I have always been intrigued how brands have embraced technology in the last decade. Fashion has traditionally been the last sector to integrate technology, this despite the fact that in most Luxury Forums industry leaders talk about technology and its impact on the fashion business.
Having said that, it is understandably challenging for a sector that has been built on the premise of exclusivity to embrace digital which is the complete opposite. Digital is all about inclusivity and greater accessibility. Also, for the last 5 decades most luxury brands have created aspiration through the story of heritage and limited edition products for the chosen few. Digital beautifully contradicts this strategy by making a product accessible to the billion eager customers in seconds after a launch.
In the recent years it has been encouraging to see brands embrace technology though sometimes as a new trend, a PR story to draw attention and reinforce market leadership. If in the past the luxury brands differentiated themselves through the limited edition lines and collaborations with the art, seasonal collections and heritage trunk shows today they seem to use a digital streaming of their shows or IPADs in the stores to build on the point of “exclusivity” and grab a headline in WWD.
But what will happen when a cool technology fails to be news worthy any more. The consumer seems to be embracing technology and making it an integral part of their everyday lives while luxury brands struggle to provide a digitally enhanced experience that will help grow the business.
Are CEOs being as demanding of their digital strategies as they are of their collections?. Are they familiar with the possibilities that technology presents to engage the customer and to facilitate a two-way dialogue rather than a one-way narrative? And most importantly are the Technology Officers in sync with the customer’s orientation towards technology and its relevance to the brand’s ethos?.
If one applies “the Golden circle” (see my favorite TED talk by Simon Senek) the questions the decision makers need to ask are Why? How? What? If the answer to the “why” is “to enhance customer experience” and act as a catalyst to build the brand’s mystique in the minds of the customer one may be on the right path. It may be very simple and not require a major shift in direction. What will be challenging is for fashion brands who have built their “temple” in exclusivity to move away from being consumed by the world of “who we are” to “why we are”. Any business-centred “digital” strategy would have to be relevant to the brand’s long-standing heritage and integrity but also has to include the customer.
As Robert Polet (ex CEO Gucci Group) said in this Google Think Capsule, it would do us good to use technology to overcome complexity and embrace the ambiguity that comes with the innovative space. A good start would be to try defining what you want technology to do for your brand and customer in 3 words.