It’s no secret that in order to differentiate in the crowded fashion retail market, brands–and retailers–have to innovate. But where to begin? Enter FashTech, a non-profit community created by Alex Semenzato that wants to revolutionize retail by driving creative partnerships between fashion and technology companies. Since its launch last February, FashTech has hosted informal networking events in London, San Francisco and New York where fashion tech startups can present their products (for free) to press, other tech founders, investors and retailers. “For retailers who want to innovate, they need to discover the next big thing and try out these emerging technologies such as visual search, 3-D body scanning, wearable tech, etc,” says Josephine Fear, event coordinator at FashTech. We chatted with Loree Lash-Valencia, vice president of North American content at trend forecaster WGSN, at FashTech’s New York launch during New York Fashion Week about why retailers need to embrace technology.
FP: Why is a community such as FashTech necessary in the fashion/retail industry today? LLV: Technology offerings emerge at a rapid pace and it is very easy to stay buried with your individual day-to-day workload and remain somewhat uninformed. If you do not look up, step out and stay curious you run the risk of being left behind.
FP: Why should retailers (both brick-and-mortar and online) leverage it? What can they gain? LLV: As retail changes and the relationship with the consumer changes to become a more intimate one, it is critical that brands and consumers look for the best technologies and practices that can help them connect in an authentic way to provide a better experience for the consumer. I believe many emerging technologies do just that.
FP: Do you agree that a lot of retailers are slow to embrace new technology, whether it’s social media or cloud-based POS systems? LLV: I do think so, yet some are more progressive than others. It is hard to turn a large ship quickly and for many businesses there are many “owners” of different areas within that business. It is challenging to get them all on the same page. Resources are strapped and often budgets are denied unless a strong ROI case can be made, and in many emerging technologies it is hard to put facts before adoption. It always surprises me how few people like to lead in our industry and be the first or even early in the change arena. It seems to me that our industry likes to follow success. I think companies that have a strong and progressive thought leader at the helm often achieve the most exciting changes more rapidly.
FP: Do you have any advice for retailers who are interested in incorporating more technology into their day-to-day but aren’t sure where to start? LLV: I think it is helpful to try to shake yourself mentally from who you are and what you do now or yesterday and think what if? Startups have the freedom to create and pivot, dream and try and often larger companies are stuck or mired by the way things are. Take an optimistic look at where you want to go for your brand and ask “What can I do to help me get there?” Look at who is doing a good job at that and what they’re doing that you are not. Stay open to change and adopt a better system, release a new enhancement and embrace some change.