Being nimble and agile enough to respond to demand from connected consumers is key to surviving and thriving in today's fashion world. Digitising business processes with a real-time PLM solution provides firms with the data analytics and insights to meet goals and deadlines, make faster decisions and react more quickly, as Terri Ghio, vice president of sales & operations at Visual Next, explains.

Today's fashion industry is changing faster than most of us can keep up with. The new consumer is more demanding than ever before, putting pressure on brands and retailers to find an item at anytime, anywhere and deliver it as fast as possible.  

The big question is whether the fashion industry can embrace the "see now/buy now" or "just in time" business model that retailers have adopted to meet the demands of the connected consumer? New business processes are required to meet these demands, smaller and faster merchandise production, on-demand manufacturing to produce what is selling, and with new design variations to meet the consumer's desires. Not an easy feat for most of the fashion industry – but being nimble and agile to respond to demand orders is required to survive and thrive in today's fashion world.

There are many new dynamics in the fashion industry with the blurred lines of ecommerce, brick and mortar stores, mobile channels, social media and direct to consumer initiatives. For the first time, fashion companies can have a one-on-one relationship with the consumer through their own websites and social sites. Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram also provide a platform for sharing data and brand knowledge, building direct customer loyalty as well as an avenue to educate the consumer early on your brand and products.  

To meet consumer demand, a fashion company needs to have what they want when they want it, or deliver in short window – which is typically immediately

Whether selling via Amazon and other commerce sites or direct from your own website, data and consumer insights are available to learn about customers and their relationship with your products. A company website opens up new engagement opportunities and is the most effective means to gain consumer insights and shopping behaviour data. Gaining direct knowledge through data collection on who your consumer truly is – and how they engage with your brand – with a two-way communication stream that can leverage the consumer to feed product design and product development directly, adds value to your organisation. This data empowers fashion companies and drives success and stronger revenues.

The savvy consumer is viewing every detail of our merchandise at the same time as the buyers, via social sites, online fashion shows and early visibility through e-commerce. This new consumer sees the new lines and wants them – the wait or time to produce the line becomes a demand on the supply chain from design to production to delivery. To meet consumer demand, a fashion company needs to have what they want when they want it, or deliver in short window – which is typically immediately. The consumer is not interested in waiting six months to purchase a product, so fashion companies need to cut time, increase efficiencies and gain the capabilities to deliver on demand.

Digitising business processes with real-time PLM

Providing a platform that is available all the time through the internet and cloud with mobile capabilities can support a global eco-system for today's digital fashion era

Is your PLM and product development process digitised to gain speed-to-market and have the agility to turn a product on a dime – including producing variations to original designs based on customer demand and analysis of what's selling? Digitising business processes with a real-time PLM solution, collaborating across the operational teams internally and externally, and having real-time data analytics and insights can assist a fashion company to meet goals and deadlines, make faster decisions and react sooner to meet demand. Providing a platform that is available all the time through the internet and cloud with mobile capabilities can support a global eco-system for today's digital fashion era, where your workforce can connect at any time and from anywhere with real-time updates.  

Direct-to-consumer is the next wave of meeting consumer demand on your own, gaining insights and analytics directly while providing a two-way conversation with your customer. Today's digital consumer, especially the younger generations, want to know the brand, the heritage of the brand, and any global impact you have with sustainability, green initiatives and other social issues. In addition, they want a voice into design and product direction to gain their loyalty. Implementing a digital PLM solution that extends directly into your e-commerce site to publish products connects your brand directly to the consumer. Add big data analytics and the ability for the consumer to voice what they will purchase, and you have the insights to drive your business with sound decisions.

The fashion companies that can adopt change and shift to this new "see now/buy now" paradigm will be set up for success. Digitising and mobilising the business processes and workforce, collaborating across the eco-system in real-time, having the ability to publish to e-commerce site(s) for direct to consumer engagement, and gaining business intelligence and consumer insights will provide a successful business model for today's fashion industry.

What should a fashion company do to move to this paradigm? Embrace change across your organisation, and implement technology that can empower your workforce with mobile and digital business processes. Move into the new digital world and provide everyone in the eco-system with a platform to share and view the same data in real-time and collaborate to streamline your supply chain from design to delivery. It's the digital fashion era and it's time to adopt change and advance your people, processes and systems.

Brands and retailers who have implemented change and adopted a demand culture to deliver products faster based on consumer input are experiencing growth, increased sales and brand loyalty.  

About the author: Terri Ghio is the vice president of sales & operations at leading apparel enterprise software provider, Visual Next. An expert in the apparel industry, Ghio empowers fashion, footwear and accessory brands to streamline and simplify complex business processes using Visual PLM, Visual ERP, and a completed End2End solution. Click here to learn more about Visual PLM.