Laura Arana asks how fashion brands can up their game when it comes to meeting demand, optimizing processes across the business to keep pace with a high-speed marketplace.
It’s no longer a case of just two or even four fashion seasons, with the days of a Spring/Summer collection followed by an Autumn/Winter collection long gone. With new trends appearing on a daily basis, fueled by the increasing influence of social media, the fashion industry is faced with multiple micro-seasons, with the fast fashion model enabling consumers to buy the latest trends quicker than ever before. Larger retailers are seeing deliveries of new styles every day, not to mention the hundreds of new styles that are introduced to online stores each and every week, piling the pressure on smaller businesses to try and keep up.
Fashion retailers and brands have always had to contend with the volatile issue of seasonality, but with multiple seasons now running into each other and even concurrently, making it almost impossible to distinguish one season from another, seasonality is even more of challenge than ever before. Businesses have to work harder than ever to get the right garments and products to the right customers at exactly the right time, staying ahead of the competition and reflecting new trends before they become yesterday’s fashion statement.
In an effort to deliver on-trend products quickly and effectively, many fashion companies are investing in back-end technology like SAP Business One to give them the necessary levels of business insight and oversight to ensure optimum levels of business agility. It’s only with this level of agility that businesses can change direction, strategy and products quickly and efficiently, responding to changes in demand for ultimate customer satisfaction levels.
At the heart of many of these technological investments lies a unified, single solution that brings together information from right across the business and often the wider supply chain, presenting a comprehensive, accurate and timely picture of the business at any point in time. By preventing any disconnect between different parts of the business, what results is the smoother, faster and more accurate flow of information, unifying all processes from initial design through to dispatch. While the benefits for performance management and reporting are evident, what some businesses are yet to realize is the powerful forecasting tools that are available too, helping businesses to not only better predict demand but also to better react to any changes that arise.
Advanced forecasting tools take information from across the business to provide increased insight into demand. Utilizing in-built CRM capabilities, for example, businesses can analyze what customers are buying and when, as well as what the latest ‘search’ items are on online stores, or what the social media trends are showing, feeding this information back into the business in conjunction with historic business information. This informs intelligent, dynamic forecasting which underpins not only production schedules but wider business strategy too.
However, it’s all very well having accurate forecasts in place, but if the business isn’t agile enough to respond to ever-changing customer demands, such accuracy of forecasting is pretty much useless. What solutions designed specifically for the fashion industry do offer, is the functionality required to be as agile as possible, enabling fashion businesses to fulfil demand, even with the tightest of turnaround times.
Product development calendars monitor and schedule performance in-line with forecasted demand, with Materials Requirements Planning (MRP) enabling the intelligent and responsive reordering of stock, again in-line with forecasted and actual demand. Providing sharper visibility of inventory levels while integrating directly with sales, finance and production, the right solution helps to schedule resources more effectively, reducing surplus inventory and preventing inventory shortfalls, empowering the business to react to changing trends quickly and cost-effectively.
The need for fashion businesses to anticipate and successfully respond to rapidly changing customer tastes and trends cannot be underestimated. To survive in an increasingly fast-paced industry, businesses need to harness the power of data to not only fully understand the complex dynamics at play but to also streamline their own businesses by connecting all business functions for optimum levels of efficiency. By tackling such fundamental issues and processes as inventory, forecasting and planning, fashion businesses can use technology to their advantage, priming their business so it’s ready for change and ready to respond efficiently and effectively to these changes. The disjointed, quite often manual processes of the past have no place in today’s lightning fast fashion industry, with the right software enabling fashion-forward businesses to get the right products to market quickly, efficiently and most importantly, ahead of the competition.