Why does brick-and-mortar fashion retail struggle? It has to keep pace with the future or disappear, and technology is behind this change. People simply love buying clothes online. As mobile computing and other technology change customer behavior, fashion’s future will be in eCommerce, online marketplaces, and showrooms that draw customers in.
Tech Already Tells Fashion’s Future
Customer preference for online retail already drives fashion’s future. In fact, by 2015, fashion and apparel surpassed computers to become the biggest online sales category around. Globally, it continues to enjoy something like 20% year-on-year online sales growth. Finally, one out of every six dollars spent in online retail this year will go to fashion.
Clearly, shoppers have used technology to alter the face of retail. As a result of this preference for online consumption, fashion retail chains and department stores face a crisis. In light of online competition and over-investment in real estate, brick-and-mortars have seen a record number of closures in 2017. To be fair, fashion retail chains aren’t the only one impacted. However, they are the leaders.
Now, as computers shrink in size, people will shop more by smartphone, and in the near future, with wearable technology. This leads to what one well-known observer calls “everywhere computing”.
This can also turn the entire world into a shopping experience. For example, a “shopper” wearing Google Glass might see a stranger on the street wearing a nice shirt. They would take a picture then use a mobile technology and artificial intelligence to quickly discover where to buy that shirt.
The End of “Brick-and-Mediocre”
Considering all this, where does brick-and-mortar fit in fashion’s future? Well, retailers will suffer if they treat brick-and-mortar simply as warehouses with displays. For example, Nike aims to purge its wholesale channel of “undifferentiated, mediocre retail”. It plans to make 80% of its retail channel only those stores that present Nike in an inviting, sophisticated manner. Brick-and-mortar will remain viable when it’s about an experience, not volume transactions.
Lay the Foundation for Fashion’s Future
Technology appears to be pushing fashion brands into the omnichannel more than other categories. While it’s early for wearable technology and machine learning, customers already buy clothing and apparel online at a high rate. However, the technology already exists to manage the omnichannel in a way that adapts to changing customer behavior. With the right solution, they can control stock and automate processes in their store and online.
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