By Craig Crawford, IT Strategist at Crawford IT
With 30 years experience as an IT strategist for global fashion brands, Craig Crawford, explains in our guest blog why embracing digital transformation is essential for brands to move forward and give customers exactly what they want.
Would you unlock your phone and give it to a stranger? No way! Why? Because it’s personal. It’s your bank, your flight ticket, your photo album, your world. These days your phone drives everything you do. In thirty years, we’ve moved to a whole new realm of personal computing.
For retailers and brands, that means the customer is in charge. Truthfully, that’s a struggle for all of us. That’s what digital transformation means and there’s no point fighting it, because it’s not going back. Because everything is digital, we are generating tons of data and our customers want us to use that data. Ninety-three percent of customers want a personalized experience, but 73 percent of those people think we’re not doing a good job. Unfortunately, they’re right – because there’s a lot of data and it’s very hard to manage it and use it to give our customers exactly what they want.
Digital data and consumer experiences
We’re at an exciting point where a lot of technologies are converging, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, visual mapping, traditional data and big data. When we combine physical and digital data about consumer behavior, we have contextual data – which means we can start looking at what people want, need and are going to buy.
On the retail side, this data can be used in-store for individual customer insights. What’s important to us now is not just what a customer bought and returned – what did they look at and reject? Why did they buy that? Some stores are already doing this, sorting together personal ‘wardrobes’ for customers to try on in chosen sizes and colors. Choices, rejections and purchases are recorded via touchscreen.
Guess what this data affects? Product development and assortments. Higher sell-through rates. Fewer returns. We shouldn’t be getting excited about 30 percent sell-through rates – it should be 70, 75, 80 percent. If you can feed data back and use it in the right way, you can make sure the right products get off the ground and get sold.
For the customer, it’s about seamless, personalized digital experiences based on their style and preferences. When we stop saying ‘People who have bought this also bought…’ and offer people meaningful things that they actually want, they buy.
Digital on the inside
However, you can’t just be digital on the outside. You can’t do any of these things unless you’re also digital on the inside. You need a fully mobile, globalized team that can collaborate in a truly social way. To do that, you need to invest in the right technology. The email server you use isn’t going to differentiate your brand, but systems like PLM and ERP are technologies that can really make a difference.
Unfortunately, you don’t have the luxury of stopping the whole business while you implement a solution. You can’t wait 18 months to put in a new PLM system – in those 18 months, your business might have changed entirely. Look at how quickly the music industry was disrupted when iTunes was introduced in 2001. This is where agile deployment methodologies come in. Piece by piece, you get people working on a collaborative platform.
Integrating mobile with PLM
People already use social platforms to communicate at work, whether it’s Messenger or Slack. It’s how things get done and decisions get made. We need to be able to integrate mobile devices with our PLM and ERP systems so that people can collaborate and make decisions on the go.
For mobile that works, you need a strong platform. It doesn’t all live in that little device. It lives somewhere in the cloud, in a big ecosystem. Also, you have a lot of different devices – phones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers – and all of them have their own challenges. You’re not going to shrink an entire PLM screen down to a phone, for instance. You want actionable things you can do on that phone that tie back into PLM.
Centric Software is certainly ahead of the curve when it comes to using mobile apps with PLM. Centric’s apps, such as Capture It and Fit Review, integrate data from mobile devices with PLM in real time. This cuts down tons of duplicate work and data entry, which is great news for creatives. Centric’s Visual Innovation Platform is a collection of touchscreen-based digital boards that can transform meetings. Imagine going into a room and telling people to turn on their phones rather than switching them off, because you’re having a meeting.
The reality is, kids think like this already. Their lives are mobile, and they are your future workforce as well as your customers. Digital technology can be scary, but you can approach it either from a place of love or of fear. We’re all digital explorers, and if you can face down the fearful aspects of technology to do something bold, the future will reward those who innovate every day.