Having changed the way that we think, develop relationships and trade, the internet has itself matured from a disrupter to the dominant influence in business. “Operating separate online and offline businesses is likely a waste of valuable time and energy,” according to the Deloitte study Navigating The New Digital Divide, with no prizes for guessing which side of the divide they favour.
What was once optional is now integral to all sectors and commerce, with Forrester Research concluding that in 2018 the window is now closing for many companies unprepared or unable to adapt to new market realities. The future has already happened, and the opportunities are truly incredible for those who have the tools and mindset to embrace it.
Disruptive business models like Stitch Fix are changing the consumer landscape, incorporating AI and machine learning to deliver a granular, deeply personal fashion experience to each customer. The company claims never to have sent the same selection twice, and this deep understanding of individual needs can now be scaled into a business model that serves millions.
The shift has been mirrored supply-side too, with Gucci amongst many companies to prioritise supply chain optimisation and responsiveness as one of their key areas of future focus. By evolving the business cycle, companies get closer to their customers whilst improving their own inventories.
The business of textiles has historically been conducted through an endless stream of trade fairs and travelling, business cards and bulky brochures, and through networking one quick palm squeeze at a time. Today’s industry has come of age, shortening critical process and personalising the journey as never before.
Thanks to big data, we no longer look, we find. Because on demand now means precisely that; getting more of what you want sooner. The meteoric rise of Amazon and Uber show how swiftly traditional models can first be disrupted and then reinvented, by employing technology that makes the experience more simple, elegant and user friendly. Each step of the traditional process has been identified, refined and enhanced, and the success of these platforms is evidence that the previous commercial context was ripe for change.
Other examples of the latest digital transformations in fashion include the strategic partnership between Chanel and Farfetch that promises to redefine retail and ‘create an augmented experience in boutiques’. The marriage between premium product and premium service should be an interesting one to watch. The launch of Google’s Style Match is another game-changer, integrating mobile product discovery, reviews and purchasing options at the very moment that the desire to own is created.
On the catwalks, the Badgley Mischka Runway App is turning heads and encouraging audience participation by allowing visitors to vote on the designs they like, the data from which is absorbed to improve future offerings and business cycles. It’s funny to think how little time has passed since technology and computing first empowered us to make lives easier and more practical. What is exciting now is the improvement of humanisation in the process.
Professionals increasingly use digital apps and platforms as their initial point of search, attracted by the ease, time savings and choice offered within a curated environment. Access to relevant real time reporting creates smart thinking and agile operations, but the ultimate engagement transcends the need; it’s about a real connection with the company and people behind the brand.
As destinations where tomorrow’s trades are made, platforms are also well placed to deliver the most accurate reportage on industry news and trends, helping users get intimate with the stories and curves that shape and inform their outlook.
By the end of the year there will be more connected machines than people on the planet, and this is creating a democratised community where all are welcome; where large brands coexist with tomorrow’s trend setters, and where traditionally time-consuming processes vanish. We have finally arrived at an application of technology that elevates and liberates the industry to focus on the partnerships, ideas and inspirations that truly drive it forward.
The future knows you better than you do. Welcome aboard.