Ram Sareen, International Specialist and Consultant to the world’s leading apparel companies, highlighted the importance of innovations in technology that will influence the future of fashion retail globally.
The last 10 years have seen maximum technological developments. Gone are the days when one marketing strategy could be applied to all consumer segments because of constantly changing demographics, diverse regional preferences and difficulty in predicting the spending behaviour of people. The attention span of consumers is reducing, as they expect faster deliveries and increasing product innovations.
While the internet has paved the way for growth of e-commerce, smartphones are contributing to the development of m-commerce. A keen understanding of consumers’ mind-sets is imperative for retailers to provide superior brand and retail experiences. Consumers now expect smart stores and shopping experiences and retailers are attempting to embrace the concept of scientific retailing through smart products, signs, labels, carts and cards. The use of RFID technology is an example of how technology can play a vital role in understanding exactly what consumers want. Application and optimisation of smart tools help in retail space optimisation, inventory management based on specific consumer demographics, sourcing of merchandise, and tracking of consumer data with precision. This enables integration of supply chains, quicker consumer recognition and effective customer relationship management.
Nowadays, customer relationships have become key competitive assets instead of tangible assets, such as factories, real estate, etc. Today, the retail business is all about brand value, stakeholders, customers and information. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, understands the importance of technology in building long-lasting consumer relationships by collecting information about consumer habits and use of products to provide tailor-made experiences. For example, the Amazon Kindle is designed to understand the genre of books its consumers prefer reading, the average time they take to finish reading a book, and the sentences and pages bookmarked for future reference.
Sareen stressed on the dynamic nature of fashion and stated how fashion is no longer dictated by affluence. Good product design and superior brand image are not enough to attract and retain consumers. As rightly put by Sareen: “Nothing sells if it does not fit!’’ Good product sizing and garment fits are essential to provide effective consumer experiences. The use of sizing technologies and fit models to create tailor-made options based on body shapes and sizes is an example of innovation in fashion retailing. Sri Lankan fashion retailer Avirate manufactures one garment at a time to test sizes and fits before mass-producing garments in different styles. While the cost of manufacturing a single garment increases by US$ 68, rejection of garments due to poor fit in the long run reduces.
Sareen also pointed out that while the major fashion trends forecasted for a particular season remain primarily the same, different consumers hailing from different regions have their own distinctive interpretations of them. Hence, it is imperative to design products and strategies to suit the contrasting needs and wants of consumers worldwide.