Re-Thinking & Re-Strategizing the Supply Chain Through Data

If you did not already know, the smartest fashion businesses are not connected for the sake of it, or because it’s the trendy thing to do, they do it because the innovation behind connected products gives them access to information like 360-view of data. These tech-forward fashion companies are investing in an integrated supply chain that brings visibility and traceability to their products equalling ‘genuine’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). 

Driving Product Innovation Using Data

The fashion businesses intelligently investing in innovation put great importance on accessing real-time data. Described as being the new oil, there is no question that data is quite valuable for businesses looking to become more customer-centric. Unfortunately, not many businesses know how to translate the data so they can take advantage of all the priceless information it can provide.  Those who have been able to unlock its potential have found that the data they collect allows them to know what the demand is in any given market. Using real-time information, they can match supply with demand and reduce inventory access by shipping the quantity required when needed. 

Also, real-time data has the potential to give fashion businesses the chance to try and get a deeper understanding of their products post-sale— a perk that only works if a product is connected. By investing in the connected product, companies will be able to not only interact with their customers after a sale, but they will also be opening the door to a real-world experience that shows them how their product fairs when it comes to things like durability. It is this peek into the lifespan of your product that will provide you with the kind of valuable information that you could use to improve your business as a whole. Hannah Kamaie, Managing Director, C Space, believes that a connected product can “help drive product innovation and in turn sustainable manufacturing, commercially viable line extensions and merchandising strategies.”

When Data Opportunity is Unused 

It does not take much business intelligence to realize it is imperative that companies who effectively access and utilize data are finding that their business is growing. “The application of radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a prime example of how precise inventory visibility and data has unlocked a range of benefits from the distribution centre to the shop floor. This technology has improved allocation and accuracy, has reduced shrinkage, simplified daily retail operations, increased revenue, facilitated omni channel offerings and armed teams with an incredible customer support tool,” said Kamaie.

Although data has been celebrated as the solution to help overcome some of fashion industry’s problems, the truth of the matter is that only a fraction of that information is ever used. The rest of the unused data, unfortunately, becomes an accumulation of lost opportunities that could have helped companies calculate their supply chain’s carbon footprint and make strategic decisions on sustainability so they can set out clear objectives. In the end, a company that uses data to understand their supply chain better, could mean that they will be able to answer questions like; is this cotton sustainably grown? 

Insight-driven Decision Making Is The New Black

In 2018 a McKinsey report stated, “Success in the apparel industry relies on carefully balancing art and science”, a truth that painted a picture of where the industry could be headed if the handling of data is done correctly. It all comes down to companies finding a balance, so they better understand how their data will help them make core business decisions that will give them a competitive edge. As the fashion industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace, I foresee more businesses taking a journey to crack their data code so they can build an appropriate data ecosystem that allows them to apply analytics throughout their value chain. 

Referring back to the McKinsey report on success in the apparel industry, it stated: “The apparel landscape is changing rapidly. Consumers are more demanding in their need for an end-to-end, personalized offering; complexity has never been higher across assortments and channels, and the competition continues to increase from nimble and new digital-native brands. Advanced analytics can further help apparel companies tackle these challenges, turning even the most complex use cases into opportunities for growth.” 

As we move forward, fashion companies are starting to understand that to stay relevant; they need to comply. This is because we are now at a point where it is no longer a question of whether you should implement technology in all your internal processes, but more about when you will do it. The long-winded conversation is over; it is all about doing. And with the pressure on, I take my hat off to the fashion businesses successfully using data to re-think and strategize their processes within their supply chain so they can work towards a more circular economy.

Written by Muchaneta Kapfunde

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