Part Five: Finding Success in Today's Retail Market
This article is part five of a five part series entitled “Building A Successful and Authentic Brand.”
Disruption leads to opportunity
With all of the doom and gloom about today’s fashion retail industry, opportunity does exist. Any time a market goes through a disruption of this magnitude, it’s typically because it is long overdue for change. With the onslaught of new technologies in the past ten years, including the launch of Facebook (2016) and Apple’s iPhone (2017), and the current advancement in Augmented and Virtual Realities (AR and VR), the relatively stodgy fashion industry hasn’t necessarily kept pace, particularly on the back-end. Sure, fashion brands look sleek on the outside, but they are often struggling to connect a variety of hardware and software technologies.
Starting from a different place
The reality is that companies that are opening today, are starting with these new technologies as their foundation. These new brands understand better the complexities of online marketing and social media engagement. After all, many of these company’s founders are tech natives, having grown up with the technology that earlier generations had to learn and adapt.
What’s more, with the use of data analytics, brands are are able to better determine the needs of their customers, and their subtle shifts, in a way that was never thought possible only a few short years ago. In short, they are able to grow much more strategically with their customers. If managed correctly, major shifts in cultural trends and directions, are less likely, because brands will have seen them coming. Therefore, shifts in trends are now more subtle and brands who pay attention to their customer base and adapt in synch with them, are less likely to miss out on opportunities and be stuck with bad decisions. Ultimately, using analytics strategically can help brands remain more authentic to their customers needs.
Coming Full Circle
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest technologies, and begin to think that if a company just uses the latest and greatest social media platform, their ticket to success is secured. But that logic is faulty and can lead to costly mistakes. The reality is that adoption of new technologies takes time and has a ripple effect on other platforms being used. Often, exciting new technologies are replaced quickly with more thoughtful, functional iterations. Brands must stay focused on their customers and the products, services and experiences they desire. Technology should be support of that, almost invisibly. The future is finding ways to develop one-on-one relationships with customers, using technology, no matter the channel.
One of the emerging opportunities in retail, is the growth of online marketplaces such as QueerCut. These marketplaces allow brands to engage in niche markets beyond their core customer base. These marketplaces can be broad in terms of product offerings, such as Etsy, or more focused like ASOS or FarFetch. Unlike traditional wholesale models, marketplaces like QueerCut do not hold inventory, rather they provide a nexus for brands to do business using plug-in tools (API) that allow businesses to connect their existing web back-end with the greater marketplace. Additionally, marketplaces offer an affordable way for brands to test the market, with a built-in customer base, before spending money on building their own website. Gaining customer insight up front can be incredibly useful when choosing the type of online retail store a brand wants to create, when the time is ready.
Online retailing is costly, there is no doubt about that. But, brands who approach their online businesses with this in mind, and plan ahead financially and strategically, can see this negative turn into a positive. While it’s nice to get paid a lump sum for a collection from Saks Fifth Avenue each season, there is a lot of risk in making something that won’t be sold months down the road—until the following season. In contrast, direct-to-consumer retailing can be very agile and adaptive, taking advantage of micro-trends and fads, that engage customers. What’s more, being forced to engage directly with the consumer does have it’s advantages, providing brands ongoing insight and feedback on their products and services. Loyal customers love to help (almost to a fault), and they can become a valuable resource to a growing brand, becoming brand ambassadors. Over time, customer and brand become intertwine, and a sense of reciprocity develops that is truly powerful.
—Joshua Williams, Chief Branding Officer, QueerCut
In our upcoming series, “Building Queer Brands,” we will explore ways that the ideas expressed in this series can be applied, particularly as it relates to queer friendly and queer inclusive brands.