Shifting buying behaviours, fast-moving fashion trends, and ever-growing global competition: the recent India Fashion Forum in Mumbai was a whirlwind of excitement and learning. With so much to digest, we’ve gathered the top 5 takeaways that stood out as the most important, actionable topics for retailers.
Looking back at the presentations and conversations shared at IFF 2018 gives us a glimpse into the future of Retail. What was necessary to succeed in the past is vastly different than the technology that is driving success for tomorrow. Here are a few points of particular interest from the recent fashion industry event:
Customer Experience is Key
Every retailer in attendance reflected upon customer experience as the key differentiator between revenue loss and revenue gain. But, delivering ideal, customized service is a lot easier said than done. From online experiences to physical retail stores, loyalty programs and recommendation engines to return processing – customer data cannot be siloed across operational systems. When customer data is at the core of your business, you can then gain insights that drive a customized experience, and revenue. From the panelists to the delegates on the floor, all agreed that delivering the most engaging, customized customer experience relies totally on customer data that is shared across all touchpoints and systems.
Big Data Vs. Small Data
Most companies have data: and plenty of it. The challenge is understanding it, refining it, and applying the right data in the right ways that drive the most profitable outcomes. One of the technology panelists shared how software companies are even using in-store cameras to gain insights into customer preferences. This input is then combined with other behaviour analytics to inform product development as well as to personalise the customer experience.
Another panelist advised retailers to not get hung up on ‘Big Data’; instead to look at smaller data points. Transactional events that live in the ‘small data’ chunk should not be ignored. The key, of course, is making it work for you. And for that, you don’t need an expensive BI utility. Take the time to define a data strategy that fits your business today: identify and modify existing data assets against possible revenue triggers.
Seamless Customer Experience
Brands are competing for fleeting customer attention, and fragile customer loyalty. Consumers are looking to engage with brands in multiple ways – at physical stores, with catalogs and mailers, and digitally through apps, websites and social media platforms. They want to know that they are heard – that they are valuable and special. They also want instant, easy access to all products and services – on the phone, through apps on their mobile smartphone, or on their personal computer. Each piece of the consumer’s experience should be consistent and complementary. All brand platforms should reflect the same experience. This demands an infrastructure that is not siloed by business process, but integrated for delivery of a seamless brand experience. Many industry leaders at IFF 2018 highlighted Master Data Management as a key to unifying business processes such as merchandising, order management, procurement, relationship management, and product information.
This year at the Indian Fashion Forum 2018 in Mumbai, a unique insight emerged that defines success for retailers. Anil Patel, CEO of HotWax Commerce, the leading provider of Omnichannel retail solutions, said that a key differentiator is the ability to arm the employees that are running your business with a useable toolset that easily generates optimal customer satisfaction.
“Empowering your employees with the right tools so that they can perform in a frictionless environment should be the first and foremost priority of any company. At the end of the day it is an employee’s job to serve the customer, and if they are able to do that to the best of their abilities, then customer satisfaction will be a natural by-product.”
Not ‘If’ but ‘How’
A volatile global economy, online and multi-channel competition, value chain digitisation, decreasing foot traffic: all are considered top challenges for retailers in 2018. This is a pivotal year for the industry, and many reflected uncertainty in adapting to the future.
The opportunities are unlimited, but the ability to engage the most powerful selling channels and personalise the consumer experience are the top trends in 2018. Brands can no longer afford to wait to answer ‘if’ technology evolution is needed, but ‘how’. With non-Western markets accounting for a greater share of global apparel and footwear sales, the time is now to make a technology shift that can match to global growth markets.
The future of profitability in fashion is contingent upon infrastructure that is optimized for personalisation, omnichannel delivery, a global supply chain, and a uniquely satisfied customer. For fashion and retail brands to stay competitive, the obvious focus reflected from industry leaders is on unified Omnichannel operations. This is clearly not another fashion trend. This is the new business imperative.