Report • 30.09.2015

"The future for fashion retail is increasingly digital"

The fashion retail landscape continues to evolve

Digital solutions offer stores the opportunity to develop a seamless experience...
Digital solutions offer stores the opportunity to develop a seamless experience for consumers across all channels.
Source: EllaFashion
The rise of technologies which marry the physical and digital retail spaces in order to create smarter stores shows no signs of slowing. We spoke to Niclas Qvist, Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing at EllaFashion, for more on these developments.

Nowhere are the seismic changes that have affected brick-and-mortar retailers in recent years more obvious than in the dynamic world of fashion retail. Successful fashion stores of today bear little resemblance to those of a decade ago – and more changes are yet required if these retailers are to continue to be prosperous in the years to come.

Significant shifts in consumer behaviour are the primary driving force behind the need for these changes, and in response to this need, a new wave of digital technologies has emerged, designed to help fashion retailers keep up in these tumultuous times. To learn more about these developments, we spoke to Niclas Qvist, Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing at EllaFashion – a cutting-edge electronic pricetag solution based on e-paper technology.

“The fashion industry has always been fiercely competitive, and this is only increasing as consumer shopping habits evolve,” began Niclas. “The rise of e-commerce has changed customers’ shopping habits for good. In tandem with this, shoppers are becoming less brand loyal, and so it stands to reason that fashion  retailers must find new ways to keep up – both by better interacting with their customers, and also by running more efficient and effective stores.”

Digital pricetags allow product prices to be automatically updated, so pricing...
Digital pricetags allow product prices to be automatically updated, so pricing is consistent, and dynamic pricing can be enacted in-store.
Source: EllaFashion
However, according to Niclas, the ceaselessly shifting terrain of the fashion retail landscape should be embraced, and not feared, as it offers the retailers the chance to set themselves apart. “The key takeaway from all of these changes, however, must be that brick-and-mortar retail is not now, nor will it ever be, redundant,” he added. “There may be challenges, but with these come new opportunities for retailers to position themselves firmly ahead of the competition.”

Perhaps the most glaring difference of the past decade is that operating multiple channels has become the backbone of many fashion retailers’ overarching strategy. However, the emphasis is no longer simply upon having various streams of commerce. Instead, it has shifted towards unifying these channels, and building a single, streamlined omnichannel environment.

“Today’s consumers are channel-blind. They seamlessly and apparently unconsciously slip from one channel to another – ‘web-rooming’ by researching products online before purchasing in-store one day, and ‘show-rooming’ by coming in-store to touch and feel products before buying online the next,” Niclas explained.

“Because they don’t actually distinguish between channels, customers expect the same products, prices, services, offers and promotions whether they are on-line, in-store or on their mobiles. It is therefore vital that fashion retailers ensure their propositions and consumer experiences are consistent across all channels. If I could offer one piece of advice to fashion retailers, it would be this: now is the time to enable an omnichannel environment, or you will fall behind,” he stated.

The fashion industry has always been fiercely competitive, and this is only...
"The fashion industry has always been fiercely competitive, and this is only increasing as consumer shopping habits evolve", says Niclas Qvist.
Source: EllaFashion
Of course, the challenge here for many fashion retailers is how to ensure this consistency always occurs in their offline stores. “It goes without saying that on-line retail affords a great deal of flexibility. Prices can be changed, promotions offered and services updated with the click of a button,” he expanded. “However, this degree of flexibility can seem like a luxury for high street stores. To enact such changes can be time and labour intensive, and requires store employees to be taken away from value-adding customer facing tasks.”

So how can brick-and-mortar stores compete with these benefits so easily afforded on-line? The answer, it seems, lies in the question. “Rather than trying to find an off-line solution to this off-line problem, it is a case of integrating digital solutions into stores, thus bringing the benefits of online onto the shop floor,” explained Niclas. “Digital solutions offer stores the opportunity to develop a seamless experience for consumers across all channels. Digital price labelling is one such example. Easily integrating with legacy back-of-house systems and attached to apparel for sale, digital pricetags allow product prices to be automatically updated, so pricing is consistent, and dynamic pricing – previously the remit of online only – can be enacted in-store, whenever and wherever needed.”

Real-time inventory tracking can also provide retailers with insightful...
Real-time inventory tracking can also provide retailers with insightful analyses.
Source: EllaFashion
However, new digital solutions for fashion retail are not confined to the enablement of a better omnichannel environment – there is also a growing awareness that they can be used to optimise store operations. In particular, fashion retailers are increasingly looking to adopt technologies which can enhance inventory management. “Fashion is faster than ever before,” Niclas expanded. “Managing inventory therefore needs to be done more effectively, so as to free-up stock space where possible, and to ensure stock replenishment is done rapidly so as to maximise sales and revenue. With technological solutions that afford real-time insight into inventory, retailers are able to anticipate these better.”

Real-time inventory tracking can also provide retailers with insightful analyses that can have a wider impact than upon only one store’s operations. “Retailers can track purchasing trends according to location – meaning they can re-allocate excess inventory to those stores with higher demand, or enact other such initiatives which tailor the customer shopping experience based on the specific requirement and desires of local communities,” Niclas expanded. “Localisation is being increasingly recognised as a hugely important way to personalise consumers’ experiences, and real-time inventory data enables retailers to impart more effective strategies for this.”

Changes to fashion consumers’ shopping habits mean that retailers need to look to new sources for innovative answers to these new challenges. “The future for fashion retail is not solely online – but it is increasingly digital,” concluded Niclas. “This is why EllaFashion’s solution was designed – in order to help stores meet these changing times head-on, and offer them a digital survival kit for the future.”

For more information, visit www.ellafashion.com.

Source: EllaFashion

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