When your house is on fire, put out the blaze before you start building on the addition. Conventional wisdom, right? Maybe back in a year ago… but these days, according to industry veteran and former Neiman Marcus president and chief merchandising officer Jim Gold, “...we all have to walk and chew gum.” That means not only tending to the critical, short-term needs that have to be addressed to survive the moment.
Gold advises, “at the very same time, you have to begin to parse out which of the trends that we're seeing are going to stay with us, and which ones are going to fade with the pandemic-- from a lifestyle, from a consumer, from a workplace standpoint. You've got to make hard choices, and put a stake in the ground in terms of what you think the future will look like and begin to adjust your business model accordingly.” In other words, to stay on top of the current pace of change, brands will have to constantly balance between today’s expediency and tomorrow’s strategy-- learning from one to create the other.
Here’s a few of the areas Gold sees this process already playing out:
SHORT-TERM REACTION: Rely on promotional pricing and other diverse and creative measures to repurpose excess inventory.
LONG-TERM STRATEGY: Build a more agile production model to pivot with customers and grab opportunities as they emerge.
Gold says to get there, companies need to:
- Get rid of bureaucracy. Innovation requires the free flow of information and ideas within an organization. Silos, departments, egos and ‘turf’ all slow down or keep this from happening.
- Make informed decisions quickly. Real-time analytics, easily accessible from centralized dashboards, make this possible. So does a cultural mindset that allows you to move forward fast, but fail fast so that you can learn and redirect accordingly.
- Build in flexibility at every level. Whether it’s in your supply chain, or how you think about inventory management. Drop ‘cost’ as the governing KPI, and goal towards ‘resilience’ instead.
SHORT-TERM REACTION: Wing a reactive virtual go-to-market plan--throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks.
LONG-TERM STRATEGY: Construct a thoughtful digital-first market strategy, based on your own learnings and analytics as well as emerging industry best practices.
Internationally and across industries, B2B buyers and sellers have expressed a preference for remote purchasing over the pre-pandemic process--even for six-figure plus transactions. Video and supportive technologies provide necessary info in a more direct and focused way. The elimination of travel and in-person meetings saves considerable money and time. And brands and buyers can refocus those resources towards developing deeper and more strategic partnerships in this tight and competitive market.
Because of the dramatic efficiencies, Gold predicts the majority of wholesale transactions will happen digitally even after the health crisis ends--with in-person meetings reserved for only a handful of times a year, and only for the most important relationships and markets. “The pandemic has permanently changed how brands and retailers transact,” he explains. “Virtual wholesale is here to stay. It is essential that both brands and buyers learn how to fully leverage a digital marketplace, like JOOR.”
- Pick the right mix of in-person to virtual for your brand and buyers, and the right marketplace partner to help you most easily bring technology-shy buyers online.
- Build your digital trade show schedule around what makes sense for your company today, don’t automatically register for the online versions of what you’ve always done. Criteria to evaluate your show schedule include:
- Prior positive experience/sales numbers in the digital incarnation of the show.
- Attendance of your existing buyers and similar potential buyers.
- Access to an open, international marketplace. With today’s economic uncertainties, global diversification is a necessity. (JOOR Passport, for example, enables buyers registered for any trade event to shop across all shows currently running on the platform.)
- A high level of topical curation to help interested new buyers find you: searchable terms should go beyond categories like ‘contemporary womenswear’ and ‘athleisure’ to cover the differentiators consumers care about--such as ‘minority-led brands,’ ‘responsible wardrobe,’ ‘made in the USA,’ ‘family-owned business,’ etc.
SHORT-TERM REACTION: Put up a virtual showroom.
LONG-TERM STRATEGY: Tell the digital story of your brand.
Consumer-facing shopping sites show every detail and angle of a product--with zoom capabilities, video virtual try-on and more. Yet Gold notes the majority of wholesale brands have served up only a fraction of this digital product experience for their retail partners--despite the availability of dynamic and shoppable video, 360-degree imagery, curated virtual showrooms, and immersive collaboration tools. “I get it’s the early stages of digital marketplaces,” Gold explains. “But now that we understand digital-first is our future, it’s time to ramp up the B2B side as well.” Here’s why this is so important:
- Buyer confidence. When buyers can visualize products’ true look and feel, they buy more--and they buy smarter, maximizing their merchandising dollars to create unique and highly-edited assortments that appeal more strongly to their customers.
- Emotional engagement. Virtual technologies can allow buyers to not only drill down on individual products, but also to experience the brand on an emotional level. This lays the groundwork for long term partnerships, as opposed to just sales.
- Stronger and more lucrative relationships. Virtual collaborations done right communicate the core of a brand more directly and viscerally to retail partners--making for their clearer understanding of brand story and a more seamless and successful representation to the end consumer. They can also provide strong insight into specific needs, so brands can help retail partners craft assortments that succeed.
Wholesale has fast-tracked temporary solutions to 2020’s big disruptions; and learnings from these are helping to shape the longer-term--and in many areas long overdue--transitions to digital-first. Among these is the understanding that digitization involves more than just moving offline processes, online. Just as the first ecommerce sites did not replicate the experience of walking down the aisles of a brick and mortar department store, these more mature solutions strive to capitalize on the unique benefits of digital--like automated processes, easy-access to real-time trends and data, and strong storytelling and collaboration capabilities. The good news is, making these needed changes in the long term will make wholesale trade simpler and easier, and help our community emerge even stronger.
Want to bring your digital game to the next level?
Already a JOOR brand or retailer? Reach out to your CSM to make sure you’re making the most of your Virtual Showroom.