As we roared into the 2000s, memories of life before smart phones faded into our internal SD-card storage along with cassette tapes and payphones. We have evolved into a connected society with mobile devices in our hands, seeking authentic experiences and instant gratification. Without knowing it, technology has given us superpowers, taken away our privacy and united us as global citizens. For better or worse, we’re married to technology and, in the same way retailers are chasing consumers, technology is chasing users.
Retail and technology are both rapidly changing industries that can learn from each other. Whether it’s an application or apparel, these industries that together generate trillions of dollars make products with development processes. In apparel, we call this process sampling. In technology, we call it iterative. Both industries design and develop products where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between cross-functional teams. Benchmarking tech and retail can encourage teams to visualize how to adapt the best practices.
Next tech steps
Disruption is dead. Over the last decade, the terms “digital disruption” and “digital transformation” have been thrown around like confetti at a New Year’s Eve party. From the digital revolution to the technological revolution, we are firmly in an era of accelerated progress. Nobody wants their life, nor their work, disrupted. What we need is discovery, empathy and innovation. The key is to find value and humanity while enjoying the ride.
Word of mouth is world of mouth. Retailers have been hit with a seismic shift regarding the ways in which consumers want to interact with businesses. Forward-thinking retailers are reimagining stores as interactive hubs for technology in an attempt to win back the consumers satisfied with the convenience of receiving Amazon packages within 24 hours while they sit in their pajamas. Connected consumers have different reasons to go to stores and rising expectations of price transparency. Technology is playing a leading role in retail, and retailers are relying on it to create authentic connections.
“Fast fashion” may be out, but speed is required to meet consumers’ ever-changing needs. Let’s be honest, sustainability has been an initiative within apparel for decades but was shelved for profit. With consumers protesting for tangible action, the environment can no longer be a marketing plan. Thanks to social media, over the next decade the apparel industry will be held more accountable to make the change consumers rightfully demand. Part of technology’s DNA is uncovering better ways of developing and responding to change over following a plan.
From speed to agility
Agility is the new speed. We’ve heard of pause fashion, slow fashion, eco fashion, but sustainability doesn’t have to be slow. It needs to be agile. For decades, software-development teams have built code together in an agile, iterative fashion by implementing various approaches to development where requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams. Uniquely, this process includes the customer. The value of agile development is that it enables teams to deliver value faster, with greater quality and predictability, and greater aptitude to respond to change.
Collaboration isn’t a choice. The retail industry has been notoriously slow at adopting technology, but during this decade brands and retailers will need to choose individuals and interactions over legacy processes and tools. Trend and transparency will drive consumers to new brands with a commitment to our mother earth. Using donated and upcycled materials, eliminating waste and toxic dyes with minimal water usage, will all become the new “luxury” brands and evolve into the core brands consumers will buy. This will require an accountability and agility throughout the supply chain that would be unimaginable without leveraging technology.
Retail and technology are the new power couple. Both retail and tech have come to realize that experience matters most. Consumers have the power in their pockets to choose brands that align with their core values. As sustainably made products have become more of a consumer expectation than just an industry trend, brands are relying on strong collaborations with their supply chains to make apparel and gear that consumers feel good about purchasing.
As we embark on this journey together as digitally native nomads on a mission to save mother earth, collective action is required. Businesses willing to take an authentic look at agile processes will ensure a positive impact in today’s world. ●
Roxy Starr is the founder of Addlane, a project-sharing technology that streamlines file sharing, editing and messaging. An apparel-industry technology veteran, Starr’s career spans nearly 20 years.