Yesterday, Fung Global & Retail Tech published a good review of the 3D-scanning companies, whose technology can be used to scan fashion retail customers on site. I was surprised by the binary representation in the description of 3D body scanning’s potential in retail, meaning brick-and-mortar retail.
At ShareCloth, we develop a complete infrastructure of 3D body scanning, virtual 3D fitting and Virtual Reality (VR) shopping for fashion. Having to deal with integration every day we have first hand knowledge of how much it costs to integrate 3D body scanning solutions into large brick-and-mortar fashion companies. One can expound at length on the retail revolution and the way the global brick-and-mortar retail brands will evolve, but there are some fine points that need to be explored.
Integration & Integrity
Excellent products and high-quality technologies really can and should transform the existing retail industry, which at this point:
- Avoids changing the customer journey at their stores like a plague. The “century-old” established process should not be changed in any way, the retailers believe.
- In the majority of cases, the industry forbids and denies introduction of body scanning, as it supposedly takes too much of the customer’s precious time — retail considers body scanning an obscure and “complicated” process (just remember the difficulties in making a transition to full-scale OMNI-channel communication).
- Today, 22 retail chains are on the verge of bankruptcy. Several fashion companies went bankrupt last year. I forecast, that dozens of others will succumb in the next five to seven years. Stagnation, crisis management and optimization are close to incompatible with pivots and radical innovations. Think about ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’.
“The promise of using body scanning technologies is relevant today for the e-commerce and data providers, but not for the brick-and-mortar retailers.”
- The complexity of the supply chain and global retail chain organization complicates the bottom-up data operations to such extent that the majority of manufacturers proceed practically by touch, relying on the weighted average size stats, sales and return figures. For this reason, the talk of wide-spread use of customers’ virtual scanning data is, if not wrong, then at least premature.
- The retail industry doesn’t know the sizes of its garments. Even relying on size charts based on the item’s 4-6 basic parameters, the chain has to deal with the garments that were shipped, and which are often distorted in the process of low-quality production.
But based on these factors, we could speculate that the promise of using body scanning technologies is relevant today for the e-commerce and data providers, but not for the brick-and-mortar retailers.
Traditional vs Digital Fashion
It’s no secret that any technology seeks to get the business of large companies. And so there’s no wonder that even body scanning technology, which is excessively complicated for the current business processes, is still being targeted to the global traditional fashion companies.
Nonetheless, the problems with these companies’ level of flexibility, and the demands raised by such technology speak to the contrary. The immediate future of fashion belongs to the nimble fashion startups that are capable of adopting technologies day-to-day, not year-to-year.
In fact, fast fashion is being replaced by the new era, characterized by changing consumption models, changes in the chain of foundational business processes and changes in the balance of quantity and quality (and not just the fabrics and fabrication).
Accordingly, it would be wrong to speak of the traditional retail or traditional mass production’s renewal through 3D body scanning, because we are currently seeing the birth of a new fashion business, where the traditional retail will have no seat at the table. After a thousand years of “traditional” approach, it might be time for it to retire.
Sergey Moliavko is co-founder of ShareCloth.com, a fashion tech startup provides solutions for fashion 3D-printing and 3D-retail. For the last 7 years since he founded DressUp.ua, a marketplace for Eastern Europe emerging fashion brands, and he also ran few fashion tech startups in e-commerce and digital marketing.