What does it mean now to work together?
With 2020 ending and vaccinations underway, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But as the health crisis abates, wholesale fashion will experience a reset, not a restart--the best of digital-first will carry forward to power consumer-led best practices, a hybrid of smart automation and human-powered ingenuity. Brands (and retailers) still standing at the end of this tumultuous year have either experienced a supernatural stroke of luck, or have begun to seriously incorporate the following learnings into their business plans. (And any who fall into the ‘luck’ category might want to quickly rethink their strategies!)
These key foundational blocks should stay top of mind as brands build for what comes next:
Content is key.
Over 40% of consumers expect their lives and livelihoods will return to ‘normal’ only towards the end of 2021. In the meantime, they plan to focus spending on essentials and value categories. Price and convenience will trump brand loyalty--and digital shopping will continue to gain ground.
To capture orders and support sell-through in such a tight market, brands must captivate with the power of story: they need to offer a unique and exciting product, wrapped in a clear and powerful brand, while making the most of technology to bring the narrative alive digitally. In other words, brands must give their retail partners the same robust ecommerce experience end consumers enjoy. To emotionally engage and shop confidently, buyers need high quality, interactive visuals--including dynamic video, shoppable clips and photography, zoom-in, and 360-degree imagery. And to close orders, brands must deliver a streamlined and intuitive journey that adjusts for both simplicity and rich details of look and feel.
The hero page of a virtual showroom must give enough detail to clearly communicate the essence of a collection and the personality of a brand, while avoiding distractions and clutter. And on the style level, brands must provide easy and intuitive navigation that guides through each level of discovery with just the right amount of information, and without confusing or overwhelming detail. It’s a balancing act, for sure--and one that is relatively new to our industry’s B2B realm. But brands that manage to tell a seamless digital story will pull ahead of their peers in terms of immediate wholesale orders, and also give their retail partners a clear understanding of the unique differentiators they can draw on to help make full-price sell-through happen--benefitting the team as a whole.
Human interaction can be digital.
Digital-first business models don’t replace human interaction. They give it focus and breathing room so partnerships can run deeper, strategies can become more agile and creative, and solutions more granular. The pre-COVID model of intense travel, in-person booths and shows, and live networking and hospitality required large outlays of time and money. And hours spent in event preparation and the constraints of group meetings and social events left less bandwidth for focused one-on-one collaboration. Online models afford the time to hold highly productive meetings. They give brands the chance to better grasp their retailers’ unique audiences and needs, and make individualized recommendations that truly maximize a buy. They let retailers dig into inspirations and distinctions that can help them with successful positioning of products, while giving both sides the opportunity to discuss upcoming plans and strategies and how these intersect. And extremely importantly, they open channels of regular and personal communication, so brands and retailers work more closely and collaboratively--a proven best practice for navigating and innovating during unprecedented and volatile times.
Data has power that must be unlocked.
Our industry is finally starting to understand the value behind the free flow of data, Breaking down internal silos and integrating functions across departments allows for the automation of time-consuming tasks--so brands can operate in consumer-led real-time, and refocus human resources on product and strategy. And at a time when agility means everything, data integration makes insight-based pivots and fast decision making possible, Not to mention, when brands and retailers share decision-ready data in real time across organizational borders, they take responsiveness and flexibility to the next level--enabling them to capitalize quickly and successfully on emerging opportunities.
We are all one ecosystem.
The production delays and order cancellations of last spring hit businesses hard. A considerable number of unique and up-and-coming brands could not absorb the losses and had to close their doors. Others have pulled back from wholesale altogether, viewing it as an unfair model that burdens brands with the heavy lift of risk. The loss of young talent and exit of top brands has weakened the entire wholesale system. Such hard lessons have led to an increasing acknowledgement of the interdependence and essential value of participants up and down the value chain. Brands can--and should--start acting on this power. Use the digitally-driven bump in collaboration to voice concerns. Find compromise positions. Act in your own interests, and retailers will follow -- for instance, use whatever digital platform works best for your business, and your buyers will work with you there.
With over 8,600 brands and 200,000 curated retailers, JOOR's platform activity represents the luxury fashion industry as a whole and demonstrates that this level of engagement is happening. Compared to the 2nd half of 2019, brand profile visits increased by 362% and retailer logins rose by almost 50%. The top five retailers using JOOR as measured by year-to-date orders include Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks, Net-a-Porter and Mytheresa.
For an updated report of JOOR data, download our 2021 Trends Report below:
The brightest silver lining we can take with us into the future, is that wholesale is one team.