Taking retail and wholesale experiences to digital showrooms
Retail today is getting more crowded, complicated and confusing. There are so many factors playing a role when it comes to supply chain, customer experiences, and building and maintaining a consistent brand image.
One element, that is getting more and more attention and being revolutionised, is wholesale in the fashion industry. With technology invading every single aspect of the retail world, wholesale processes are no exception. If you haven’t heard about "digital showrooms", you must have been sleeping. Whilst everyone is talking about increasing customers' shopping experiences on a B2C level, one specific shopping experience must not be disdained: the B2B customers, i.e. wholesalers and retailers themselves.
It should not come as a surprise that also their demands and expectations have changed during the past years. Since B2C processes and especially expectations of customers evolved in a high pace in the recent years, also retailers have to adapt to those changed needs.
As customers expect retailers to offer anything they want at one specific moment, they need to be able to rely on brands and production services in order to be able to deliver it. Furthermore, wholesalers are also just customers in another field at some point and are used to easy processes. Therefore, it is not surprising that they expect just as smooth shopping experiences as their customers. Of course there are solutions to facilitate the wholesale process. At the present time one solution seems obvious, yet a lot companies are still missing out: Digitalisation.
Everyone and everything is going digital
Migrating businesses on to online platforms has been a demand from almost every kind of company in the past few years. In order to keep up with the expectations of your digitally empowered customer you better jump on that train as well. Imagine in which dimensions you could simplify the order process for your customers. Some of them have to handle buying and planning processes for numerous (and often multi-brand) stores. They are under time pressure and are in need of an easy and efficient process. Presenting your collection in a digital way makes it easy to quickly go through a whole range and smoothens the order process. Think of all the advantages!
Consistent brand image
In order to maintain a certain image, you want your customers to communicate a certain message to the end-customer. That is where digital collection arrangements are becoming very beneficial. Instead of having all items hanged on clothing racks in a physical showroom, videos and pictures can already create a look and feel of the creations and in which compositions retailers should be encouraged to buy them. This way the thinking behind a collection that the designer and the branding team had, does not get lost in random order rituals.
Imagine you are able to just drag and drop different products on virtual fixtures and create different collections for your customer within minutes!
Following the statements that brands rather sell collections as a whole, the retailer has to get a clear picture as well. It often happens that wholesalers order products in a showroom and up to several pieces are presented in a way that will differ from the actual end product. You will probably hear the agent say "The collar of this t-shirt is now pure cotton but it will be delivered with a lace collar" or "This pullover will be produced in blue and green, but I only have the yellow sample here right now". Situations like these can lead to a lot of frustration from a retailer’s perspective. Delivering visual, digital pictures makes it easier for both sides. As soon as changes in material, colour etc. appear pictures can automatically be adjusted in the digital showroom.
Questions of savings
The first aspect that comes into mind when thinking about cost savings, thanks to digital showrooms, is definitively the costs for the sample collection. At this point it is also worth mentioning the global unsold fashion problem¹. Thrown away pieces of sample collections are no exception here. Of course one can not expect that digital showrooms will solve the sustainable problem of the fashion industry at once. Thus, there has to be a start to everything and digital showrooms are able to highly contribute to taking steps into the right direction.
Furthermore, travel costs can be reduced, which is both economical and sustainable. Virtual or digital showrooms make it possible for fashion vendors to buy immediately and not to constantly be traveling around the globe and vice versa, thinking of the agents.
Replacing real-life garments
Of course, retailers would mention some critical points when thinking about ordering via digital showrooms. One of the most arguable aspect for many people in that business is that they are missing the ability to feel, touch and maybe even try on clothing. It would be a mistake to assume that all important aspects can (yet!) be covered when you take your showroom to a digital level. But because everything is going to go digital sooner or later it is of high importance to create an experience that combines the best aspects from both worlds.
Visualising your product range in a 3D environment is a great start. And if you think of the future, 3D rendered pictures are not devious at all. Just think of the social human robot (Sophia, developed by Hanson Robotics²) that already resembles a lot to a real person. Therefore, it is a safe assumption to make that 3D pictures will be just as realistic in the future.