Adopting a Digital Mindset in Fashion Q&A

HATCH Webinar: Adopting a Digital Mindset in Fashion. Your Questions, Answered  

Amsterdam. July 23, 2020. Last week we were very excited to host our first ever HATCH Webinar. Our guest speakers, Anne-Christine (A-C) Polet and Hans Summers, shared their insights and experiences on adopting a digital mindset in fashion. A-C is the SVP of Digital Ventures, HATCH & STITCH  and is one of the initiators of the HATCH Digital Showroom. Hans is what we call a Digital Selling expert who previously worked at PVH with the Digital Showroom and currently works as a Business Development Consultant at Strutfit. 

These are the answers to the questions that have been raised by the audience during the live webinar.

What sets HATCH apart from the other digital solutions operating in the area of digital B2B wholesale?

A-C: What makes HATCH unique is we have a unique origin story. We were born in a fashion brand, our products (i.e. the Digital Showroom and Transformation Services) have been crafted together with people like Hans and with all the sales team globally at both Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. That immense knowledge that we have of wholesale selling, and really being able to understand what a sales person is facing, is what makes us unique.

In addition, we have a unique focus on the Digital Showroom user, which is unlike any other technology company, in the sense that we focus 50% of our time on the products and making sure they really add value and 50% of our time on onboarding the Digital Showroom users through our Transformation Services. Through this onboarding we strive for achieving a sustainable change as efficiently as possible. Because change is always going to be hard and we believe that it’s better to be honest about it.

Hans: There are some great products on the market available to transform your wholesale B2B process. But from my experience the thing that sets HATCH apart is its immersive, interactive and agile nature. This allows you to really involve the buyer in the process. I think other tools on the market are really strong but stronger from the admin side: the order intake, the line sheet building, etc. I think what HATCH is really good at is telling the story of a brand and generating excitement.

A lot of interest is centered around how the Digital Showroom will be received by its primary users (both on the sales as well as the buyers side). I would assume you would find quite some resistance when introducing such a product. Can you give us an idea of how many of your “traditional buyers” were left behind?

Hans: Resistance, absolutely! But generally only as an initial reaction. Once buyers started to use and interact with the Digital Showroom they realized the benefits for themselves. Even those who were most resistant at the start “came around” to the idea in the end. Obviously some remained resistant longer than others but this is where the role of the Account Manager/Sales Agent is key. It’s their job to listen to the buyers’ reservations, build trust and find suitable solutions. If the buyer feels as though they are not being heard then it’s likely that their resistance to change will become stronger and last longer.

How did the larger clients (e.g. department stores, chain of stores, etc.) react to the implementation of the Digital Showroom?

Hans: From my experience, in general the larger clients tended to be easier to convert than the smaller, more independent clients. Like us, they also realized the traditional methods of B2B wholesale selling needed to be modernized, so when they saw us adopting this new way of working they also felt a sense of responsibility for its success.

The HATCH Digital Showroom also really contributes to showcasing your brand’s DNA and telling an engaging story for each season, so this naturally evokes a really positive reaction from the client. They are immediately engaged and excited, thinking about the possibilities for the forthcoming season before they have even started to look at the collection. The bigger clients  tend to select a lot more options for their assortments, so the initial benefits yielded from the Digital Showroom become apparent much faster versus some of the smaller clients with smaller assortments. This can really help with larger clients where shelf space and marketing opportunities come at a premium and can often be harder to negotiate. 

How would you bring agents onboard to embrace a digital platform, who sell many brands to many different accounts and for whom “time is money”?

Hans: That’s exactly how I would position it. Time is money and the Digital Showroom will save you both in the long run. We proved this at PVH, completing appointments in half the time and significantly reducing the costs of sampling. This cost saving could then be redistributed to other areas of your business. And if you are an agent even better: your earnings would increase!

The Digital Showroom can make your life so much easier. As an agent, you may have multiple, back to back appointments in one day. All of which you can prepare for in advance, tailored to each individual client and all ready to go at the click of a button. And no more late nights in the showroom compiling endless product lists trying to remember each client’s assortment from that day. Everyone wins!

What is your view on the time it takes for employees working with the HATCH Digital Showroom to adapt? And for wholesale clients?

HATCH: We always say that a Digital Transformation is not easy and once you start this exciting journey, there will definitely be some hiccups and speed bumps along the way. Having said that, we have seen that for a brand that is onboarding digital selling will go through an exploratory phase first. The first sell-in season is about exploring and experiencing what works best for the brand, its sales force and their customers. Sure, people will make mistakes during the first season (we are only human after all). But mistakes are made so you can learn from them and grow. As a guideline, most sales teams will require that first season to adopt to the new way of working. And from the season after that onwards, they’ll have more confidence, experience and fun driving their digital sales appointments.

Hans: It’s difficult to give a definitive answer, everyone will approach and be successful in their own way and on their own timeline. Some clients will immediately jump straight in and accept, others will take a little longer. In my experience those most resistant, were comfortable with the Digital Showroom by the third season of using it (approximately 9months).

Most especially during these Covid uncertain times, there are many benefits to digitizing (parts of) the Fashion value chain. What are the numbers and insights on physical sample efficiency? How much on average can I reduce?

HATCH: In our experience at Tommy Hilfiger & Calvin Klein, we have seen that on one hand a gradual and structured sample reduction is preferred, where total physical sample counts available in showrooms were brought back from 100% – 60/40% – 25% and even 10% of the total collection. This will allow sales users of the Digital Showroom to have a gradual transition into digital selling. At the same time, we are seeing that another client of ours is taking a bolder step towards sample reduction. They have decided to bring down their sample count by 100% from the start of their first digital sell-in season! Both approaches require guidance and training amongst the Digital Showroom user group and true buy-in from upper management.

What do I need for the HATCH Digital Showroom to actually work within our current business environment and systems? Is it necessary to have a fully integrated platform (i.e. from the Digital Showroom to the order entry tool or ERP system)?

HATCH: It is highly recommended that brands should be thinking about how information and data is transformed and transferred through their fashion value chain and their wholesale customer journey. Is it mandatory to have a fully integrated system to start digitizing your journey? Absolutely not! What brands should be assessing with regards to integration falls into three categories:
1. What is the best (digital) product to have in each stage of your journey?
2. Which products make it easy to get data in and send data out and connect with other products?
3. How am I as a brand unlocking my own data to use the best products and services in Fashion Technology?

Through answering these questions, brands can gradually move towards a fully digital value chain for wholesale. They don’t have to run the risk of changing everything at once. And can actually start achieving positive outcomes earlier in key areas of wholesale experience. 

I am considering digitizing business processes in my (fashion) business and am curious about what it takes from the ‘people’ perspective. I’m curious to know your advice to people that might be doubtful about ‘going digital’?

Hans: Going digital will genuinely make your life easier, but you have to let it. Once you do, you won’t want to go back! Compare it to other real life examples of digital change, for example VCR to Netflix?! Cash versus contactless payments. Or even going from your Nokia 3210 device to your current smartphone! You have already subconsciously made so many shifts to digital in your everyday life.

And in the current climate, it has never been a better time to make the switch. Especially now that dependency on physicality, logistics and travel has proven to be a shaky foundation.

A-C: Just do it! Go for it

What can we do to unlock that Digital Mindset culture?

HATCH: From our experience, being and remaining open-minded for new inputs and impressions during your change mindset is super important. From a Transformation perspective, keep the bigger picture in mind and work towards that ultimate end goal by taking small ‘baby’ steps. One step at a time, one day at a time. Most importantly is to also look back and recognize all the changes and developments that you have gone through! Being aware of these small ‘wins will keep you motivated and keep you going in the right direction. Be sure to take time once in a while to celebrate all that you have achieved/accomplished. And be aware of the many new things you may still be able to learn in your growth/change journey.

We hope this has provided you with a lot of useful insights and food for thought. If you are eager to find out more from us, reach out to us at hello@hatchstudio.co. If you missed our live Webinar on Adopting a Digital Mindset last week, the full recording is available on demand here 

Digital Mindset Q&A