Anyone who follows apparel and retail industry trends and trade publications knows the steady stream of announcements, information, and excitement about using mobile apps to keep shoppers interested and returning. Clearly, the use of mobile technologies is radically impacting sales and enhancing the shopper’s experience.
Yet without compelling products, no amount of mobile gadgetry will engage consumers or drive sales. At its heart, the retail experience is product-driven. An exclusive focus on “mobility and the consumer” ignores half the story. What about mobility and the product developer? Can mobile technology enhance the complex process of delivering on-trend, in-demand products to market?
The developer and the mobile app: immediacy
Speed is the watchword of product development for apparel makers. To its credit, product lifecycle management, providing “one version of the truth,” has enabled tremendous speed and enhanced collaboration. Yet, gaps remain – gaps that mobile devices working in tandem with PLM are starting to fill.
Mobile apps and mobility are changing the product developer’s world with value measured in terms of immediacy and enablement. Consider how mobile devices and apps affect these scenarios that product developers face daily.
The sourcing department wants to place an order with a favored supplier but first must know if the supplier has resolved an outstanding quality issue. An auditor in the supplier’s factory located halfway around the globe documents and submits the correction on a mobile device. The sourcing team can proceed and place its order with the favored supplier.
The design team requires changes to the latest sample. The team photographs the item, sketches the changes, adds comments, and sends the revised sample instructions to the supplier immediately with a mobile device. With far fewer iterations in the sample review process, the supplier can now move forward.
A customer wants to see everything available in a particular material. The sales rep uses a mobile collection presentation to show that customer all the product color options available in the material. The action immediately removes a barrier to sale, and the customer can place an order.
Mobile apps deliver return on investment because this immediacy removes impediments and delays. The information the apps collect is available in real time to everyone involved with the product – from design to merchandising to sales to retail operations – at almost any point on the globe.
Helping developers do their jobs
Mobile apps are uniquely formed to serve a single task. This stripped-down focus ensures that the app helps the user accomplish a single task, yet such focus does not have to mean limited functionality. Well-developed apps – particularly those that integrate into PLM software – provide robust functionality and flexibility, while helping the user accomplish vital tasks regardless of the physical setting.
Moreover, robust app functionality can make vital product development tasks easier. Designers who find inspiration in a street fashion or a fabric during a trade show can capture images of that inspiration, annotate, and upload. The entire product team then becomes part of the process of converting inspiration to product.
Mobile apps help developers eliminate the odds and ends of sketch pages, sticky notes, inspiration boards, fit session notes, e-mail messages, and other assorted product information. And by collecting that information into a PLM solution, mobile apps do indeed enable the ultimate goal of speeding the conversion of inspiration to on-trend products.
Far more than simply using a mobile device to log into a PLM solution with Web access, true mobile apps are taking PLM from a desktop function to a dynamic resource, tying together worldwide members of the product development team. In doing so, mobile apps effectively free PLM from the cubicle and incorporate its functionality into the places where real designers, buyers and suppliers are working and making decisions.
Enabled by mobility, a PLM solution’s ability to capture essential information and events when and where they occur can transform the way product developers think about and use PLM, and open doors to expanded functionality and adoption.
The apparel industry is changing as fast as technology. And as technology devices and capabilities have grown, mobile apps are becoming the newest game-changers. Applying them to product development is a logical and crucial step in the apparel maker’s evolution. In fact, today, with the ability for mobile apps to extend design and development to PLM, it’s hard to find reasons why an apparel manufacturer concerned with its brand wouldn’t go mobile.