Retail is an industry of ticking clocks. A merchant’s trend responsiveness determines the level of customer excitement about their products, and their shipping timelines determine whether customers convert with them, or take their business elsewhere. You need to be fast.
The past two years have accelerated customer demand for immediacy. Two-day shipping may have been piloted by online marketplace behemoths, but it’s become the expectation for retail businesses of all shapes and sizes. Consumers across the gamut have refocused on making more sustainable purchases. While 88 percent of consumers want brands to function more sustainably, the shipping timelines and price points of sustainable apparel can make them incompatible with fashion customers’ need for immediacy. Additionally, spikes in inflation have driven hordes of shoppers to fast-fashion retailers, many of whom have practices that do not align with consumers’ ethical purchasing goals.
When delivery times are longer than a customer anticipated, nearly half of customers will abandon their intended purchase. Since fashions live on a limited lifecycle, retailers need to be agile to serve up fresh looks within a timeframe that’s exciting to their customer base – whether that be a few weeks or a few months. The faster the fashions are to market; the more customer excitement is generated when the looks hit retailers’ shelves or website. Make no mistake: retail takes place in an hourglass nowadays. So, reducing time to market is a quintessential goal for retail decision makers at every level.
What is “time to market” and why does it matter?
So, what exactly is “time to market?” Let’s break it down. Time to market, or TTM, refers to the timeline between when a retailer/brand conceptualizes the idea for a product to the date when it finally hits the shelves for public consumption. Most mainstream fashion retailers’ time to market is a few months. With that said, fast fashion retailers have been known to serve up new trends within week-long timelines, creating a trend cycle of 52 “micro-seasons” a year.
This type of timeline isn’t feasible for retailers without a massive, agile infrastructure. Supply chain disruptions have taken many a retailer out of commission in the past few years. In fact, the “BoF-McKinsey State of Fashion 2022 Survey” found that about 50% of businesses around the world suffered supply chain disruptions in 2021, with one in eight severely affected. That’s not all: the same study reports that 87% of fashion executives predict supply chain disruptions will have a negative impact on their margins next year.
But fashion retailers don’t have to take this lying down. An agile fashion PLM software can help retail buyers and stakeholders reduce their time to market… without compromise. And, like any turning point in life, it all starts with making a decision.
How to stand your ground in an industry gone mad
Did you know that the average price of retail goods will jump by 3.2% in the next year alone? Consumers are strapped for resources and price is once again a prime differentiator between retailers that thrive and those that fall by the wayside. Retailers are aware of this and they’re responding with widespread tech investments.
But all PLM software systems are not created equally. Let’s take a look at three of the ways that implementing an integrated fashion PLM system –– rather than one that stores your data in additional silos –– can help build your fashion retail business.
Combat price increases
Supply chain disruptions, a reduced number of workers, and lost communications… oh my! There’s no mystery to the reasons behind the forecasted retail price surges in the coming year. How retailers can combat this inflation, however, is a topic less often discussed. Inflation is hitting the apparel sector even more heavily than other arenas.
Fashion items have a shorter demand cycle than other types of goods. A strong PLM is necessary for fashion retailers to stand out. An agile fashion PLM solution will reduce time to market, help create a product catalog that resonates with end consumers and ease organizational communication –– with every single person in the organization and outside vendors. A few great things happen when apparel buyers and brands have a single hub for all of their product communications: questions are answered faster, communication that used to take weeks now happens in minutes, and retailers have all of the product details necessary to create effective listings in minutes.
Empty racks are a growing problem in the retail industry. A reduced number of workers at every level of the supply chain has led to manufacturing and shipping disruptions, causing inflation and a reduced speed to market. The products that are developed these days are being manufactured more slowly and face substantial shipping delays. When this happens, customers have fewer purchasing options, so they’re more likely to purchase with an online marketplace offering two-day shipping at breakneck prices.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. An agile fashion PLM solution can give retailers more visibility into where their product is in the production cycle –– creating the opportunity for more accurate product forecasting. Since retailers always know where their products are located, there are fewer bottlenecks and delays. Reducing time wasted on the front end enables retailers to get products to market faster, while demand for the items is at its peak. The result is full shelves stocked with better products, cultivating more excited customers and creating a stronger buzz about the brand.
Strategic vendor management
It’s no secret that most retail businesses struggle to offer the vendors in their brand portfolio the same exposure and access to resources as their online marketplace counterparts. Few retailers can compete with Amazon’s built-in audience –– of around 2.2 billion website visits a month. In 2021, Amazon had a market share of 11.5 percent of total apparel sales in the United States. But the online apparel market is where Amazon gives fashion retailers some severe competition: the behemoth accounted for 34.5 percent of all online apparel sales in 2021.
In this environment, it’s critical for competing retailers to create a streamlined, simplified communication platform that allows them to interface between manufacturers, external vendors, and internal team members. Fortunately, it’s never been faster or easier for retailers to find the right fashion PLM vendor to fill their unique communication needs. From updating product details on the fly, changing pricing in real-time, or chatting about frontline consumer demand with vendors, the right PLM solution allows retailers to do it all, from anywhere.
Make compromise a thing of the past
We get it. As a retail decision maker, you need to get fashions to market ASAP to drive excitement, demand, and ultimately… revenue. Since present day retailers are competing for employees as well as sales, it’s time to think strategically about how to use technology as an asset for your apparel business. Could your business benefit from a critical differentiator in unpredictable times? If so, it’s time to start strategizing how to implement a quality PLM solution before the competition.
Don’t let the current state of the retail industry drive you to underestimate the profit potential of your brand. Time to market isn’t only relevant when talking about individual fashions, it’s also a key consideration when choosing a PLM software solution provider. The right fashion PLM solution will help drive your retail sales performance, employee satisfaction, retention, and customer loyalty. It will do this by creating streamlined product communications between every single person working for you that needs access to your product data. No more bottlenecks. No more markdowns. Just a strategic trajectory to drive customer excitement and retail success.
Surefront’s product lifecycle management system consolidates product data into one easily accessible –– and exportable –– platform. With Surefront, buyers can interface with all of your external vendors in one place and request quotes in seconds. Our technology can be onboarded and implemented in a fraction of the time vs the competition: Surefront can be functioning at full-throttle within 8 weeks, while most competitors take 8 months.
Our intuitive user interface cuts timelines during the product ideation and development process, so you can bring products to market faster. The average Surefront customer experiences 10x revenue growth after a single year using our software. Are you ready to let us calm the chaos, so you can get back to focusing on the aspects of your retail business that you love the most?
Product lifecycle management is a quickly evolving industry with a lot of moving parts. We do all of the research, so you don’t have to. Stay ahead of news & trends by subscribing to our Product Lifecycle Management Blog.
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