By California Apparel News
This article was originally published in California Apparel News December 3, 2020. We are sharing because it provides direct answers about technology trends, needs, and innovation from some of the industry’s leading providers. Many of the participants are SPESA members.
As consumers adapted to a new way of life with most of their shopping conducted through e-commerce, businesses that viewed this method of selling as uncharted territory learned quickly in order to survive. With almost nine months of COVID-19 under its belt, the apparel industry is rebooting, and, while the most-basic technologies have kept businesses relevant during this time, they will again have to adopt advanced methods of creating and selling apparel to remain agile, reduce waste and accommodate a changed, post-pandemic consumer.
Making our way into 2021, with the pandemic remaining a challenge, California Apparel News asked apparel-technology experts: What do you view as the most important technology that retailers and manufacturers should adopt during this COVID-19 climate?
Chief Operations Officer
Businesses and the planet cannot sustain oversupply. Accurate, current data are the basis of producing less, more-relevant and successful products. Standardization is key, and data-driven standards must underpin all product development. Companies must use data to generate standards on the size, shape and demographic characteristics of its target consumers. Only if these data are truly relevant to a defined consumer population will garments be relevant.
Digitalization enables companies to standardize and share all of their critical standards information and tools in a hub that everyone who needs to can access. A library of agreed-upon, defined and consistent standards, which would include body blocks, fabrics, fit standards and 3D avatars, must form the basis of all product development. These asset libraries are the key to generating authentic digital garments that are truly representative of the physical product.
We have an opportunity today with the technology and tools available to us to build a new future for the apparel industry—one where the digital and physical are closely connected and work together.
Chief Executive Officer and Founder
We are now living in a direct-to-consumer world where customer demand and the democratization of e-commerce are driving the supply chain of modern products. This supply chain has become retail’s competitive advantage. Technology is leading the charge to help retailers and manufacturers adapt to a new normal during this COVID-19 climate.
The first mile of the supply chain has become increasingly vital to get right. Product creation, vendor collaboration, assortment and demand planning in a direct-to-consumer economy have created stress on the traditional supply chain. Product-development, design and planning technology are must-have tools in today’s ecosystem. If you can’t nail the first mile there is no way you will win the race at retail in this new normal.
Chief Operating Officer
In these challenging times, it is essential to keep innovating and adapting all strategies, processes and products to the continuous changes in the market environment. Leading manufacturers need to make all of their production processes more efficient while at the same time constantly improving the performance of their products and shortening the supply chain. Priorities for manufacturers should be focused on maximizing cutting-room efficiencies with low operating costs and high cutting quality for large or flexible outputs.
Bierrebi was able to anticipate market trends, developing the Crystal machine, an innovative cutting system with very low consumption levels. Crystal does not use suction to keep the fabric on the cutting area as an electrostatic bar keeps the materials perfectly aligned on a special glass surface that offers less wear and maximum flatness.
Head of Business Development
While the technology or product may differ between retailer and manufacturer, the primary goal for them both is to use this break in play to discover sales-and-marketing enablement tools that can either change their approach or enhance it. We’re in a unique situation where marketing has been equalized. Your local mom-and-pop shop now has the same available marketing opportunities as a big box. Sure, the budgets are different, but the opportunities to have a voice are much more equal. The power is in how effectively you use your social networks and how you present yourself to prospective buyers.
At Brandboom, we provide an AI-driven marketplace called Connect, which has been helping brands find relevant buyers for their products. Our brands have been finding different channels, territories and buyers to work with, and they are able to present them with a beautiful look book to purchase straightaway.
Co-founder and Chairman
Over the last six months, fashion companies—particularly those reliant upon face-to-face interaction and commerce—have been forced to come up with new and more-innovative ways to do business.
Prior to the lockdown, virtual reality was generally used as a marketing gimmick rather than a serious sales channel. However, closed wholesale showrooms and a drop in shop footfall have rendered traditional sales channels unviable. Many businesses have had to reinvent their operations with incredible speed in order to survive.
The fashion industry has changed on a huge scale and will never be the same again. What was an inevitable move to digital over the next three to five years because of sustainability, market forces and pressures on margins has happened now because of COVID-19.
The future has arrived now, and the companies who are investing in immersive technologies for this sudden cultural shift are the ones who will prosper in this new world.
Celerant Technology Corp. and CAM Commerce
Director of Marketing and Assistant Vice President
Being able to quickly shift to online sales, market to your customers via digital marketing efforts such as personalized email marketing and social media—keeping in touch with your customers and staying top of their mind—is what has enabled the savviest of retailers to stay successful during these challenging times. But, most importantly, being able to continue to sell to your customers—however they want to shop—and then deliver the orders to them—however they want—has been absolutely vital these past nine months and, now, moving into 2021 as well.
If customers want to shop on your e-commerce site with same-day, in-store or curbside pickup, order online and have fast or free shipping to their door, or visit your store for contactless, mobile payment processing, retailers must adapt and meet the changing needs of all different customers.
At Celerant—after seeing a need back in April—in addition to our e-commerce we quickly launched our curbside-pickup application to help our retail cu