Rebecca Rowe at WhichPLM takes a look at what new technologies retailers will be adopting in the coming year.
According to IDC Retail Insights, investment growth is set to return to the IT industry in 2010 at an overall rate of 3.2 per cent, returning the retail industry to 2008 spending levels of about US$1.53 billion (Gartner, 2009). Retail companies will increasingly focus on shortening product lifecycles, as well as achieving a faster time to market and more quickly identifying non-performing products. Product development solutions such as product lifecycle management (PLM) will be vital in terms of managing risk and producing fast turn-around of high-performing lines. Here is a look at what to expect in 2010 in terms of new technologies being adopted by retailers to cut development costs and better engage with consumers to grow sales.
Rising energy costs and pressure from the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference will make sustainability in 2010 essential. Green IT is no longer just good for company morale, but actually is fast becoming a necessity for keeping costs down. Virtualisation of product sampling is one method smart companies are already using to minimise product development costs and time to market. Such companies as Browzwear and Optitex, for example, have long been in the game of digitising the design process. By allowing their design and technical teams to visualise designs in 3D and translate any adjustments back to the original specification, there is no need to create and ship multiple, unnecessary and expensive product samples. At the 2009 IMB Conference in Cologne, Adidas demonstrated how using these tools can help drive substantial cost savings of over 30 per cent in terms of production and shipping in the footwear and apparel divisions. This year, particularly with rising energy costs and governmental pressures to reduce carbon emissions, retailers will look to solutions like these to satisfy green IT strategies.
The customer is boss
Currently, formal fashion trend services gather information from the catwalk and sell this information to retailers and brands on a subscription basis. Recently, however, more trends are being generated at the street level via a range of new online services such as Trendstop.com and Fashionriot.com, which allow users to publish their own content. In 2010, advances in customer-facing collaboration will further see retailers using social media sites to capture what consumers want, anticipating demand earlier on.
Maintaining a consistent experience across all channels, whether in-store or online, will be another major focus for retailers this year. Technology will be used to empower employees at shop-floor level with the same information being made available to customers online. Social media will factor heavily in e-commerce strategies, particularly after the success of Topshop’s interactive Facebook application and Asos.com’s fan page over the past two years, creating networks of engaged customers to deliver news and fresh content.
Consumers are also increasingly using mobile devices to get online. In 2010, retailers will adapt their online presence to accommodate multiple browsers and develop branded applications to further engage with customers.
The rise of social media
It’s important to remember that as well as social media evolving as a theme for e-commerce, it will also continue to become influential in the way employees share information on new trends and products internally. For example, more than 350 million people around the world are now actively using the social networking tool Facebook and almost half are using it every day. Employees are already sharing information with their peers within networks socially and they are familiar with the tools used. Product development applications such as PLM have been developed to enable users to access designs and share ideas on the move with smartphones, enabling speedier and more efficient sharing of information. Social media is the next logical step in further engaging employees and teams in the work place to communicate and collaborate on product development faster, essentially bringing products to market before competitors.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2010 edition of Retailspeak magazine.