MILAN — Digitalization, innovation and sustainability were the key themes of the first edition of “Rethinking Fashion Sustainability,” a one-day forum organized on Thursday in Milan by Fashion Technology Accelerator, a global program supporting start-ups at the intersection of technology and fashion, in collaboration with QVC, Isko and Intesa Sanpaolo.
Omnichannel retailing emerged as one of the most prominent tools for the future of the luxury industry, according to a research conducted by Boston Consulting Group in collaboration with the Italian association of luxury goods companies Altagamma.
Federico Bonelli, core member of BCG’s Practice Luxury division, said that, according to research conducted on 12,000 luxury purchases made between 2013 and 2016, 60 percent of them involved digital-based activities in the process, while in 2016, 51 percent of the sales of luxury goods were the fruit of omnichannel procedures. “This happened especially in the U.S. and in China, while Europe is far behind,” Bonelli revealed, adding that Millennials play the most relevant role in the shift from a traditional retail model to the omnichannel one.
“According to our research, Millennials mainly shop at full-price retail platforms, such as Net-a-porter, Mr Porter and My Theresa, while older generations tend to buy at the brands’ online stores and at Amazon,” said Bonelli. “People, aged over 50, tend to prefer Amazon because the company managed to build high-trust, long-term relationships with customers.”
According to Bonelli, the success of luxury companies in the retail business relies on three main factors. “First of all, a brand needs to be consistent in the different environments it operates, online and off-line; second, companies need to offer fully-integrated delivery options; third, brands have to provide VIP customers with the same welcome facilities and discounts not only in each country they operate, but also online,” he said. “CRM, logistics, stock and educated sales forces are crucial to succeed now.”
In addition, Bonelli revealed that the aforementioned research highlighted not only that word-of-mouth surpassed print and online magazines as the biggest purchase influence for contemporary customers, but also that social media are constantly increasing their role in people’s buying decisions.
“Seventy-two percent of the shoppers we analyzed use social media to get in touch with brands, and 15 percent of them do it on a daily base,” said Bonelli, highlighting that instant messaging apps are exponentially gaining more and more importance.
The digital world can be an incredible tool also to create storytelling for companies focusing on ingredient-branding strategies, said Francesca Romana Rinaldi, fashion management professor at Milan’s Bocconi University.
“Storytelling and differentiation are the two key elements of our strategy,” said Marco Lucietti, global marketing director of Turkish giant denim fabric manufacturer Isko, which in the last few years has embraced an ingredient-branding marketing approach to promote its label among final customers.
The biggest denim cloth producer in the world, Isko, over the years, has invested huge resources into sustainability to develop “responsible innovation,” as Lucietti said. “Sustainability needs to become a key driver for customers’ choices in stores. The goal is to create a pull effect — people have to look for goods which are manufactured through a sustainable productive chain.”
These innovative technologies developed by companies need to be protected according to Lucietti, who lamented the lack of a unified international regulation in this business.
Ingredient-branding marketing activities can be strongly boosted and supported by technology solutions, according to Pietro Leo, chief technology officer for big data, analytics and Watson at IBM Italy. “Technology is not only useful to find information on products and brands anymore, but it can play a relevant role in the process of decision-making,” he said. Leo also highlighted how technologies can influence the decisions of all the steps of the chain, from creativity to production and distribution.
During the forum, three start-up companies — which participated in a contest promoted by Fashion Technology Accelerator — were awarded. In particular, British-based ZigZag, which supports online retailers in the returning process, scooped the Alberto D’Ottavi award offered by Fashion Technology Accelerator; Milan-based incubator Impact Hub assigned its “She4Imp(Act) fashion edition” prize to My Mantra Srl, which developed the sustainable Ligneah material, obtained by pairing up-cycled wood and natural fibers, while Quid, a fashion company that offers ready-to-wear and accessories collections handmade by women with physical and social problems with the use of surplus fabrics, received the QVC next award.