5 Critical Steps in Gearing Up Fashion Brands for the Digital Journey
The fashion industry has been going through a somewhat painful transition from the days pre-Pandemic to the present. While many industries adapted quickly and moved up their digital transition, the bulk of fashion brands today seem to be caught embarrassingly with a foot in the past and one in the future. On one hand, the rise of AR, VR, AI and other acronyms has meant the top brands investing heavily to keep up with trends in digital clothing, virtual reality, NFTs and what not.
(image courtesy: Pixelpool)
On the other hand, more conservative and traditional brands have made attempts to bridge the gap through piece-meal initiatives in e-commerce, digital marketing and PLM tools. This is done without being fully conversant with the overall transformation that digital implementation requires. This results in sub-optimal outcomes with the management convinced that the investment was not quite right, and employees clueless about how the new initiatives will impact their work, lives and career prospects. This is dangerous and can lead to fashion brands seeing a rapid decline in the one thing that they need most to survive – human talent.
To prevent this, fashion brand owners need to have a clear roadmap to their digitization journey. While creating one-size-fits-all solutions is impossible in the fashion industry (as it is in most others), a few ground rules can make the journey rewarding and empowering for the company and all its stakeholders.
STEP 1: Define your end goal clearly
What is it that the brand owners wish to accomplish is critical to the entire process of moving to a digital environment.
- Is it improving the customer experience?
- Is it transitioning the company’s operations to better efficiency?
- Is it increasing the company’s sales via online channels?
Having a clear end objective clarifies the thought process and planning for everyone, once they know what they expect. Make sure that objectives do not get intermingled and confused. This brings us to the next step.
STEP 2: Break down the end goal into measurable outcomes
Digitization is a long journey, and usually is broken down into components spanning different areas of the business – Materials management, operations processes, CRM, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, and so on. Each function needs to know what is the outcome expected once the change is made, since the transition will mean some level of uncertainty till the new processes stabilize and deliver. Understanding those final outcomes can help employees and other stakeholders contribute to the process as they are at times more knowledgeable as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in figuring out how best the transition can yield the desired result. With clear outcomes at each step, there is less scope for confusion and potential for mistaken priorities.
STEP 3: Keep lines of Communication Open
Every stakeholder has a different perception of a project. Remember the blind men and the elephant? With each department or function seeing things differently, a common ground where everyone can understand what is being done and why goes a long way to establish cooperation. A regular update session where all stakeholders get to hear others and say their piece (also known as an open house) can help resolve many issues and reduce conflict.
STEP 4: Manage Conflict pro-actively
With multiple stakeholders, questions of boundaries and toes being stepped on are bound to happen. Pro-actively identifying as many conflict areas and working to resolve them early always helps streamline the process and reduce the friction involved when significant changes happen. Be fair and consistent in dealing with challenges and reconcile differences sooner rather than later. Step 3 helps you identify conflict areas early. It also goes a long way towards the next step, identifying champions.
STEP 5: Reward and Recognize Contributors
Creating champions and heroes goes a long way towards having people buy into a project. These ambassadors will make it easier for any changes to happen, and help in aligning their respective functions to the end goal. Having a clear tracking system (Step 2) will make this possible.
Change is always upsetting, and dealing with it can be a major exercise. But knowing that the movement to digitization is inevitable, and done the right way, it can yield benefits in excess of the effort goes a long way towards making the process a success.
Has your fashion brand undertaken major transformations in the digital arena? We would love to hear your experiences, and possibly help you on the next leg of the journey. Do add your comments below and share your experience so others can learn from your journey.
Fuel4Fashion is a design, branding and technology consultancy for the fashion and apparel industry. We provide consulting and advisory services across design, business and IT processes to early stage and mid-sized apparel manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business with the help of smart sustainable management practices. Visit our website here and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates.