One such example is ModCloth a vintage-inspired clothing e-tailer that has launched initiatives such as its ‘Make the Cut’ and ‘Be the Buyer’ programmes, in a goal to democratise fashion by giving customers a voice to design or vote for clothes the company should stock.
Its collaborative approach has built a community that invokes participation, receiving design feedback earlier than the normal process where products are designed on a large scale and presented in the hopes of a good reception.
Other online players such as Moda Operandi and Of a Kind use the internet to connect customers and designers by providing a platform where products and stories can be shared, or where looks can be purchased straight from the runway through online designer trunkshows.
In addition, some of the biggest names in retail, such as Tesco, John Lewis and Shop Direct are amongst the progressive few working with small tech start-ups in the UK and abroad, to leverage technology, create new experiences and provide creative solutions for digital challenges.
Such technologies can range from making screens interactive via mobile apps (such as the partnership between Monsoon Accessorise and UK firm Screach), or having talks with technology companies like Microsoft to bring interactive fitting rooms to the UK that allow the customer to see available stock and SKUs, and the retailer to track physical basket abandonment rate.
The ability to be agile and react quickly is key, and entrepreneurial firms have that advantage compared to larger, more traditional suppliers. Most importantly, they possess desire to push boundaries with innovative thinking.
Technology-driven start-ups are popping up like daisies, such as the UK’s Snap Fashion and ASAP54 , Ireland’s Style-Eyes and Canada’s Slyce , that all create apps with visual recognition technology to identify clothes are just few examples to keep a look out for.
This benefit of choice means retailers need to carefully consider the most appropriate partnerships that can directly improve their particular proposition. Done successfully, this will build unique and engaging customer relationships that create a distinct competitive advantage for the brand or retailer.
Kat Yeh is an analyst at Pragma