The concept of "fast fashion" is changing the retail industry.
While the idea of releasing new designs that meet changing fashion seasons in as little time as possible has been around for many years, retailers have recently worked to move products from fashion runways to stores in less time than ever. The result is a retail market that responds to changing trends in as little time as possible, has more than the four typical seasons and causes customers to expect products without delay. The modern idea of “fast fashion” is exemplified by brands like Walmart and Zara, who are moving fashion trends from shows to stores as quickly as possible to jump on new trends that suit changing customer styles. As a result, many retailers are working on creating strategies that fit into the fast fashion model.
However, recent reports have shown that as brands seek to mass produce new designs in as little time as possible, retail industry waste is increasing and work environments are being affected by the ever-rising demands.
So the question is, how can you responsibly embrace fast fashion without also doing harm to both your workforce and the environment as a whole? The solution lies in digitally transforming and enhancing how companies do business through modern retail technology.
Speed in all areas is the key to successful implementation of fast fashion strategies. While many companies largely apply this to the way in which products are manufactured and materials are used, steadily lowering the time needed in all areas of fast fashion can help your company move quicker than ever without causing excessive waste and poor work conditions. The following strategies are designed to leverage modern retail technology to reduce waste and redundancies in how we do business, without the negative effects currently affecting retailers. Consider how these areas of improvement can be applied to your unique retail company.
Leverage Data Analytics
A major component in successful fast fashion is correctly anticipating audience trends and tastes. Zara became the face of modern fast fashion through a strategy that included better understanding the interests of their target audience through analytics.
Zara subverted the typical process of anticipating trends and stocking stores by initially ordering only a small amount of a new merchandise. They then collected sales data and compared each SKU’s sales against their supply. In addition, Zara quantified what styles, colors and more were likely to sell well and then based their orders and future designs on that data. The result was a short cycle that eliminated unpopular styles and based supplies on what would sell best.
While each retail company will need to adapt their strategies to their own unique goals, the major takeaway is that Zara is always focused on the data and drills down into the smallest details in order to produce as much value out of their insights as possible. It’s not only crucial to be able to collect data from your sales and inventory in understandable and measurable ways, but to also interpret them correctly. Success can mean optimized inventory and a reduction in products that are unpopular with your target audience.
As shown by Walmart’s purchase of Jet, a major aspect of fast fashion success is how a brand gets their products to customers. While effective use of analytics as discussed above will help keep the right items in stock, retailers will need to push these toward customers quickly to meet the high expectations of customers in the age of fast fashion.
By using Jet, Walmart was able to incorporate a real-time pricing algorithm into their online store, which lowers the cost of items when more products are added to their shopping cart. Larger single orders means lower shipping costs for both customers and retailers, as well as less waste caused by the shipping process. Combined with other discounts, the algorithm is part of a strategy to increase online purchases, decrease the cost of shipping, and streamline the online side of their business. In addition, Walmart’s recent creation of Walmart Pay allowed customers to purchase items via smartphone while in store, creating a faster way for audiences to get the items they wanted. According to PYMNTS, first time use of the app increased by 31.7 percent from March 2017 to June 2017 and is steadily increasing in regular usage.
In addition, one-time occasion wear rental service Rent the Runway has leveraged its internal data and streamlined its internal processes in order to better predict customer needs and fulfill one-day shipping desires to better meet customer expectations, which have been heightened due to companies like Amazon. Shipping items to customers in less time speeds up purchasing cycles—a cornerstone of fast fashion.
Make Purchasing Easy
Fast fashion is more than just getting products to customers as soon as possible, it’s also enabling those same customers to become aware of, build interest in and purchase those products quickly. In doing so, retailers can create a faster cycle between creating and selling inventory, as well as analyzing the data that comes from purchasing in order to inform future business decisions.
Today’s customers expect ease of use and quick checkout capabilities when shopping online. In addition, omnichannel retail experiences bring in-person and online shopping closer together than ever. By using retail technology to allow your customers to build interest in products online and then complete purchases within brick-and-mortar stores, retailers can better enable their audience to act quickly on their interests and complete the purchasing cycle.