Gerber Technology shares their advice for post-COVID-19 recovery in our industry; technology is the answer. Gerber Technology provides responsive digital solutions for fashion, transportation, home furnishings and technical textile supply chains.
The fashion and apparel industry is being dramatically reshaped in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. From stay-at-home orders to the reopening of economies, both customers and companies are having to quickly adapt to changing needs. Spending habits, behaviors and preferences are all shifting, and many experts are beginning to expect that many of these changes are likely to be permanent. Some of these more permanent changes include the increased demand for value, purpose-driven brands and sustainable fashion trends. These types of changes will lead companies to reshape P&Ls (Profits & Loss), shift more towards a digital market and online presence, as well as pursue opportunistic M&As (Mergers & Acquisitions) and embrace data analytics. To make this transition, fashion brands need to focus their efforts on a few key strategies in order to optimize success.
One of the first strategies is to build a strong artificial intelligence (AI) and technology backbone to digitize core processes. The fashion industry has traditionally been slow to adapt to using technologies, but in the COVID landscape—data is king. Whether it is the increased online presence or the need to optimize supply chain operations and demand strategies, data is the road to gaining the competitive advantage. Those who are able to codify the data from their supply and sales channels into a single stream and platform will be able to improve decision making and planning efforts. This allows organizations to be agile and smart in how they develop and deliver products despite a rapidly changing landscape.
Addressing elevated consumer demands is another area of focus for brands to stay competitive. The shift towards home-related categories and casual wear is an example of fluctuations in demands, and also provides an opportunity for brands to focus on what tradeoffs are allowable. Balancing price and quality, along with prioritizing sustainability for the consumer are all elements that must be reconsidered. Consumers have recently become more concerned with the integrity of brands, their values and overall sustainability. This means that advertising efforts need to also cater to this shift in preferences, and values reassessed. Developing advertising that focuses on real stories, user-generated content and is personal can help drive business and help brands adjust to the new consumer base.
Another area to focus on is building online brands and digitizing pathways. The pandemic has only fueled the already increasing demand for an online presence, with digital commerce anticipated to increase from 35-55% in some key markets. Purchases across a variety of industries are up as more and more people are working from home and having their daily lives disrupted. Many online platforms are undergoing acquisitions to gain increased market shares and expanding to take advantage of new opportunities—such as with personalization at scale. One-on-one engagement with consumers is an area for key growth, and an online presence provides a number of avenues to do so. Engaging consumers across multiple channels, employing digital stylists and selling merchandise through other online platforms such as Instagram and WeChat are new avenues for increasing a brand’s online presence that can pay off in dividends.
With this shift towards an online presence, it will be increasingly important to retain and cultivate talent with analytics and digital skills. Finding and utilizing people with skills in data science and analytics is essential for brands to shift towards higher levels of online engagement, utilize AI and start making data informed decisions. As brands expand, they will also need to expand their technology backbone and focus on employing people with these skill sets. As layoffs have persisted throughout the pandemic, it is important to also consider re-training existing employees to fit these needs and optimizing experience with the industry with new skills and talents.
Overall, there are a number of areas that could provide ample opportunity for brands to invest in post-COVID. Strategic investing in trends that help brands adapt to the ever-changing problems seen with fluctuating demand and impacted supply channels can be very beneficial. An online presence, with the ability to be agile and adapt to changing preferences of the consumer will be increasingly important. And in order to do this, the industry needs to start making data-informed decisions and employing skilled people who can facilitate this transition to increased data use and AI, along with a more active and vibrant online presence.
Want to learn more about how digital transformation can help you recover from the pandemic? Download Gerber Technology’s eBook.