the Fashion industry