First in, best dressed for retail sales revolution

By Kim Abbott, London's Senior Experience Designer

I don’t know about you, but I’m an avid wearer of clothes. In fact, I often wear multiple items of clothing at once, heading out the door every morning smug about my distinct lack of nudity.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like clothes, but I’ve always been more of a consumer than a fashionista, preferring to purchase items I will never wear, gathering them like a dragon lying atop its gold, while I continue to put on the same pair of black jeans, t-shirt, and trainers day in, day out.

It’s the experience of discovering and buying those perfect items that appeals most to me – wearing them is just a bonus saved for special occasions.

Luckily for me, that experiential aspect of retail was at the centre of the fashion innovation talks at Web Summit 2018 this year.

Speakers from a diverse range of brands, Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger to Tamara Mellon to Stock X, focused on the crossroads the industry is at – where customer expectations are changing as fast as technology.

In ‘Integrating innovation: from the icon to the institution’, Daniel Grieder, Global CEO of Tommy Hilfiger, said: “There are a lot of people who say the fashion industry is dead, but as long as people wear clothes, we will exist.”

It’s true – fashion is far from dead. Instead of fearing change, the fashion houses at Web Summit are fully embracing it – and making it a part of their ethos. Technology is being used to merge online and in-store retail experiences, making the buying experience more seamless.

In ‘Virtually rewiring the business of fashion’, ORDRE’s revelation about developing virtual touch technology was mind blowing (and will no doubt fuel my online shopping habit when it’s commercialised in the next two to three years).

It’s hard to imagine now, but virtual touch will allow people who are shopping online to physically feel the fabric of the clothing they’re looking at (which has been scanned through a special high-resolution scanner), via a touchpad.

burberry

Burberry’s Global Lead for Digital Marketing Rachel Waller revealed in ‘Beyond the rebrand: moving fashion forward with digital’, that ‘what Burberry has learned in the last 10 years is that it's all about the people’, and their new strategy for repositioning is about communication and customer experience.

As smart stores and smart mirrors slowly become more prolific and increasingly based around customer needs and expectations, the company is sharing the journey with its fans, via community-building methods on social media, like storytelling and product drops.

So, as the physical fashion world moves into digital in delightfully unexpected ways, are those reluctant to evolve doomed to fail? Only time will tell.

As for me, I’m back in the office mulling over that thought. Sure, I’m in the same pair of jeans as always, but today my shirt has dinosaurs on it. And like dinosaurs themselves, change is scary. But you know what? I think the fashion industry can do it. After all, it’s evolve or die.