Imagine boarding a flight to an exotic destination. You catch a glimpse of the cockpit and are surprised to see very few instruments, not the usual panoply of buttons and lights. When you ask why it looks so…. retro, the flight attendant answers “because the pilot believes he is better at maneuvering the plane on his own, without the help of any instruments”. You would immediately turn around and try to get onto another flight, right? This is perhaps an extreme example, but today’s old-fashioned fashion retail supply chain causes otherwise smart executives and merchants to literally fly blindly into upcoming seasons. There have been so many innovations in technology to allow merchants to produce and buy exactly what the customer wants. So why are we still designing, manufacturing, and selling clothes, shoes, and accessories like we are stuck in the dark ages?
Digitizing the entire supply chain—from pattern making to last mile—using predictive analytics and the Voice of the Customer is no longer science fiction. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it abundantly clear that companies ignore the digital transformation at their own peril. According to McKinsey, COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point – and transformed business forever with accelerated digitization of customer and supply-chain interactions. The future is here, now, and it is faster, easier, more accurate, more profitable, and much more sustainable than the past’s legacy systems. Even the idea of a supply chain is antiquated. Why? The most customer-centric companies focus on a demand chain, which flips the paradigm. Instead of just making “stuff” with a wink and a prayer that customers will buy it, items that customers truly want to purchase are produced. In order for this to work, brands must be close to their customers and use the data to pull demand through the whole system.