Fashion Brands as Tech Companies: The Future Is Now

Ephemeral fashion trends were always dynamic, but today, nearly every aspect of the once-traditional fashion industry is marked by change. New business models emerge on a regular basis, new selling cycles, seasonless drops, see-now-buy-now, transparency in production and pricing structure, etc. Tech-specific changes must be noted too: B2B e-commerce platforms, AI, data-driven subscription business models, digital consumer insights, sustainable textile R&D, blockchains for luxury goods authenticity, endless aisle and more.

Much of the fashion industry may consist of latecomers to tech and e-commerce (particularly among luxury brands), but times have changed. If you’re in fashion today – like it or not – you’re in the tech business. In the words of Shoptalk’s chief content officer, Zia Daniell Wigder, “You’re running a tech company if you’re in retail – the way of the future starts now.”

From Seventh Avenue to Silicon Valley 

“The bigger brands are realizing they need to act small in a lot of ways. You have to, from a marketing perspective, really test and learn. You have to do much more, quickly.” – Ian Rogers, LVMH’s Chief Digital Officer (and former director of Apple Music) at The Business of Fashion’s VOICES event.

The tempo, tools, and players have changed. Shoppers demand newness between major seasonal collections (limited-edition drops, Resort, pre-collections…). Collections are presented or launched and immediately shared online. Speed, responsiveness and innovation are the name of the game. As such, it’s time for Seventh Avenue to look to Silicon Valley for solutions in marketing, sales, operations and company culture.

“Until recently, few fashion companies had consumer insight and consumer engagement disciplines in their organizations. They want to create beautiful things and expect the consumer to follow. The problem is that by the time they start to figure out that the world has changed, it’s too late, and the consumer has moved on.” – Karen Harvey, CEO of Karen Harvey Consulting.

The Digitalization of the Wholesale Business 

The wholesale business has also changed dramatically – for the better – with trade show bags getting lighter and lighter. The days of cumbersome, oversized, overweight bags filled with catalogs are over. Moving well beyond scanning badges, major transactions are conducted online (even during face-to-face market week appointments), eliminating the need for hundreds of printed linesheets and brand books.

The trade shows themselves are getting in on the digitalization movement, with every major trade show offering its own app complete with maps, directories, event listings, event reminder features, note-taking capabilities and more, further reducing paper waste and stressful physical loads at shows. 

With the fashion industry moving on digital time, wait-and-see is no longer a wise strategy as new technologies emerge. The advantage lies in being on the leading edge of change in the industry, particularly where tech is concerned. Some of the industry’s most infamous late adopters of e-commerce have been hit hard financially for their digital-resistant ways. While these companies are playing catch-up now, future late adopters may not be so fortunate.

Are you ready to take your wholesale business into the digital realm? Request a demo today.