Technology has been disrupting industries for years, and retail is no exception. As of the biggest technology adopters, retailers have been using technology to simplify their procurement processes, inventory management and customer relationships. Today technology is giving more of a voice and more control to customers, and changing the way we think about products. Technology not only impacts the management of fashion retailers, but it impacts the way retailers build relationships with customers and is driving product development trends.
- Data management: it's no surprise that companies desire marketers to understand data mining and this whole buzz around big data. We're in an age where we can collect endless amounts of data 24/7, but how to we put that data into valuable information? It is by creating algorithms and sorting data that gives retailers this insight. This data can be customers data, sales, or inventory. It will also give retailers more information on how busy their stores are, and allow them to implement new technologies that will give them more customer data than just the simple 'traffic-counters'.
- Moving Mobile: customers are taking to their mobile phones to shop and compare prices on the spot. Amazon is a perfect example of a company that has embraced this, with their 1 click shopping. When shopping for books at Chapters you can price compare on the spot. Mobile is a big driver of the shifting power dynamics from retailer to consumer. Mobile is also an easy way to pay, but fashion retailers have not adapted to this as quickly as food retailers have, like Starbucks. Deloitte indicated that this near field communication systems and mobile payments will hit the 'tipping point' in 2015, with a big push for adoption from retailers.
- Technology to enhance experiential marketing and ultimately relationships: H&M is doing this very well, with a new high tech store in NYC, with a social media lounge and 'smart' mannequins, that will have screens in their foreheads. They are also giving customers the opportunity to pay for products int he dressing rooms, perfect for the impulse shopper.
- Social Media: not only can customers promote your products, give reviews (good or bad) but it also helps retailers determine their orders. Based on customers responses online, retailers are able to increase stock or anticipate a lag in the product sales. Social media has allowed customers and retailers to communicate, and the best retailers use these channels to adapt strategy to meet their customers needs. Nordstrom is taking it a step further, by letting customers buy products they see on Instagram.
- Wearable Tech: One of the biggest trends in retail for 2015 is wearable tech, customer adoption is high and companies are starting to fight for market share, with Apple, Samsung and Fitbit top contenders. It won't just stop with smart watches, we're getting smart materials such as Ralph Lauren Smart Composition Shirt, that gives athletics information on their performance and training.
- 3D printing: This trend is one of my favourite, and one of the coolest! I recently 3D printed knitting needles, a bit out of scope for the traditional rapid prototyping tool, but as cost starts to decrease this will move into our life even more. Some beautiful fashion products are coming out of 3D printed materials, like the software company Kinematics, that allows you to print fashionable pieces.
I wonder who will be the winners in this technology adoption race, and if they will prevail with marketshare and increased revenues. H&M is doing it, Prada got on the bandwagon long ago with their smart dressing rooms, and now companies like Ralph Lauren are reinforcing their sport brand image by developing smart clothing. What's next?