Six key takeaways from day two of the FashTech Summit 2016

SUMMARY

The second day of the FashTech summit continued with the same lively momentum as the first day, which brought together industry heavyweights including Farfetch, Google and Finery London. On the second day, in-depth discussions on the intersection of fashion and technology ranged from how to secure investment, creating a memorising retail presence and the future of sustainable fashion. Below we’ve outlined six of the key highlights from day two of the FashTech Summit:

Experiential stores: the new era of retail

Philip Handford, founder and creative director design agency at Campaign Designs, took to the stage to highlight the importance of creating a destination store in order to attract and engage consumers. Make shopping fun was the key message from Handford, who predicted that in the future “high streets will become a series of immersive billboards and brand lounges…that will capture people’s imaginations”.

Armed with a strong pedigree of case-studies of forward-thinking clients including Burberry and Selfridges, Handford flagged up how both retailers had invested in creating experiential – and meaningful spaces: Burberry by deploying iPads in-store, ditching in-store marketing and creating an auditorium-like space at its flagship Regent Street store, and Selfridges with its interactive perfume experience, Fragrance Lab.

Handford recommended that retailers should ramp up their focus on “experience” and enable customers to “play with the product”. This was a subject further explored by John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewis, who said that the biggest opportunity in-store was “creating a multi-disciplined and multi-sensory experience”.

Build the team before seeking investment

The second day kicked off with a discussion on investments and funding, with the panel sharing tips on how to find the right investors.

Ifty Nasir, chief executive of Vestd, urged founders to build a team with a broad skillset, and give away some of their equity instead of putting them on the payroll. “By bringing in other people, whether it’s a lawyer to help structure the business for an investor, a strategy consultant or someone to help with manufacturing, then these people have bought into the idea. What they have given is something powerful…they believe in your idea and now have a vested interest in your success.”

Building such a strong structure will make small companies a more compelling proposition to investors, added Nasir.

Meet customers’ high delivery expectations

Gone are the days when customers were willing to wait a week for a package. Thanks to some retailers upping the ante when it comes to fulfilment, customers expect more, said Luke Davids, chief executive of Parcel For Me. “Once customers have received a text that a driver is an hour away with their package, they expect that experience continually.”

He said such expectations are driving carriers to innovate and push boundaries. On a similar note, Glossybox UK and Ireland managing director Charlotte Abercon said that the delivery process needed be slick and reliable. She spoke of how the beauty subscription service ditched their main carrier in favour of a more expensive delivery firm after a host of issues.

“We did a lot of preparation into the process of changing suppliers,” Abercon told the audience. “We couldn’t stay with our old carrier, their churn rate was killing us.”

And finally, the suggestion of delivery via drones and robots was thrown out the window by Davids, who instead flagged up potential opportunities through smaller networks of carriers such as food delivery startup Deliveroo.

Use data to transform your business

Data has the opportunity to unlock insight and revolutionise businesses, Microsoft technical evangelist Amy Nicholson emphasised during her presentation on the subject. “Now every company is a data company,” declared Nicholson, who added that the application of data has an impact on all areas of business from remote monitoring to demand forecasting, inventory management and other parts of the supply chain. New APIs have reduced the need for huge in-house teams and helped “democratise intelligence”, while conversation via artificial intelligence is set to become the new user interface, she predicted.

Interestingly, Eva Binda, director of retail development across Europe for RewardStyle, claimed that while brands tend to primarily seek out influencers with the largest following, it was the data in the back-end audience demographic which really enables them to make an educated choice of who to work with to ensure a successful campaign. 

The role of tech in driving a more sustainable future

Sustainability appears to be gaining momentum but is this just lip service? Sasha Ternent, founder of sustainable clothing brand Suco, wondered if the interest in sustainability would translate to the mass market. And Matthew Drinkwater, head of innovation at London College of Fashion’s Fashion Innovation Agency, questioned if brands and consumers were really ready to consume less.

But the panel envisaged a future where technology could help create a more sustainable fashion industry. Drinkwater saw the opportunity for tech to help alter behaviour. With 10% of the world population predicted to be wearing some form of smart clothing by 2025, could clothes become versatile products that could change shape/colour at the touch of a button meaning our demand for new product would fall, she asked.

Designer Amy Congdon said that that anywhere science and fashion intersects - like “self-healing materials” - could change our consumption of raw materials in fashion or the use of bacteria in the dyeing process. By using technology in a smarter way, the industry could “challenge existing models and views on sustainability”. She also felt that this generation of designers were well placed to build sustainability into their business models, so it’s part of the process and not bolted on. However, Drinkwater stated that change would have to be consumer led.

Be Fearless

In the final session of the two days, the innovation manager of John Lewis took to the stage to provide a glimpse into the high street bellwether’s journey into becoming a retail innovator.

Vary spoke of how his team sits in a “space away from business as usual to experiment in big idea”. The British retailer’s ambition? To improve the way people shop. Fortunately, management encourages the team to drum up new ideas – and similar to the mindset of a startup, encourages failure. “We’ve probably had thirty to forty concepts that people have kicked out in the past year and nine that have gone live. The more we do, the more chance of stuff going live.”

Vary called for companies to create a dedicated area for experimentation. “Don’t be scared,” he told the audience.