This year, New York Fashion Week made a return to in-person shows after two seasons of digital exhibitions, but the effects of the pandemic were still evident in reduced capacity at events, along with rigorous safety measures at every venue. In fact, it’s the same for the fashion industry as a whole: New York and other cities around the world have opened back up to some degree, but COVID-19 continues to influence how goods are fabricated, marketed, sold, and delivered.
Even before the pandemic hit, fashion sales were quickly moving to digital channels – a trend put into hyperdrive in the last 18 months. In the coming year, expect online marketing and direct delivery of goods to grow, even as the pandemic continues to impact supply chains and manufacturing. What does all of this mean if your small or medium-sized business is involved in any capacity in the fashion industry? Let’s take a closer look:
E-Commerce Is Center Stage
Refining your e-commerce tactics should be a continuous process – and top priority. Key elements include an easy-to-navigate website, a strong social media presence, and reliable on-line and over-the-phone customer service. In addition, the pandemic has radically shifted consumer expectations: people want fast delivery of merchandise. As a result, your sales strategy and online storefront should clearly explain shipping options, including options for next-day delivery when possible. Similarly, your returns policy should make it easy for customers to exchange items for fit and look.
Global Sales are Key
If you make or sell fashion items, your supply chain is likely already global. But are your customers? Expanding your audience of potential buyers to new international markets should be a critical part of your strategy moving forward. E-commerce and advances in logistics have made it easier and more affordable than ever to ship small items and batches across borders, and growing competition means that finding new customers requires new approaches – and global sales and marketing may be the answer for your company. You should carefully research and collect data on potential new markets, with a focus on how your products may fare with buyers and among the competition.
The Supply Chain Needs Your Attention
A recent DHL survey of more than 1,000 customers revealed that the pandemic continues to rattle supply chains. And it’s not only the pandemic that impacts how your goods are manufactured and how they move around the world; natural disasters, trade disputes and regional political instability can all have potentially damaging effects.
For your business, supply chain disruptions could wreak havoc on product launches, forcing you to miss critical deadlines for the release of new items. Delays could create rifts with your customers; they could throw your marketing plans into disarray; and they could seriously damage your brand. The solution is to build redundancy into your manufacturing and supply network, and to create a more resilient supply chain. How? By diversifying where you are sourcing materials, where your factories are located, and where your inventory is managed, you can avoid damaging bottlenecks. In the recent past, and continuing today, many apparel companies have been overly reliant on manufacturing in China. With continuing trade tension between the U.S. and China, and with the impacts of COVID-19, this over-reliance has led to a serious production dysfunction. Demand and manufacturing capacity have fluctuated wildly since the beginning of the pandemic, and today there is extremely strong demand for fashion goods, but thousands of companies are left in the same boat: the capacity in manufacturing is just not available for the competing demand, and product release deadlines are being missed. Simply put, your company need more manufacturing options in a variety of geographic locations.
Shipping Details Matter
The best marketing plans and the most user-friendly online storefront will amount to little if you cannot get your goods safely and efficiently to your customers once production is firmly in place. You should work with a shipping partner with a global experience, the ability to handle peak demand challenges, and the resources and technology to move your goods rapidly.
In addition, you should pay attention to how you package your goods for shipping. Items should be packed with protection to keep them from being damaged, but at the same time should not include excess materials that could signal wastefulness to customers. Size your items for the correct kind of package and remember that not all goods need to go in a box. Some may be better suited to a courier bag or padded envelope.
How are you handling your supply chain, and how are you making sure your fashion/apparel goods reach your customers safely? Let us know on Twitter at @DHLUS.