The year is already shaping up to be an interesting one in UK multichannel fashion: several trends are developing, and new technologies are emerging on the horizon.
Drapers’ report on 2019’s multichannel trends explores everything from the world’s best digitally enabled stores to how the process of discovering a product has changed.
Innovation and agility
One of the central themes is the importance of keeping one eye on strategic innovation, and building enough agility to ensure the business can respond to future technological twists and turns.
Marc Rosen, executive vice-president and president of direct to consumer at Levi Strauss, says his team looks no further than three years down the line when making plans, highlighting the need to remain agile.
He says: “With the world we’re in, and especially considering technology and the speed and pace of consumer change, it’s hard to look out more than that.
“We work on a rolling basis and we’re updating continually.”
Daniel Rubin, executive chairman of The Dune Group, said at the Drapers Fashion Forum in November 2018 that his focus is spending money on technology to set up the footwear brand for longevity: “It’s about investing for the future, even though it may dent short-term profits.”
For Dune, this means exploring how search is evolving and the ways visual and voice technologies might change the way it interacts with its customers.
Elaine Smith, who joined Dune as head of digital product from House of Fraser at the start of the year, says: “Visual search and voice search are the two key things I have to look at this year, because the way customers are interacting with search is now very different considering the growth of the likes of Google Home and Amazon Alexa. We have to keep up with that trend.”
At Levi’s, it’s a similar story – although there is also a focus on fit technologies and continuing to improve services in that area.
Privacy continues to shape what retailers’ multichannel propositions look like: consumer attitudes vary wildly according to the experience they receive in return for providing personal information.
“At first, the more digitally savvy consumers – probably older than 30 – were most concerned about their privacy,” says John Hill, chief information officer and senior vice-president of business planning at workwear-inspired brand Carhartt. “Today, it’s something the majority of people in the workforce are concerned with. At Carhartt, we see our customer demographic certainly skewing toward being focused on data privacy.”
For River Island, the focus is on using artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up the creation of both a single-customer and single-product view.
Chief information officer Doug Gardner says: “A lot of what we’re doing now in our roadmap is building out a strong single view of the customer and capturing interactions in the store. We’re looking at more creative ways of getting that picture in store. That’s a very important part.”
He adds the potential for AI across the business is significant, and that the business is thinking about how this data could be used to better inform how each store is stocked.
“The profile of a store has changed over the years,” he says. “Those not carrying the full range have switched to become an interaction point with the customer. If we use the data, what we put into that store is starting to change. It can help you reshape the logic of how you build out that store. It might look very different to a traditional store.”
Far from standing still, fashion retailers are at the forefront of changing what multichannel retailing looks like. To read more about how these brands and others are pushing things forward, download the full report here.
Drapers multichannel trends 2019 explores:
- Retailers’ investment plans: We speak to retailers including Dune, Levi’s and Lulu Guinness about their investment plans.
- Privacy and data: How are consumer attitudes evolving regarding the data that companies hold on them, and what are retailers doing in response?
- Leading multichannel stores from across the globe: Stores have become retailers’ not-so-secret multichannel weapon. We take a look at some of the best, and investigate how brands are using physical retail to best effect.
- Next-generation search: How social, voice and image recognition technologies are changing how people find, discover and become inspired by fashion product.
- Is menswear leading the way in multichannel? The menswear market enjoyed high online growth in 2018, partly driven by increasingly innovative multichannel concepts and digitally-led ideas designed to make shopping easier. We look at why menswear is pulling ahead of other categories within the multichannel space, and we explore some of the most innovative ideas.
- How is AI affecting multichannel marketing? Retail marketing is evolving swiftly as retailers and brands catch up with changing consumer behaviour. What new tools are emerging to help a brand’s marketing efforts become more relevant and more effective, and how is artificial intelligence changing the game for marketeers? This section will explore what multichannel marketing looks like in 2019 and beyond.
Key quotes from the report:
“The way customers are interacting with search is now very different considering the growth of the likes of Google Home and Amazon Alexa.”
Elaine Smith, head of digital product, Dune
“Customers want retailers to make their lives easier, and AI can play a key role in that.”
Sally-Anne Newson, director of customer experience and digital product, Shop Direct
“Visual search allows us to shop in the same way we choose our fashion: by how it looks.”
Helen Riley, fashion and beauty manager at Ebay.
“AI has been talked about for a while, and it’s becoming a reality now. We’re starting to use it more widely this year and will be accelerating in the next couple of years.”
Doug Gardner, chief information officer at River Island
“It’s becoming more important to have that one-to-one conversation with your customers, rather than a generic broad message.”
Rob Feldmann, CEO, BrandAlley
“At first, the more digitally savvy consumers – probably older than 30 – were most concerned about their privacy. Today, it’s something the majority of people are concerned with.”
John Hill, chief information officer and senior vice-president of business planning, Carhartt
Drapers publishes regular in-depth reports on topics including artificial intelligence, the shopping habits of Generation Z and international markets. Sign up here if you would like to be notified of when they publish.