Fashion is one of the largest and most competitive industries to be part of, and now brands are facing new challenges on top of digital transformation like economic uncertainty. In an effort to prepare for what’s still to come, many brands are focusing on how to deliver faster time-to-market, how to innovate with their product design, and how to automate their supply chain process.
Embracing digital transformation for fashion retailers is no longer optional, but rather necessary if they want to stay ahead. Especially when consumer expectations are higher than ever. Consumers now expect a full shopping experience. They want to communicate, engage and influence the brands from which they buy. This opens the door to several new opportunities for retailers to engage with their customers, like personalization, but all of these new ways require advanced technology.
“Fashion is a charming tyranny of short duration.”
– Marcel Achard, French play wright on speed in fashion
When the internet was still in its infancy in the 1990s, it was common to use software off the shelf for an online store. But with the explosion of new touchpoints – like more than 100 million smart speakers in households around the globe – that approach was no longer enough. Brands and retailers recognized that in order to remain relevant and successful, they needed to find more agile, flexible solutions than what traditional platforms could provide. Many retailers began investing in eCommerce, resulting in the rapid growth of online channels. Between 2015 and 2018 eCommerce almost doubled, and key players in the fashion industry were a big reason why.
Why and When to Switch?
Switching to a modern eCommerce platform makes sense for two reasons. First, it lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO) for retailers by reducing the amount of money spent on licensing costs, maintenance and mandatory upgrades. Second, an eCommerce platform must be hosted in some way, and traditional platforms are often monolithic. This means that they are difficult to adjust because the frontend backend is usually synced up. With a traditional monolithic platform, even simple tasks like setting up a quick campaign takes way longer than one would expect because it requires a lot of development work. This leads to a disruption in normal business operations, and timing becomes very important. Taking into account the amount of work required to do something simple, when it comes time for a necessary update – that’s probably also very costly – there’s a good reason to build a new platform altogether.
Switching: Planning and Execution
When choosing a new platform, it is tempting to copy all the capabilities of the old platform into the new one. However, this is not always the best approach. It is better to analyze which functions are frequently used. There is no point in immediately filling the new system with overhead.
- Step 1: Analysis. What does the existing platform offer, what functions are available, what is the role of the user, and which processes take place in the background? These questions may sound obvious, but they are often overlooked. Many times, existing platforms have been used for years and not everything is well-documented. An analysis helps to gain better insight into the existing situation.
- Step 2: Determining the Pace of Switching. Not all functions need to be active immediately on the new platform. First determine which functions deliver direct business value and give them priority.
- Step 3: Match the Required Functions to Available Software from a specialized supplier and its potential partners. You should be asking what is immediately available ‘out of the box’, what should come from a partner, and what should possibly be developed?
- Step 4: Create a Team with all the Expertise required to make the new platform a success. These teams benefit from a mix of pre-developed components and services, delivered from the cloud, and supplemented with custom applications. This approach is called ‘headless’.
Headless platforms work with APIs, which ensure that different components and applications work together easily. Think of your platform as LEGO bricks that can be built upon in every conceivable way. This flexibility a headless platform provides ensures that your business is future-proofed because every conceivable new channel that a consumer wants to use can be connected to the platform quickly and smoothly. We also see that many companies are increasingly using cloud suppliers such as AWS, Google and Azure. As a result, peak seasons like Christmas or flash sales are easy to absorb and the retailer does not have to take care of management himself.
Combining a modern headless platform with cloud technology, fashion retailers can better respond to the rapidly changing consumer landscape. In the coming years, this landscape will surely be conducive to creating inspiring and seamless experiences.
Learn more how Digital Transformation is Reshaping the Global Fashion Industry.