If we look at the biggest players in fashion today, there is one commonality amongst all: the ability to innovate by adding new value-added services. ASOS has developed their own marketplace for independent labels and vintage stores. Farfetch launched “Black & White”, developing white-label solutions for other brands. Alibaba is doing the same, but with such mastery that they have become the world’s largest e-commerce company with US$ 39.9 billion in annual revenue, outdoing other giants such as Amazon and Ebay. According to BoF and Mckinsey&Company’s most recent ‘State of Fashion’ report, Alibaba has made some heavy technology investments to streamline their supply chain and optimize customer experience. They are shaking up the Chinese fashion retail sector by adding various payment solutions such as Paytm, Kakaopay and logistical systems such as Xpress bees to their already expansive investment portfolio.
Alibaba is just one of the many examples of multifaceted online platforms in the fashion industry. And this doesn’t only apply to pure players. Today’s fashion consumers are getting increasingly demanding in terms of wanting the best product in the shortest amount of time, through the best omni-channel retail experience. Many companies are responding to this demand by increasing the number of services they provide through the same platform, such as multiple payment options, size recommendations, marketplaces and personalization. Even traditional fashion companies are following suit. For example, Gucci has just launched their knitwear personalization service online, where customers can request for their initials to be knitted into their garments, through a process called intarsia.
The bigger the portfolio, the more the number of systems needed to maintain the quality of services internally, from logistics, to product development and inventories. With the increasing number of systems fashion IT leaders have to handle internally and externally, such as ERP, PLM, CMS, DAM or PIM and more, the need to integrate all systems to ensure data integrity and smoother workflows becomes more urgent each passing day.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Integration
With the rise of seasonless fashion, the number of collections produced are multiplying and deadlines are getting increasingly tighter. In today’s business context, where any kind of feedback or criticism can go viral, fashion companies cannot afford to make mistakes. Inefficiencies, delays, errors, lack of communication and teamwork can be detrimental to even the most successful fashion enterprise. With massive volumes of data streaming from different tools and systems, CIOs have to select a reliable, unified system to store, centralize, and structure product and business data to ensure that all supply chain actors work from one single version of truth. In order to capitalize on business intelligence, we need to analyze the right kind of data. For that, system integration is a must, not a maybe.
Here are the top three advantages of having an integrated platform:
Better, Faster, Stronger Teamwork
If CIOs want to enable their companies to deliver collections out within short time frames, they need to have a system that allows supply chain actors to collaborate seamlessly. There should be a way to keep all team members informed (in real time, of course) on last-minute design changes, an order that is on the way to a distributor, or whether the suppliers have received their tech packs or not. An integrated platform will help facilitate collaboration, so marketing, operations, sales, merchandising, designers and/or suppliers will be on the same page.
To understand and improve a company’s daily work processes, managers need a 360° visibility of their entire value chain so they can respond in real time. An integrated platform can provide them with the visibility needed to identify and remove roadblocks and help them ensure that all team members are focusing on value-added tasks without overlapping each other. It can also help them automate processes and save a huge amount of time. CIOs should invest in a platform that is user-friendly, because long onboarding processes can disrupt workflows.
Just take a minute to tap into the mind of a product developer who is working with his/her team members on same product, but all of them have stored its characteristics in different Excel spreadsheets and Word documents in various folders, across different systems. How much time is your team going to spend finding and consolidating all this information? Days, weeks, months? In this harsh fashion environment, fashion companies cannot afford to lose time. In order to derive information from intelligible, actionable data, teams can benefit from a smart product management platform that unifies all the data and provides them with tools to calculate, forecast and develop KPIs.
ERP, DAM, PLM… OMG! So many systems, processes and data, yet so little time! System integration can be a tiring process, but with the right technology and tools, all is possible.