NYC active wear brand Lululemon Labs sells clothes designed for professionals, constructed out of the brand’s high performance materials. Behind the sales floor, design teams think outside the box and innovate. For a brand that saw its inception in 2009, experimental designing is just what keeps this fashion retail brand going.
As Lululemon continues to expand its offerings, product testing is all about trying out beta versions. To keep up with such new and exciting brands and agile product development technologies, the Pathwwway product testing team is an invaluable support.
Here is Pathwwway’s take on how to build a powerful product and an unbeatable fashion retail brand:
Tip#1 Iterative Processes Sharpen Product Development
For product designers, the central role played by iterative processes in fashioning a show stopping retail apparel collection cannot be stressed enough. Iterations are rapid and constant. The Pathwwway team focuses on the design process that is customer centric, moving past seasonal schedules and product turnover deadlines. Timely customer feedback is the key here. Whether it’s building a solid understanding of what works and what appeals, or testing experimental products in the market, Pathwwway product testing is centred on understanding what the customer wants.
Tip#2 Product Development is Ongoing
Even when a product hits the stores, this does not mark the end of the design process. Product development is also about understanding how a retail apparel sells. Besides sales volume, customer feedback can serve as a valuable basis of creating updated versions of apparel. For example, if a jacket is designed for breathability and movement, with moisture wicking qualities and lining of a sports jacket, what does it still lack? Customers may feel the jacket needs fuller range of motion or knit fabric instead of a lining.
Tip#3 R&D Counts At Every Stage of Product Testing
Even top brands like Nike, and Adidas that make high performance sports gears have R&D divisions for testing the material. The best consultants in the business like the Pathwwway product testing team gather critical data and leverage analytics, drilling it down to granular preferences such as choosing between a 7 or 9-inch seam. This mass customisation is possible if there is a direct line of contact with customers and ready feedback from them.
Whether the fashion retail site is looking to specialise in athleisure or traditional wardrobe territory, effective research and development efforts in every stage of product testing can help to mitigate risks. For example, a pencil skirt may have a zipper in the back till the knees to allow freedom of movement while boarding a cab or commuting on the tube. A fitted blazer may be made from waterproof parka fabric and yet be sharp enough to wear to office. Innovations like these are only possible if a fashion retail site understands what a business’s customers want.
Tip#4 Know Your Customer
The fashion retail industry has been impacted by social media and the rise of the direct-to-consumer model, making fashion designers come into direct contact and interact with consumers. For forward thinking brands, a customer-centric, iterative approach to design offers a competitive advantage over others. This is why the Pathwwway product testing team focuses on putting in effort and time to solicit feedback and prototype designs, so that it all pays off in the end. Performance inspired brands are not the only ones looking to test and develop prototypes. Smaller retail brands are also agile enough thanks to Pathwwway Ltd support.
Tip#5 Use Technology to Your Advantage
The biggest upside to utilising product testing technology in fashion is gaining the ability to be consistent and personalise the customer’s shopping patterns. Fashion companies deploy the correct technologies thanks to Pathwwway and its strategic partners like Silverpop and Optimove. The focus is on using digital marketing and CRM solutions to enhance competitive advantage. Personalising products and shopping experiences and refining logistical processes is the key. Technologies like VR or AR are redefining consumer shopping. AI has also helped in brands and retailers, for example, with predictive forecasting, merchandising and capacity planning.
Consumers can, therefore, better enjoy product availability and faster and more accurate deliveries. A 2017 study by McKinsey found AI approaches to forecasting can reduce errors by 50 per cent and overall inventory reductions of 20-50 percent are feasible. AI can also create a smoother buying experience,with online platforms like Zalando and JD using AI to generate precise product search and filtering results, and even display virtual storefronts to individual fashion shoppers based on their preferences. Fashion retailers can now leverage data to test products, increase conversion and repeat purchases as well as loyalty.
Consider personal styling service Thread which uses AI and machine learning to help male shoppers purchase clothes. AR is also bursting in on the fashion retail scene. Burberry has an AR feature, whereby the tool is designed to interact with user camera feeds to digitally enhance surroundings with Burberry inspired drawings by a famous celeb artist.
Eyewear brand Warby Parker even uses AR and facial recognition technology to help customers see how they appear in different frames. In January 2018, Amazon has patented a smart mirror using AR to overlay clothes on users to stylise their looks. This could reduce returned items and even solicit valuable customer inputs for product development.
There’s blockchain which can tell a customer through microchips if they have bought a genuine brand, because of which retailers could garner trust and brand loyalty across the product lifecycle. Shoppers could even learn about how the fashion apparel was sourced and if any chemicals were used in making it.
Powered by WeChat, high tech fashion stores in Shanghai and Beijing require no checkout, cash or salespeople. Madrid’s Zara outlet also has self checkout stores as does Rebecca Minkoff’s NY store.
Technology has the capacity to influence the brand narrative and positioning plus the experience one is trying to craft and curate. For brands like Primark, the focus may be convenience, but for brands like Burberry, it’s all about the experience. This is where product testing can help fashion retailers in different ways depending on their needs.
Additionally, technologies such as facial recognition could even provide insights about consumer purchase decisions by identifying and developing personalised experiences for them. Such technologies could create a deeper understanding of client’s past purchases, preferences and make companies less reliant on retail staff.