Staying in the race by accelerating time-to-market

From the design to commercialisation of a product, a whole year may elapse. This is far too long in a context where sales are becoming unpredictable and production has to adapt to fluctuating consumer demands in quasi real-time.


The need for novelty

39% of consumers say they are attracted to novelty when shopping online or in store. It is clear: customers require new products to return regularly to a point of sale or an e-commerce site and to remain loyal to a brand. This need for novelty can be easily fulfilled in stores through the layout and product highlights. On the other hand, this type of stratagem no longer works online.

Faced with this demand from consumers, many textile brands have left behind the traditional logic of two collections per year. Some opt for a dozen new arrivals throughout the year while others rely on a strategy of "continuous renewal”. This is the case of Zara with its concept of "fast fashion" and new products in store and online approximately every two weeks.

At the same time, sales seem to be less and less predictable (read omnicommerce booklet #3) with, in the case of textiles, products that are quickly outdated (most clothes are suitable for a season and therefore are sold for six months on average). In summary, retailers are facing a complex new equation: how to commercialise more products (read the omnicommerce booklet #1) and faster. And all this without visibility on future sales.

Their challenge is twofold since the acceleration of time-to-market should certainly not reduce the quality of referencing on the web. It is a headache for many retailers as this process can take up to four weeks, which delays commercialisation. Some companies take on a considerable number of staff, up to several hundred employees dedicated to correct referencing (product information sheets, photos, etc.) of these new articles on the company website.

Taking up the challenge

Diversifying supply

To meet the first part of the challenge, the key lies in the diversification of sources of supply. Many retailers are turning to a marketplace model. In this case, the diversity and the renewal of the collections are carried by the sellers directly. Others opt for partnerships instead, while remaining in a Purchase / Resale strategy. It allows them to continuously offer new items, like a marketplace, but to keep control of sales events and marketing. Some distributors may have a collection that is up to 80% non-stocked, by means of partners, including those outside of the European Union, with products put online within one day.

Finally, retailers must also diversify sourcing and bring production units closer to the point of sale in order to be more agile. This is the strategy adopted by Zara since 55% of its products are manufactured in Spain or in neighbouring countries2. Thanks to this tactic, the brand registers a lead-time of approximately three to four weeks between the design, by one of the 300 stylists at their headquarters, and the commercialization of the product. In short, the brand has adopted a genuine driving approach for its collections on a day-to-day basis.

In conclusion, the answer to the challenge of accelerating the time-to-market is divided into two aspects: the automation of product referencing and the diversification of supply channels. The IT tools to achieve this are already available:

  • An automatic import application for product sheets including a module for the verification of the quality of data and automatic data enrichment.
  • Purchasing and supply management software that goes beyond general overheads. This "heavy duty" tool must be able to manage several partners and various sources of supply.
  • An information system that is connected in order to know all the phases of sourcing in real-time and to anticipate all phases of logistics.

Thanks to these tools, retailers not only accelerate the time-to-market, but they are also able to better manage data quality and product sheets. It is equally, a good way to control brand image.

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