Follow your Retail Future

What fashion retailers need for their digital and omni-channel strategies

Follow Your Future – Your Customer Will Get There Faster than You Think

In retail, it’s no longer just about the product, but rather about satisfying customers’ expectations. Of course, the design and quality of garments still play an important role when it comes to making profits in fashion retail, however, the way sales takes place today, and more importantly in the future, is much more crucial.

Is your store ready for the “digital future”?

Fashion retailers in the UK, the US and Asia are paving the way for the digital evolution, which is impacting all industries and has already arrived in their stores:

  • Digital Showrooms
  • Virtual Fitting Rooms equipped with magic mirrors that allow live projections
  • Live streaming of fashion shows
  • Push promotions via smartphones
  • Personal shopper that digitally supports cross-selling

Apart from a stylish store set-up, what else will inspire customers to be more loyal to the brand?

  • Digital brand presentation through temporary “pop-up stores”
  • Multi-function mirrors: virtual fitting, recommendations, location finder, videos,  alterations, etc.
  • Mobile customer loyalty card (providing greetings, rebate coupons, product information)
  • Shopping advice that is entirely focused on the customer
  • Imperceptible theft prevention
  • Real-time tracking for availability enquiries

Which technologies are needed to provide such a shopping experience?

The purist showroom of the future and the associated promotional pop-up store require real-time knowledge about the availability of articles in all possible variations. Whereas, just one size of every item of the collection is displayed on the sales floor. But how does a retailer keep track of the availability of all sizes and more importantly how to prevent breaking brand promises to the customer due to out-of-stock situations? The customer demands reliable and immediate information about the availability of the desired article, otherwise customers move on to the next store of the competition.

Analysis means leaving nothing to chance

It all starts with digitalisation in the store. Article transparency is the key to success: useful dashboards allow the store manager to monitor which articles are on the sales floor, when the new collection will arrive at the store, which articles are sold more often than others and which store zones offer better merchandise presentation opportunities – and all that at any time. Current real-time data is needed to efficiently offer click & reserve, in order to be able to provide customer with information in order to turn sales people into competent advisors equipped with expert cross-selling tactics. This is how to get the customer not only to spend more time in the store, but also to buy more items per store visit.

Omni-Channel – Putting a strategy into practice

Looking back, it becomes clear that the much sought after omni-channel customer has been painfully neglected and plainly ignored by in store sales personnel for a long time. The retailers have come to realise that they need to rethink their views in order to stay profitable. This starts with building the right foundation: Only real-time information leads to the right decisions, prevents out-of-stock situations and unburdens the sales staff from excessive administrative activities. Ultimately, there’s more time for customers, which is more motivating for the sales personnel who act as fashion advisors and use their interpersonal skills to contribute to the profitability of the store.

The Omni-Channel Challenge

The omni-channel challenge is to distribute the merchandise more precisely – in a way that it can be sold. Based on real-time-analytics, those in charge have the information they need in order to run their business successfully. Analysis show, for example, that online stores sell more of the traditional bestsellers, while seasonal impulse purchases make up more of the everyday sales in the brick-and-mortar stores. Furthermore, reports reveal, e.g. that in terms of omni-channel operations, stores in a specific geographic region require more shirts in i.e. XXL than others. In addition to increased sales, the targeted flow of goods also enhances customer loyalty and allows for an enormous reduction in costs. Any surplus merchandise does not necessarily have to end up in an outlet store where profit margins seem to fall endlessly. Instead, such items can be moved to the stores where they yield the intended earnings, in a timely manner.

The fashion retailer who distributes via multiple channels is able to integrate them more closely as to know exactly which articles are in stock in which location, thus ready to be sold. The customer can order online directly in the store, try-on the article and buy it the next day. Therefore, transparency in terms of article inventory is essential along the entire supply chain.

The customer is able to see all articles and their exact location on a display in real-time.  Inventory will be kept synchronised over all channels in real-time. The winter jacket available in stores is also available online and can be ordered and delivered to the customer’s home address. In case of any mispurchases, the customer simply returns the item to the nearest store where it is immediately charged-back into stock.

Today there may still be some challenges in omni-channel operations to overcome, but in the future everything will run smoothly…assuming that real-time article transparency is a reality.