Our research and industry dialogue ‘Future in Brand Distribution’ has been off to an enlightening start. Four weeks in, executive talks and our online survey have already returned much valuable inspiration on the future of the lifestyle industry.
The sentiment we encountered in the industry dialogues was generally positive and energising, even though many still find themselves in lockdowns. It seems as though the Covid-19 pandemic not only gave a boost to digital transformation but also liberated some of the brand industry’s best creative thinking.
Where are we so far?
Seven colleagues of Brand Growth Inspiration embarked on a venture to interview managers, friends and colleagues across the brand and retail industry in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. The word spread, and many more joined in by contributing in the online survey.
Contributors come from Australia, China, India, Saudi Arabia, all across Europe, including Iceland, up to Oregon in the US. Their experience and perspective covers all major brand distribution channels (retail, e-com, wholesale), sourcing, retail expansion and merchandise planning. Dialogues included leadership, the environment, management and tools post-Covid, along with new processes and best practices. As you might expect, the perspectives on the future in brand distribution we encountered were as inspiring as they were diverse.
What have we learned?
Distilling our findings down to a summary already would be a mistake. But it is not too early to share first appetizers to inspire your thinking. For that reason, we’ve curated three highlights from the best practices we’ve picked up regularly so far.
Live Stream Retail
China sets the pace in retail technology, and last summer Wai Leong shared how live streams were providing a lifeline for big Chinese retailers during the first lockdown. Encouraged by these developments on the Chinese market, the second half of 2020 saw the speedy implementation of similar by especially smaller Boutiques in Europe and the US. Live streams via WhatsApp, Facebook or other prevented for many a year-end P&L disaster. And as it looks shop owners love it, this mode of engaging customers may be here to stay and provide what omnichannel communication was missing so far: the personal touch.
Digital Product Launches
When it came to outstanding lifestyle product launches in the past, there was no mountain too high and no location too outlandish to win media and consumer attention for a new product. Again it seems small players may have taken the lead to demonstrate that a product launch can be orchestrated digitally.
Swiss footwear brand On created a benchmark in digital product launches with tennis star Roger Federer in their live event on YouTube:
Created spontaneously when Covid-19 tanked the scheduled Wimbledon campaign, the launch became an example in quality, speed and flexibility of modern product launches. On top, it was ignificantly lower CO2 footprint than creating a life event somewhere in the Swiss Alps.
Digitisation of the Supply Chain
Those working in product development and sourcing will be familiar with the sinking feeling you get when telling friends that you were sourcing from Asia. All too easily the conversation would turns into an argument about your CO2 footprint, and everyone you met expected you to single-handedly change the world.
Our interview partners in sourcing feel that the involuntary changes 2020 brought are for the better. The technology to develop and source digitally has become established at last. Thanks to Covid-19, corporations finally accepted to approve a prototype without travelling all the way to the manufacturer’s sites or shipping it across the world. And Hugo Boss were not the only ones to launch their first ‘all digitally designed’ collection in 2020.
It’s likely that post-Covid people will travel again, including going on sourcing trips. But as awareness of the cost and speed advantage of working digitally is far higher than pre-pandemic, there will be a significant reduction in sourcing related travel.
What do you think will happen?
Above three highlights offer a small snapshot of our research so far, both from the survey and the dialogues. Overall there is no lack of vision and ideas, tools and energy to make the best of currently abysmal market situations.
The future is still in the making. But it seems for now the industry benefits from already advanced technologies and strong creative potential to turn the learnings from the pandemic into something beautiful. We aim at sharing more selected highlights every four weeks, and hope to get your input and support.
We still have some way to go before we’ve heard the thoughts of 1,000 minds. You can help by sharing your own views and inviting others to share theirs.
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Brand Growth Inspiration is an independent, ad-free industry dialogue platform initiated in 2016 by leaders working in the lifestyle brand industry. Managers from around the world have now teamed up to start this dialogue. Help by contributing!