Mobile Technologies Changing the Way Fashion Companies Do Business
In today’s retail and apparel industries, mobile technologies are vital to the success of both new and established fashion companies. By the end of 2017, over 2 billion people will have made a purchase using a mobile device. Here are some eye-opening facts about mobile usage:
- 80% of internet users own a smartphone.
- Global mobile website traffic has increased from 31.16% in 2015 to 52.21% in 2017.
- Conversion rates are up 64% on smartphones in comparison to desktop.
- Over 60% of consumers are unlikely to return to an inaccessible mobile site.
- When searching for a local company on a mobile device, 88% of consumers will call or go to the company within 24 hours.
- 61% of employees conduct parts of their work outside of the office.
The implications are clear. Fashion companies that do not embrace the current global mobile climate are at risk of alienating their consumers and slowing down their workforce. A business model that does not accommodate mobile consumers will lose out on sales because of poor customer mobile experience, personalization, and a lack of targeted marketing. But before a fashion enterprise invests in end-user mobile experience and mobile marketing strategies, core business processes must first be mobile-enabled. Apparel designers, manufacturers, and suppliers must leverage mobile technologies to speed internal business operations.
MOBILE PLM - PRODUCT LIFECYCLE MANAGEMENT
In the last few years, fashion and apparel industries have been introduced to a mobile version of the PLM application that they use daily. Mobile PLM is in demand because the apparel industry commonly distributes and manufactures globally. This means that its logistical operations cannot be confined to an office desk. Due to accelerated fashion cycles, fashion suppliers and retailers must rely on the mobile connectivity of PLM to upload information and images, communicate with designers, and maintain workflows in real-time. Tedious tasks like bulk data entry are now more evenly paced. You can upload an image into the PLM database at the moment you snapped it. This saves you from waiting to get back to the office to upload all the gathered images in batches, getting a head-start on subsequent processes like new style production, and Tech Pack generation. For example, a photo taken at a Milan runway is received and processed by designers in New York City; the design is then sent off to a production team in China — all in a matter of hours.
In the near future, employees should be using QR codes and utlra connected PLM integrations at the store level to communicate with designers about which garments are selling well, which are not, and what reasons they are being returned (e.g. fit issues or damages). The decisions the designer makes for the next fashion cycle are then heavily informed by detailed retailer input, designing, in turn, more popular and better-selling apparel, footwear, and accessories.
MOBILE ERP - ENTERPRISE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
It doesn’t take much to imagine what effect mobile access to an ERP system is having. It streamlines expense reporting, displays live KPI dashboards, and essentially has the activities of your fashion business at your fingertips. Alerts to potential problems such as depleted inventory, low vendor capacity, and accounting issues are received immediately and responded to straight away. Moreover, decisions to dispatch deliveries or cancel orders altogether are made on the spot based on current information.
Connected to the Sales Force Automation tool, mobile salespersons are fully equipped with up to date information, in real-time, in order to correctly answer customer questions about inventory, payments, and shipment statuses. The ability to have such information on hand during sales, rather than pausing a meeting to conduct calls to the home office, is invaluable for businesses to negotiate and make B2B deals.
To further the seamlessness of the product management and supply chain process, QR codes and RFID tags are used to swiftly index and instantaneously identify warehouse stock and monitoring retail inventory, preventing costly errors and contributing to the core goal of speed and connectivity of mobile PLM.
When a fashion company’s foundational business operations become leaner because of mobile integrations, it is now time to implement more advanced mobile technologies that are specifically targeted to fashion retail marketing and commerce. While mobile technologies are still in their early stages in the fashion market, great strides have nevertheless been taken for more targeted and personalized promotion and customer service.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) AND AUGMENTED REALITY (AR)
AI technologies are instrumental to a fashion retailer’s two most fundamental goals: customer service and speed. Today, real-time insights generated by AI are used to set the schedules of customer service activity, resulting in high response rates. Customer service is becoming highly intuitive, interactive, and instructive. More than a product, personalized virtual service is driving sales. AI-powered customer service is increasingly configured to generate natural human language from computer data and vice versa; virtual agents are learning to digest human speech and transform it into computer data. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of human-company interactions will be through AI technologies, such as chatbots.
On a related note, Augmented Reality is currently being used to enhance the customer experience. AR enables retailers to present rich, virtual experiences to raise their brand’s profile and foster customer engagement. The fashion brand, Uniqlo, is taking advantage of the technology; in some of their brick and mortar stores, Uniqlo uses a ‘magic mirror’ that works as a virtual dressing room where shoppers virtually try on clothing with different colors.