June is over and the sale signs are already hanging on all the shop windows and showcases.
This year, after a 6.2% drop in clothing sales in May caused mainly by the weather, clothing brands will have to go beyond the traditional discounts and focus more on the customer’s experience in order to sell more and better.
What are the challenges faced by the fashion stores?
At first, the so-called “retail” sector (the most technical way whereby fashion and clothing stores are known to the public) had to face the challenge of covering all possible sales channels. The new digital client requires brands to give him or her the opportunity to buy with just one click, without the need to move about. Hence, the main retail chains created their own online store and app in order to be more accessible to this type of customer.
However, the challenge today is to attack all the inefficiencies that may occur from the moment the clothing is designed and produced until it is purchased or even discarded. And throughout this process, the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming more and more important.
In addition to that, the introduction of IoT in the retail sector, and more specifically in the fashion one, brings advantages such as innovation when designing garments, improved customer experience or even reductions in operating costs.
Innovation in design
Every year, the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Madrid (MBFW Madrid) is one of the most important catwalks in the world where the latest trends for the following season are shown. Since the September 2013 edition, Samsung collaborates with MBFW Madrid with its Samsung EGO project: a showcase for new designers who are applying technology in all the facets of fashion.
This is another sign that innovation and technology are increasingly involved in the world of fashion. Surely, it will soon be customary to wear clothes with integrated sensors so brands will be able to gather information about the customer and improve their offer. For example, by obtaining information on what type of situations the clothes are used for in order to adapt their materials and ergonomics, and always taking into account the privacy of consumers.
This data can also have a social purpose such as the one Schweppes had when designing an intelligent dress with sensors that allows measuring the harassment suffered by a woman during a night out.
Improvement of Customer Experience
With a consumer that has greater access to information and, therefore, becomes increasingly demanding, brands must adapt the way they serve their customers.
The client must be able to have the same information in the store and on the web or the App instantaneously. It is no longer enough to choose an item of clothing, then ask the staff if it is available in your size, then go to the fitting room and repeat this many times until you manage to find the product in the right size and make the purchase.
One way to match offline and online shopping times is by using smart labels that allow following the product thoroughly. With the simple use of a mobile device, the customer is able to know all the characteristics of the clothing: sizes, colors, store availability, etc. Or the customer can even scan the garment barcode in the mirror of the fitting room, and from there ask for a change in size, reserve the garment in another store or, if the customer wishes, make the payment. All without leaving the fitting room.
This, in short, allows the brand to offer its customers an improvement in their experience. And for the more reluctant, the introduction of this type of technology, far from reducing the number of employees in the store, will transform the tasks to be carried out.
Operating costs reduction
Smart labels have also an impact on the brand, since many of them already include, for example, anti-theft systems, thus they decrease the need to buy the traditional alarms that are put on clothes. Smart labels also allow the use of a dynamic pricing method, which means that, during the sales, staff can automatically update the price of the clothes, without having to go from one garment to another changing the prices.
Indeed, another advantage of the use of smart labels is the ability to know at any time whatever information is needed about a certain garment: location, temperature, sun exposure, etc. at the time of its distribution, location within the store in case a customer has not left it in its place, availability in the current store as well as in others, etc. This ultimately allows brands to ensure that their garments reach the final consumer in the best possible condition, thus avoiding losses caused by not being able to commercialize defective products.
Finally, the ability to control stocks in an almost automated way, allows the brands to make much more precise demand estimates, and better serve the market.
In short, the application of IoT technology in the retail world, and especially in the fashion world, increases the income of the brands which have greater control over the entire life cycle of their products.
In fact, wouldn’t it be interesting if brands began to take into account the moment in which the person gets rid of the garment thanks to this technology? Maybe it could be a way of giving a second opportunity to the clothes in disuse but in good condition…
Article written by Cristina Marcos, Marketing Manager at Barbara IoT.