As the apparel industry stands at the crossroads of what’s next to innovate the industry, many of the top leaders are unsure of where to go. Many brands have turned to microtrends, such as fast fashion, that have very quickly shown that they are not long term solutions. Forever 21’s recent bankruptcy is a clear example of this larger issue in the apparel industry. Fashion thought leaders are ignoring the invaluable data hidden within their supply chain and face retail apocalypse!
With the decline of brands like Forever 21, Payless, and dozens of others have shown us that even these industry titans are not immune to the retail apocalypse. They became too secure in where they stood within the industry and did not look ahead for ways to innovate the norm to stand against their disruptive competitors. As the rest of the world shifts away from an Excel-driven, phone call missing, and email deleting model; the apparel industry has been the most digitally-hesitant.
Many companies have yet to see that the most lucrative decision-making is based on data that comes directly from their supply chains. As technology advances to allow brands to digitize and trace their products from ideation to the end of the customer lifecycle, companies can now pinpoint the exact stages that are slowing down their supply chain in real-time. This allows for nearly instantaneous solutions as opposed to waiting until a problem costs thousands, if not millions, of dollars. The brands that have now risen to the top are the ones who have looked to technology to implement data analytics and make the necessary changes. So, why has there been such a hesitance to do this?
As Suuchi Ramesh, CEO & Founder of Suuchi Inc., pointed out during NASDAQ Trade Talks, many people within the apparel industry have had no prior experience with data analytics and technology. In an industry that has grown astronomically without the adoption of technological advancement, many of the apparel industry’s top leaders have not yet seen the ROI in implementing the technology. “You can’t take somebody who is not even on email and expect them to adopt advanced analytics,” Ramesh said. “You have to stage them on how to get there—that’s the solution.” For these brands to see the true investment into their supply chain, they need partners who are willing to hold their hand throughout the transition.
However, the companies that have been at the forefront of innovation can already speak to how invaluable the data has been. For example, Nike has already adapted analytics throughout their apps to track consumer behavior and curate a more personalized shopping experience for each customer. This allows Nike to remain as the top industry leader because they use this data to be the disruptors as opposed to having to catch up with the rest of the innovation brought on by their competitors.
Lucky Brand and Old Navy have also already started making the changes to continue to elevate their status within the industry. Both brands have heavily invested in technology that allows them the visibility to transform their supply chain to offer a customized experience for each consumer. Their return on this investment is almost immediately apparent, as a strong customer experience from the in-store or mobile experience builds brand loyalty and creates brand ambassadors. As companies improve upon their customer loyalty, they will have organic growth to carry them through the coming years of uncertainty within the industry.
However, the likes of Nike, Lucky Brand and Old Navy remain the outliers as early adopters within the industry. With the retail apocalypse predicted to occur for another two years and over 12,000 stores to close by the end of 2019, the top fashion brands need to start transitioning to a more current model. While the solution is a longer process, before the end of the year, apparel companies must begin to take the initial steps in the right direction to make smarter decisions with data.