The fashion industry is known for its creativity. Its most influential designers are known for their crazy ideas, rapidly changing styles, and cut throat competition. Most industries never experience that kind of volatility. There are a few areas, however, where fashion has remained largely undisturbed, which has created small degrees of stagnation and consumer dissatisfaction. The following are 3 trends that are quickly disrupting the industry, and saving it from stalled innovation.
Crowdsourced design is a growing trend in different segments of the fashion industry. It takes many forms, but the basic idea is that companies, designers, and consumers work together to collectively curate designs that eventually make it to the finished product stage. Designers are latching on to the concept because it highlights individual brand stories. Industry experts are buying in because popular styles can be identified through consumer participation, reducing the risk of unprofitable designs making it through the production pipeline.
Ryan Kang, CEO and Co-Founder of ROOY, an online footwear creation platform, explains how crowdsourced design can change an industry, "Crowdsourced design is a movement that is allowing brands to create new and authentic content. The aim is to create collaborative projects with a clear story that consumers can get behind." Providing content and context is one of the best ways to gain the support of millennial consumers, which Census data places as the largest consumer group in history.
Another important factor to consider behind the growing popularity of crowdsourced design, especially for the footwear industry, rests in the barriers that it helps eliminate for designers. Kang explains, "The three major obstacles that prevent footwear designers from taking a concept to production are physical construction, manufacturing capability, and marketing the brand. Consolidating these capacities into one creation platform is helping empower designers who previously wouldn't have been able to bring a concept to the product phase, let alone selling it to a large base of consumers."
By eliminating barriers for designers, companies like ROOY are tapping into more highly engaged consumer groups that already have a significant degree of brand loyalty to the individual designers. The consumer also gains access to product concepts that were previously unrealized, making crowdsourced design an ideal platform to increase consumer influence over product development.
Big Data for Fashion
The fashion industry has been one dominated by a small number of savants who tell the rest of the world what they should buy. A growing number of designers and retailers, tired of having to sell surplus clothing at steep discounts, are catching on to the usefulness of big data for fashion. A study by McKinsey found that data savvy retailers have the potential to increase operating margin by more than 60 percent.
Major players in the industry are beginning to restructure their efforts to integrate data into decision making. Nordstrom, a giant in the fashion industry, is one. Chief Information Officer at Nordstrom, Dan Little, explains, "We are positioning our technology organization to better support our long-term growth plans." This also came with the announcement of a new Chief Technology Officer, after the downsizing of their Innovation Lab and multiple store closures.
There have also been a number of data companies emerging that provide information services specifically for fashion and retail. EDITD CEO Geoff Watts shared why retailers are beginning to leverage this kind of data, "We can reverse engineer discount cycles and promo cycles across the whole industry." Avoiding discounts means higher profits and streamlined operations. Consumers might be disappointed that big data could eliminate the clearance rack, but it is clear that more retailers will be using data to better plan their product offers.
More and more industry experts are catching on to the importance of technology in fashion. One area that is causing the industry to pivot is mobile technology. Barkley's American Millennial Report shows that 50 percent of millennials use smartphones to research products online before making a purchasing decision.
Another significant trend being driven by the collision of traditional retail and fashion tech is Omnichannel retail. As fashion tech grows in importance, one might speculate that brick and mortar retail would disappear. Data indicates otherwise. An IBM study on the impact of omnichannel in retail found that brick-and-mortar stores have conversion rates of 20 percent versus 4.8 percent for retailers that only exist online. This means that fashion tech and mobile options are helping improve brick-and-mortar experiences by adding valuable context for consumers before they make it to the store.
As these trends change the face of the fashion industry, it will be important for designers, brands, and consumers to stay closer to one another than ever before. Technology is enabling this sort of interaction in unprecedented ways and brands are continuing to think of new ways to create these touchpoints with consumers. The result will be a leaner industry, with more engaged customers, and less waste from unsuccessful product lines.