What was once a process defined by a day trip to a shopping mall is now a series of ad hoc decisions made in minutes – several times a day. I needed new clothes not only for the dropping New England temperatures, but also for my upcoming business trips to Seattle, London, Amsterdam and Hong Kong. Standing in the security line was a perfect shopping opportunity, so I googled “three season women’s jackets” and images from my favorite shopping sites came up. I shared some styles with a friend via social media to make sure travel fatigue wasn’t clouding my already questionable fashion sense, added several items to my cart while walking to my gate, clicked “buy” just before I buckled into my seat, and as the plane was lifting off the tarmac, my jackets were starting their journey to my home. The best part? With free next-day shipping, my new fall pieces will be on my doorstep by the time I get home.
Contrast my consumer shopping experience with that of a typical retail product development lifecycle. Developing a new product can be a pretty massive undertaking, requiring:
- Multiple overseas trips to identify materials, trends and sourcing partners
- Significant numbers of spreadsheets with profit calculations and margin projections
- Many, many hours of meetings
- Hundreds of emails with price negotiations and assortment balancing discussions
Technology + collaboration = The speed you need
Obviously, creating that volume of paperwork and undertaking huge amounts of travel takes time and resources. Technology can help retailers minimize – or even eliminate – these steps by providing a platform for collaboration. Virtual sourcing can reduce the number of physical trips needed, and maximize the effectiveness of those taken. Accomplishing everything from sourcing to negotiating through a single tool gives retailers the ability to cut down on product development time without compromising quality.
In the retail world, we’ve done everything within our power to make the consumer buying process quicker than ever before. Now it’s time to bring that same experience to the back end, and empower members of our supply chain community to interact on a par with consumers. We need to match the speed and interactivity of the consumer to be able to continue delivering the products they expect and get excited about. Social solutions and communities that are supported by technology are our avenues to get there.
Check out our video on why speed and collaboration are key in the New Retail Economy.