On-demand fashion: the way to satisfy the new consumer
Fashion executives have been scratching their heads about the new consumer behavior for years on end. Thanks to today’s digital technology and social media, consumers have become somewhat enigmatic, lurking online and leaving traces of data behind while shopping, and having a huge say in the way their products are being made. In the world of social media influencers and direct-to- consumer businesses, the fashion hierarchy has undergone an upheaval, and companies no longer dictate the trends. Instead, they find themselves playing a never-ending game of catch-up with their consumers, trying to gather all sorts of data to predict their next moves. Fashion insiders have become completely fixated on the new consumer, without looking at the other side of the equation—production, namely on-demand production.
Managing unpredictability with software for fashion
What the fashion industry seems to have forgotten, however, is that today’s consumers have become unpredictable, given today’s socioeconomic uncertainty. According to the latest ”State of Fashion” report by McKinsey & Company and Business of Fashion, 42% of survey respondents, mainly fashion executives, expect economic conditions to worsen this year, with rising interest rates around the world and increasingly stringent monetary policies developed by the European Central Bank. While companies are scrambling to understand the new buying behavior of their consumers, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that it is almost impossible to predict or have control over their next purchase decisions, as they are often shaped by external and psychological factors. Rather, what’s within the realm of most companies’ control is how they can gain supply-chain flexibility to get closer to the consumer and meet their needs, no matter what their preferences are and how often they change. This is precisely what today’s software solutions for customization, personalization and small series offer fashion manufacturers.
For fashion companies that continue to rely on the conventional production model, it is increasingly difficult to stay apace of consumer-driven trends. Brands and retailers who grasp the importance of placing consumers at the heart of all processes using software technology, however, are well-positioned to meet emerging demand.
Getting closer to the consumer
Predictive analytics might help companies tap into their consumers’ minds, but there’s really no use if their supply chains fail to respond quickly. If the mountain won’t come to you, then you must go to the mountain. Some fashion companies are already doing so, inching their way towards them by investing in new technologies to develop consumer-driven supply chains. Adidas is doing so, by providing customization through digital design with their speedfactories in Atlanta and Germany. Superdry developed limited edition collections with a six-week design-to-delivery process. Uniqlo has recently announced its partnership with Shima Seiki, a 3-D knitting technology, to provide its consumers with customized knitwear. There is one commonality among all three companies—they are producing on demand.