Why Fashion Brands Should Invest in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Systems – And How

The COVID pandemic exposed us all. Underlying most fashion business models was a fragile supply chain. When ships couldn’t dock, and airports were shut, so also was inventory. But IT systems rose up to the task…

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Why Fashion Brands Should Invest in Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Systems – And How
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This article explores why investing in ICT could make fashion thrive beyond itself.

The COVID pandemic exposed us all. Underlying most fashion business models was a fragile supply chain. When ships couldn’t dock, and airports were shut, so also was inventory. You only need take a closer look (behind the trends and glitter) to realise just how similar the fashion world is to any other legacy business. This multibillion-dollar business model of networked infrastructure and dynamism of stakeholders also means it confronts the same problems any aged business would; it gets entrenched in its ways. But deep within this ever-evolving landscape of brands and models is an unseen driving force called ICT; chugging everything along. In truth, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems have emerged as indispensable tools for fashion’s brands, retailers, customers, designers, logistics providers, and even regulators.
Because throughout that pandemic time, ICT systems played a pivotal role assisting brands cope with operational bottlenecks. From design conceptualisation through manufacturing, distribution, and sales, such systems have contributed to improving overall efficiency, even if there’s still so much more to be done. Significantly heightened is the reduction of idea-to-product life cycles. ICT has made it possible for a product to be designed in Milan using Photoshop, files shared with a factory in Taiwan, using materials sourced in Turkey, and product photos received back in Milan within days. Quick-to-market brands can now survive the logistical challenges of the past; pushing products off the design board to production in days instead of months.

Why ICT makes customer experience better for both brands and shoppers

Because overall customer experience matters in a world where online shopping accounts for a growing 21% of purchases, brands can leverage ICT to facilitate deeper connections with their audience. When brands offer personalised shopping experiences, customers will believe that a brand cares and listens. Fast-fashion brands like Shein and Temu have taken this up a notch with algorithms that never stop working. They track every user interaction with their website; heat maps, swipes, bounce rate, use frequency, browsing history, everything, to predict a shopper’s next purchase, tastes, and patterns. It’s a win-win for both shopper and shop, where brand reach is amplified and user satisfaction guaranteed. This means less returns and more recurring shoppers, all enabled by ICT.
Just like earlier mentioned, ICT makes it incredibly easy for tracking and analytical tools to be deployed for informed decision-making. Forecasting sales, analysing spend patterns, managing supply inventory and observing consumer behaviour are indispensable for the modern fashion brand. It’s delusional at best to think that strategic decisions requiring large capital resources can be made on gut feeling and whims. Nobody does that anymore. Fashion is not just an art; it's a science...well, the business of fashion is, and brands seeking to carve out a chunk of this billion-dollar behemoth need to embrace ICT for decision-making, especially when deploying tracking and analytics software on their websites, such as Google Analytics and Microsoft’s Clarity.

Can sustainability and supply chain Improvements live together?

When the Sustainability police strike, no one’s spared, except possibly the green-washers. But that’s a case for another day. Big brands are ceaselessly under scrutiny for their environmental impact. Dwindling profits, increased production costs, and a slowing global economy has pushed manufacturing overseas for many brands, and that means decreased transparency within supply chain channels, especially in less regulated East Asian countries. So now to avoid bad press, bigger fashion houses are utilising ICT as a key enabler for tracking product life cycles, and reporting these eco-friendly practices, loudly. The catch is, even in a reduced regulatory environment, eco-conscious labels can be more responsible for their planet. It’s work in progress, but it’s compelling enough. Brands seeking to sell to more environmentally conscious consumers, spend more to plant RFID trackers and sensors across their logistics chains to measure raw material sources, invest in drone tech to ensure safe practices and compliance from suppliers, and even setup R&D outposts in some of these production regions leveraging on ICT to remain eco-compliant.

Shein and Temu are examples of how ICT integration can scale a brand

ICT is changing fashion as we know it, evident in success stories like Shein and Temu, who together control over 50% of US fashion imports since 2021, in the process redefining the fast-fashion model. Shein’s use of big data analytics not only enhances customer experience but also informs its design and manufacturing processes, ensuring a dynamic response to market trends, sometimes involving major financial decisions within hours. Shein exemplifies the success of ICT integration. Using technology to monitor user engagement activity continuously, Shein is able to produce new designs from data off popular user items, directly to manufacturers. With such an endless depth of user generated data, Shein stays ahead of the curve by producing in batches of 150-200 pieces what users want instead of 10,000s in locked up inventory, as more traditional retailers do.
See, the marriage of fashion and technology is not just a passing trend but a strategic necessity. ICT in fashion is here to stay. Fashion brands that embrace ICT are not just staying relevant; they are shaping the future of an industry that is as dynamic as it is guarded. It's without a doubt that the next phase of enhanced efficiency in design, production and sourcing, inventory management and logistics, customer acquisition and retention in fashion, will be propelled by ICT.
Fun fact: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits.


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