Deciding and creating quickly.
Through analysis of the Accenture report from the previous post, See Now – Buy Now, we have realized that meeting the demand for “See Now Buy Now” requires agility, versatility and fast, streamlined decision making. Hierarchical business systems were created in an era where fashion could be planned six months to a year in advance. They are obviously problematic for today’s world, which requires a much faster approach to change.
It is necessary to identify fashion trends, to create and agree on designs, order productions and to prepare channels for sale in the shortest possible time; all this cannot be achieved with departmental organization charts, outdated technology or a long approval process for each of the organization’s decisions.
Understanding the new digital customer.
Understanding customers’ wishes and needs has always been essential in retail, but in the past, both things were very predictable: swimsuits in the summer, coats at the beginning of winter and fashion that follows the trends observed on the catwalks last year.
Current influences are much less predictable and to detect them you need to closely monitor social networks, a quick response from one of the stores, real-time online analysis and a business culture that takes responsibility for the strategy rather than a prescriptive approach to both customers and term plans.
Many of the diverse business experiences of different fast fashion brands show us that they have achieved the goal with an integrated planning structure across the retail organization where they have eliminated divisions and difficulties. For example, in organizations with different national and international brands, the entire company has been provided with a calendar that must be followed day by day. Others have chosen to employ partners who can relate to the target customer base. As the CEO of a multichannel retailer in the UK puts it: “Our customers are around 20 years old and our system is to have the infrastructure to go forward, we are not traditional at all… so the average age of the organisation is 26 years old. Selling successfully to young professionals clearly means understanding their mentality, so why not hire them directly into our organization?”
Agility and speed are in the culture of the company or do not exist.
Many fast fashion companies have already managed to refine their supply chains to greatly reduce lead times, but other improvements must be generated within the company by changing its mentality and culture. According to the CEO of a department store in the USA, “the supply chain can no longer be optimized to make fast fashion. The solution must be found in the culture of the organization and its mentality. It’s all about making decisions, about who and when.
Changing a company’s culture is never easy, but achieving greater business collaboration with a flatter, more flexible management structure is critical to accelerating decision making.
Making maximum use of the latest technology can also prove very useful. Instead of using traditional corporate systems with rigid rules and structures, organizations are moving towards rapid response tactical solutions and cloud-based tools that allow information – and thus collaborative work – to be accessed from anywhere. With today’s rapid advancement in technology, all systems must be scalable, adaptable and suitable for future use.
As the director of a luxury fashion brand in the UK puts it: “We need to think of agile organizations; we also need to be ready for the future: we need to have interfaces, product lifecycle management, goods ready to ship, central systems working properly. You have to be very flexible to have a strategic business advantage.
Implementing a large IT system platform that doesn’t involve changes to the operating model for five years or a decade no longer makes any sense. Who would have imagined 10 years ago that mobile phones would become such an important sales channel or that Twitter would be the main vehicle for breaking news? Now, systems must be flexible enough to cope with new sales channels, as well as any new forms of social networking that may arise in the future.