Lectra, following the launch of its Fashion on Demand by Lectra offering, led the Fashion Forward 4.0: How Personalization is Revolutionizing Fashion event, a dynamic discussion on the opportunities offered by customization for industry players at the PUBLIC Hotel last night. The panel included Edouard Macquin, President of Lectra Americas, Akash Pathak, Head of Marketing for Trunk Club, Seph Skerritt, Founder and CEO of Proper Cloth, and Arthur Zaczkiewicz, Executive Director of Strategic Content Development at Women’s Wear Daily, with Elizabeth Segran, Senior Staff Writer at Fast Company, moderating.
The event, attended by an array of industry influencers and journalists, discussed how personalization, far from being a fad, is going to be a long-term trend for the foreseeable future, similar to on-demand music, movies and TV services. How companies manage this shift will determine their viability and will be essential to their brand identity. Studies show that most consumers believe that customized clothing is the future, while nearly three quarters of Millennials and Generation Z are interested in products suited to their personal tastes or made for them individually. They are better-informed and looking for more than choice; they want a personal touch, both in goods and services — and they are willing to pay and wait a little more for it.
“You need to make sure the technology is in line with this megatrend,” said Macquin. “Surprisingly there’s a change in people’s need for products immediately. They are willing to wait for something better, but we still need to reduce the time from order to delivery, and that comes down to manufacturing. That’s where the delays are.”
Through more transparent and agile software and machinery, companies are delivering personalized products at increasingly faster speeds by streamlining and gaining transparency and control across the supply chain. This speed and control mean that manufacturing technology for on-demand production can deliver consistent and personalized fits and styles quickly, which in turn further drives the demand for customization. This ability to connect with what customers want individually — and do that efficiently — is revolutionary.
“You’re talking about a tailored experience. You’re talking about a very personalized experience where you’re engaging the customer,” said Zaczkiewiecz. “It boils down to making the customer feel like they’re something special, that they have needs that you’re meeting, and it’s an emotional engagement.”
Data indicators show this technology is in line with the market. 42 percent of Millennials have bought a personalized or customized product at least once and are also willing to pay 20% more for personalized or customized products. In general, 15% of customers are ready to pay a substantial markup, more than 40% of the asking price, for personalization. This personalization can manifest itself in different ways for different brands, which is where brands can assert their identity. Skerritt noted that some customers want a certain collar or a button in a specific place. For Pathak, personalization is about the balance between art and science. In the age of algorithms, customers are willing to purchase products online and then pick them up in a store that services them as individuals. For on-demand fashion, the future is now and the market is ready.
“Gross margins are going to be thicker as a result,” said Zaczkiewiecz. “If you’re offering customized products, if you’re offering personalized services, customers are willing to pay more for that.”
In addition to offering real benefits for consumers and brands, customization can be advantageous for the environment as well. The on-demand production model can create a more responsive and ethical business in which quantities produced correspond to what each consumer wants. This leads to fewer markdowns and an environmentally sustainable supply chain. Each year, approximately 100 billion clothing items are being produced and approximately 80 billion are being purchased. More than 10 percent of items go straight to the landfill after each season. Essentially, getting away from supply-driven fast fashion and toward on-demand products isn’t just what customers want; it’s what’s good for the planet.
“We can still have profitable businesses that reach a wide array of customers while being sustainable,” said Macquin. “We can do that through customization and demand-driven retail. Technology is responding to customers’ desire for ethical, transparent and sustainable products—and it is demonstrating that sustainability and smart business go hand in hand.”