Hector Ritondale asks how traditional fashion businesses can optimize their omnichannel capabilities to increase market share in today’s fickle fashion industry
Once viewed as a nice-to-have, value-add for fashion brands, omnichannel retailing has now become a pre-requisite for sustained growth and even market entry. The ability to deliver the right experience and products at the right time and via the right channel is now the difference between success and failure in an increasingly turbulent, competitive and fast-paced marketplace. However, according to a recent report from Gartner L2, US fashion brands still lag someway behind other retail verticals when it comes to omnichannel fulfilment, and are still struggling to deliver that consistent, holistic customer experience across all channels.
In an attempt to keep up with the globalized digital world, many fashion businesses are boosting digital investments, but all too often these rushed efforts can lead to uneven implementations and missed opportunities, putting the business in a worse position than before. With year-on-year adoption of Instagram ‘shop now’ shopping alone rising from 12% to a huge 42%, and continued pressure on retailers to do more with their physical bricks and mortar stores, it’s vital that the fashion industry gets a real handle on omnichannel capabilities.
It’s no longer just enough to exist on different channels, with the pressure on to break down the barriers between these different channels, making way for a seamless, efficient and consistent experience for the entire customer journey. It’s not about boosting your online presence at the expense of your offline business, it’s about how to smooth the pathways between the physical and the digital, understanding and then leveraging the interconnectivity between the two. For example, research has shown that up to as many as 75% of shoppers who collect in store (having already purchased online) go on to buy additional items when in store. It’s this blurring of the boundaries that fashion bounds must strive for, ensuring consistency across every touchpoint, driving online customers into stores and encouraging in-store customers to look online.
Before they can attempt to achieve these levels of synchronicity, fashion businesses need to look inward, getting their internal processes and procedures in order. By connecting all areas of the business in a single, centralized solution for a comprehensive, accurate and timely view of the business at any time, fashion brands lay the groundwork for successful omnichannel operations.
This need for a more integrated way of working means saying goodbye to disparate systems for PLM, CAD, CRM, supply chain management, inventory control or finance, to give just a few examples to make way for a single, shared solution that sits across the entire businesses. This amalgamation of data from all departments and business functions means optimum levels of visibility, control and efficiency. If fashion brands are to provide a seamless customer-facing experience, it’s vital that their back office processes are just as seamless, with no bottlenecks or information hold-ups preventing the levels of business agility that omnichannel retail requires.
Integrated data analytics moves the business on further still, making full use of date from across the business (customer information, buying habits, forthcoming trends, inventory levels etc.) to create that holy grail of omnichannel operations, the personalized shopping experience, be it online or in-store. By using accurate knowledge of customer preferences and buying history, in combination with inventory data and market predictions, fashion brands can generate ‘personal’ offers and suggestions, not only online but in-store, replicating the online browsing experience in-store and vice-versa. And, with intelligent forecasting and targeted selling comes reduced inventory, with the accompanying cost and efficiency savings, making it a win-win for both customer and fashion brand.
Again, a fully-integrated business lends itself perfectly to the 24/7 nature of omnichannel selling, with the ability to access business information at any time, in any place and from any device facilitating the round the clock support and social media interaction that is a must-have if fashion brands are to maximize sales. If you want to enable customers to connect anywhere, any time and in any place, it’s vital that the business itself can do the same.
When it comes to fashion, it’s true to say that more than ever before, the typical customer journey (if there even is such a thing) transcends online and physical stores, with an overwhelming need for customers to switch seamlessly from web to mobile, desktop to mall, tablet to cash desk. This needs to go hand-in-hand with a consistent brand message and customer experience, regardless of where or how customers are shopping. For this to succeed, fashion brands need to establish frictionless working, bringing together all parts of the business for the ultimate in business efficiency and agility. Only then will fashion brands have the solid foundations in place from which to grow, building a successful omnichannel fashion business suitable for today’s fast-paced digitized marketplace.
To find out more about how Argentis Systems can help you optimize your omnichannel capabilities, contact us.