In the fashion world, designers, CEOs and influencers are in the limelight. But today’s fashion chief information officers (CIOs) are more important than ever in driving brand success. The rising trends of automation and on-demand retail mean that the technology decisions a company makes can determine success or failure of a new product before it ever goes into production — or before it’s even designed in the first place.
Especially now, as the fashion industry works quickly to become more resilient and agile amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted supply chains, production and retail business across the globe, CIOs are essential to ensuring that today’s fashion companies understand the influence of digitization and online shopping. CIOs champion the solutions that brands use to generate profitability through forward thinking and new technology. They know that supply-driven retail is rapidly becoming a thing of the past and that responsiveness is the key, both now in the current slowdown and for the long term.
Here are three ways CIOs can proactively meet the challenges of the rapidly shifting landscape and set up their brands for success post-COVID-19.
Take Control of the Supply Chain
Supply chains are more complex and vulnerable than ever, and consumers are more informed about those supply chains. With that complexity, however, comes the opportunity to gain levels of insight and collaboration previously not possible.
Digital product lifecycle management (PLM) software now enables teams to collaborate across continents and have a digital window into the supply chain in real time from anywhere in the world. The right PLM software also gives corporate leadership access to big data from across their fashion production lines, empowering flexible and fast decision-making through a single source.
By adopting software solutions that empower global transparency, CIOs can give their brands control and ensure that products are produced efficiently, effectively and in line with a company’s values.
Leverage the On-Demand Revolution
Market indicators suggest that the consumer demand for personalized clothing and apparel isn’t just a trend; it’s here to stay. It is supplanting fast fashion as the way of the future, and this started happening well before the pandemic. While consumers are willing to wait a little longer and pay a little extra for on-demand products, speed and cost-efficiency are still going to be major determiners of success for brands.
Adapting to this consumer shift will mean major changes in product design, development and manufacturing. The traditional, supply-driven model simply isn’t agile enough to accommodate demand-driven retail. This retail revolution will mean fundamental technology changes in software and machinery that can flexibly, efficiently and quickly handle high volumes of increasingly unique orders.
Yet, the majority of fashion companies have to make the technological changes necessary to succeed in this new landscape. CIOs can position fashion companies for the future by investing in smart product development and manufacturing solutions now.
Fast fashion and the traditional, demand-driven retail model create huge amounts of product and fabric waste. In additional to being bad for the environment, there are also a large amount of wasted company resources. Sustainability, done right, can drive business success.
What the on-demand fashion model offers brands is a way to make products after they’ve been ordered, ensuring far less waste in the supply chain. Additionally, technology can cut more precisely in real time with consumer orders, further reducing fabric waste.
Software and machinery solutions are enabling companies to drive profitability in ways that supply-driven technology cannot. CIOs can take a lead in corporate sustainability and grow business at the same time by becoming advocates for technology that delivers what consumers want and reduces waste in the process.
Edouard Macquin is president of Lectra Americas. Headquartered in France, Lectra is a leading global provider of premium technological solutions facilitating the digital transformation of the fashion industry.