For many retailers, Merchandise Lifecycle Management (MLM) — the cycle of planning, designing, delivering and managing a product from concept to customer — entails quite a combination of people, processes and technology that is knit together with a lot of blood, sweat and sometimes tears.
MLM within most retailers, particularly vertically integrated players, has been fine-tuned over the years, and while it works fairly well for most, others are “just barely” getting by. Either way, MLM is under some amount of threat today based on the new requirements most retailers and brands are facing to bring more products to market with increased variety, decreased costs and a speed to delivery that some would describe as blindingly fast.
The fast fashion pace isn’t just limited to apparel retailers (some of whom now face “ultra-fast fashion”), but affects all retailers facing increased SKU counts, a greater number of new product introductions per year, and the impact of “endless aisle” as commerce spills over from the internet to brick and mortar. This means that the well-tuned, carefully calibrated in-house Concept to Customer lifecycle now faces increased pressure, which for many retailers makes the combination of people, processes and technology incapable of keeping up with demands. That one more SKU — or need to localize one more assortment plan — may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Getting on the fast track to fast fashion
As fast fashion becomes the industry norm, it’s a constant race against time to get your products to market. Virtual products are here — items are being sold that aren’t even created yet. And fashion is becoming globalized, meaning you can find inspiration in France, a designer in the USA, raw material in Spain, a manufacturer in China and finally sell your product in Mexico. While that example may be extreme, the moral is this: Multiple departments, organizations and vendors need to work together — and work quickly — in a streamlined manner.
The key to keeping up with fast fashion isn’t just about having lightning-fast turnaround times. It’s about agility. Retailers need to respond in real time to changes in the market, orienting their business cultures around the speed of modern fashion.
A race to the finish — and it’s going to take more than just a new pair of shoes to win
Fortunately, as the market and everything around it continues to evolve, technology is transforming at the same pace. Many of the fast fashion pioneers are turning to an end-to-end MLM software solution to centralize their processes on one platform and transform the way their organizations plan, design, develop and source their products.
An integrated MLM system reinforces the ability of the supply chain to become more agile and responsive to the demand-driven marketplace. Here’s what retailers can expect with MLM technology:
- Heightened agility: While traditional retailers feel like they can stay in step with their customers if only they could move at a faster pace, speed is only part of the puzzle. Agility is essential for matching the speed of modern fashion.
- Shorter time-to-market: According to Forbes Insights, 81 percent of CXOs believe that speed to market is a critical success factor for product development and helps drive profitability. So while agility may be the key for fast fashion success, speed will never be a forgotten factor.
- Increased productivity, revenue and customer loyalty: With faster time to market and relevant products that fulfill a customer need, MLM technology can directly help accelerate revenue growth. The more relevant and reliable the product and the better the customer experience, the more loyal a brand’s customer base. And when brands have a loyal following, more purchases are made.
- Improvements in product quality: MLM software empowers brands to operate efficiently among internal staff, suppliers and customers. Combining information with a unified strategy all in one efficient manner ensures a steady consistency in product quality.
- Innovative experiences: Empowering teams to collaborate regularly and giving them a vehicle to share information gives companies more time to focus on innovation as well as product and customer transformations without compromising quality or time to market. New products and features can be introduced at a faster rate to meet the evolving needs of consumers.
- Reduced compliance risks: An MLM tool allows all areas working on the product to have the same information, housed in a central location. Eliminating disparate systems makes it easier for companies to stay compliant with laws and regulations, reducing the risks of recalls, legal actions, and loss of sales and consumers.
Revolutionizing the way businesses think
So whether it’s slashing lead times or improving agility, MLM software filters intelligence across a fluid network of channels and enables a multidirectional view, revolutionizing the way businesses think. The fast fashion trend is forcing retailers to become more responsive to consumer demand. And retailers should note, as long as data continues driving the way people think and shop, the fast fashion “trend” isn’t in fact a trend at all. Fast fashion is here to stay, driving us to design and implement innovative solutions with a finger on the pulse of the fast fashion movement.