Written by Álvaro Pin, Head of Business Development and Transformation. 26-06-2020
Is there a future for fashion wholesale showrooms?
2020 has turned to be for many of us the year of uncertainty. In fashion, the new normal has brought to the surface the fragility of the current business model and has laid out the increasing need for the industry to digitize the value chain in order to survive. Many are wondering how connections between brands and retailers will evolve. Well-established practices like fashion shows and trade shows are on the spotlight in the wholesale space. For us at HATCH, there’s one question that has kept us up at night: what is the future for fashion wholesale showrooms?
Wholesale showrooms have been key for the growth of fashion brands. However, over the last few years, maybe decades, little has changed in how these sales appointments work. When we first introduced the Digital Showroom for Tommy Hilfiger back in 2014, we recognized the tremendous potential of enhancing appointments through technology and the real benefits that would come from that. Fast forward to 2020 and, with the world slowly opening up, we’re getting a glimpse into the future of wholesale fashion altogether. Here are our 5 predictions how fashion showrooms will change in 2020:
1. 3D Samples
This one gets us really excited. HATCH’s purpose has been to create a new digital paradigm for fashion where sustainability is central. While the concept for 3D design isn’t new, it has now become a saviour for brands to overcome the uncertainties of a COVID-19 world. As a result of this, brands have begun exploring how 3D can help them beyond design, offering high quality digital products that can be used for sales, PR and marketing purposes. As 3D content availability increases, the opportunities grow too: from achieving a sample-less value chain, to simultaneous design and selling, slashing time to market even more. Our friends from STITCH are a living example of what 3D at scale will look like, and we’re working with them to pave the way for a zero-waste fashion industry.
2. Customer segmentation
With travel and budget restrictions uncertain for the remainder of 2020, brands will have to double down on their efforts to create better and smarter experiences for their customers. The expansion of B2B webshops from reorders to preorders will become increasingly important to service most of the long tail customers, while brands will need to invest in more engaging and curated experiences for their key accounts. While the showroom space may not be available quite yet, the showroom experience will be key to drive commercial value in the long term.
3. Remote appointments
In the past, showrooms provided the main meeting point between sales reps and buyers. With more digital tools available for B2B sales, the human connection that previously characterized the process will be redefined. The showroom experience allowed sales reps to personally guide key accounts through collections, and this crucial facet will need to be translated into the digital space. This is why we’ve been working hard on what we call the HATCH Dynamic Showroom, taking our in-showroom experience into the remote world, helping sales reps and buyers connect despite the (social) distance.
At HATCH, storytelling is a key part of our Digital Showroom experience. We see great benefits when brands are able to leverage their brand content in better ways across all regions and teams: from better alignment on orders across regions to driving higher engagement and sales. We call it storyselling. In the digital realm, it’s even more important, if not, more difficult, to have your brand stand out from the crowd. With hybrid models emerging (in-showroom and remote appointments) consistency of storytelling will be crucial across channels. Brands will have to embrace a stronger digital presence to distinguish themselves from the competition. On the buyer side, this will make the difference between the best and the rest as they navigate brands collections through digital linesheets. Our digital value service is specifically designed to help brands create better collection stories through content.
5. Data-informed sales
If anything is certain in these uncertain times, it is that data will overtake samples on the priority list for brands. Thanks to digitization, organizations will be able to gather more insights from interactions with customers and thus create better collections, more accurate proposals and refine the marketing spend to drive higher ROI. This will be the first step for many brands to become more data-informed in their wholesale business, looking for ways to optimize their collection creation and measure the impact of every euro spent in times where cash flow has been severely depleted.
Fashion wholesale is not going away: instead, it is undergoing a massive renovation. Now is the time for fashion brands to reset, rewrite and reforge the rules of the industry and use digitization to become better, smarter and more sustainable. Changes like this can be daunting, but rest assured, there are proven ways to go about it.
True digital transformation depends on users, teams & companies embracing new ideas, leveraging technology to find new ways of working. If there is one piece of advice we can give you it is this: think big, start small. While the big picture is important, breaking down the challenge into smaller steps will minimize the risk and give you a chance to reflect and adapt your strategy, as well as celebrate the success stories along the way.
What do you think will impact fashion showrooms in 2020? Are you curious about the HATCH Digital Showroom and our approach? Send us a message!