Agata Sadowska, Vice President of Sales and Projects at MariElla Labels, comments on the shifting retail landscape, and how the introduction of electronic price labels looks set to impact the industry.
The fashion retail landscape must adapt to changing consumer habits. Technologies which marry the physical stores with digital retail spaces are becoming a default for any successful business in the fashion world. Retailers will succeed if they are able to create and individualise customer journeys.
We spoke to Agata Sadowska, Vice President of Sales and Projects at MariEllaLabels, a solution provider of dynamic, paper-like price labels, to learn more about the latest retail trends.
There has been a dramatic shift in the retail sphere. Successful fashion stores of today differ hugely to a decade ago – and more changes are expected to occur to keep up with the pace of the consumer. Twenty first century consumers are more time pressed than ever before. In response to this, a new wave of digital retail technology has emerged, designed to help fashion retailers keep up in these tumultuous times.
Sadowska commented: “The fashion industry has always been fiercely competitive. In the era of e-commerce and social media, customers are consistently challenging fashion retailers to keep up with these changing habits. New tactics are required to attract and commit customers to a brand. Certain retailers – either by force or pure need of brand renewal – have started to focus on concepting the store and brand towards the lifestyle that they wish to offer their target groups, instead of purely focussing on the clothes that they sell. Customer journeys which are supported by digital platforms and tools with different touchpoints and channels has become the way to build and ensure success.”
According to Sadowska, the ceaselessly shifting terrain of the fashion retail landscape should be embraced, not feared, as it offers the retailers the chance to set themselves apart. “Physical stores are to stay. Whether they are flagship stores with the latest brand concept, design and technologies, or Pop-up stores with short-term rental contracts and last season’s items, it’s all about staying close to different customer groups and their needs.”
Perhaps the most glaring difference from the past decade is that operating multiple channels has become the backbone of many fashion retailers’ overarching strategy. However, the emphasis is no longer simply upon having various streams of commerce. Instead, it has shifted towards seamlessly combining channels and platforms. “Today’s consumers are channel-blind. They often unconsciously slip from one channel to another”, Sadowska observes. The more customer behaviour can be captured and tracked throughout the various channels, the more personalised the journey can become. Value can be given to the consumer in the form of offers, lifestyle advice, cross-selling and local promotions.
“Because customers don’t actually distinguish between channels, customers expect the same products, prices, services, offers and promotions whether they are online, instore or on their mobiles. It’s therefore vital that fashion retailers ensure their propositions and consumer experiences are consistent across all channels.”
“Of course, the challenge here for many fashion retailers is how to ensure this consistency occurs in offline stores. What currently can be done with the click of a button online requires manual effort on the shop floor. This of course limits the frequency and scope of changes, as it requires store employees to be taken away from value-adding, customer facing tasks.”
“More and more service providers are basing their business on the dynamic pricing logic, stabilising the demand between the peak times. It will only be a matter of time before customers will start requesting this on a consumer good level as well. The potential is huge, prices can be adapted, dependent on demand, weather or popularity across social media”, adds Sadowska. “Digital price labelling and price optimisation is one such example. Easily integrating with legacy back-of-house systems and attached to apparel for sale, dynamic price labels allow product prices to be automatically updated. Pricing is consistent, and dynamic pricing – previously the remit of online only – can be enacted in-store, whenever and wherever needed.”
There is also a growing awareness that digital solutions can be used to optimise store operations. In particular, fashion retailers are increasingly looking to adopt technologies which can enhance inventory management, accuracy and add traceability. “Fashion is faster than ever before”, explains Sadowska. “Managing inventory needs to be completed more efficiently, and with better accuracy to maximise revenue and profit. Improved inventory management enables the faster ‘time to customer’, with daily replenishments, re-orders and inter-company transfers on the shop floor. Twice a year inventories and season sales is not enough. “You need to know on real time what you have in stock to be able to sell more. With technological solutions that afford real-time insight into inventory, retailers are able to anticipate these better.”
Retailers must look to new sources for innovative answers to win these new challenges. “Shopping is like a game – it has to be fun, fast, personalized and never the same,” concludes Sadowska.