When Tommy Hilfiger introduced a fully digital showroom back in 2015, little did parent company PVH know it would spell the future of wholesale. While offering a seamless interface of selling tools, a novel touchscreen where buyers can merchandise collections without requiring to see samples, it hadn’t banked on the notion that one day those buyers wouldn’t be able to physically come to its showroom – digital or not.
Fast forward to 2020, the year now known as fashion’s digital reckoning. An online future that required to be swiftly embraced, when traditional B2B and B2C sales were suddenly no longer possible. It proved a Darwinian task, with the fittest surviving and thriving, and the weakest left behind.
Survival of the fittest
With trade shows canceled, travel embargoed and in-person showroom meetings moved online, the only solution during the pandemic was for brands to sell to international clients via a digital showroom.
Digital showrooms take the entire selling and buying process online
Digital showrooms enable brands to share collections with a click of a button and schedule virtual appointments with retail buyers. Depending on the software, 3D product images and collection videos can be accessed, range planning can be maximised through interactive merchandising and placing purchase orders complete with delivery schedules and payment terms are quickly finalised, all within the same platform. There are a vast range of digital showrooms, but some of the most successful platforms include Joor, Hatch, Ordre, BrandLab360 and Dtail, many of which represent world leading brands, from high street to luxury to made-to-order. Joor, for example, has over 12,500 brands on its roster and over 300,000 fashion retailers across 144 countries connect on the platform every day. These platforms streamline the B2B sales process and also allow buyers to discover new collections and designers.
Sustainability considerations without needing samples
In an interview with digital sales channel Shopify, Dtail’s Chief Product Officer Joost Alferdinck summarised: “The benefits of virtual samples are documented far and wide and are being embraced by the fashion industry at long last. Brands are seeing the true potential of working digitally, especially in these times of lockdowns and closed showrooms. Virtual samples offer great cost and environmental benefits. There is no cost for logistics, no photography, no carbon footprint, and there are infinite available items.”
The retail conundrum
But it is not just brands who needed to embrace technology to survive 2020. For all the talk of revenge shopping, fewer consumers are willing to visit stores as restrictions are eased, and a third wave of the pandemic has compounded the devastating effects on brick and mortar retail, with many businesses shuttered for the greater part of a year. Shoppers have gotten used to not physically going to stores forcing brands and retailers to embrace e-commerce and digital customer service like never before.
Interactive and meaninful
As digital pure players seek to make online shopping more interactive and meaningful it reinforced a future shopping trend among UK consumers as the pandemic year progressed. According to a September 2020 report from ChannelAdvisor, the intention to shop online strengthened even once shops had reopened. In May 2020, during the height of the first lockdown, 42 percent of online shoppers said they’d shop more digitally in future. By August, the month after nonessential stores reopened, that proportion had risen to 55 percent.
The digital future of fashion week
The impact of Covid-19 didn’t just digitise the buying process, but also changed the runway and future of fashion weeks. France’s Federation de la Haute Couture et de la mode (FCHM) hosted a digital fashion week for both men’s and haute couture last June. In partnership with Launchmetrics it developed a digital hub to bring the industry event online to press, retail buyers, and consumers worldwide. While there have been mixed reviews from buyers on digital fashion weeks, the virtual showroom eventually accumulated over 19.4 million views on all channels including YouTube, Weibo, and Tencent Video.
What is evident in 2021 and beyond is the industry will continue to evolve and embrace digitisation. In the post-pandemic era of B2B and B2C buying and selling, fashion is more weighted towards digital than ever before.
Article sources: Shopify, Hatch, eMarketer, LSN Global, Retail Touch Points