Retail sales channels are multiplying and brands are expanding globally, making the end-to-end production process more complicated than ever. While some new technologies are focused on creating entirely different systems, a number of companies are looking to help brands and retailers continue with what they’re doing, just more seamlessly than before.
“I would compare what we are doing in footwear upper manufacturing today to the evolution of newspaper printing, from the manual printing press to the digital printing systems of today,” said Travis Busbee, CEO, CTO and co-founder at Voxel8.
Voxel8 makes ActiveLab systems that digitally manufacture footwear uppers. Utilizing 3-D printing, the machines make it possible to print full-color images on new and existing surfaces and fabricate high-performance structures within a single print job. Currently, ActiveLab is used to help design, prototype and produce new innovations in athletic footwear so that brands can respond more quickly to trends in the marketplace.
“Demand forecasting will be much more accurate, resulting in significantly less need for discounting,” said Busbee. “It will also enable brands to create a wider range of lower-volume customized products, which is of high interest to the modern consumer. This will enable them to increase their market share and build customer loyalty.”
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Automating and simplifying these processes frees up employees to work on other challenges facing the business. At Bluescape, the virtual workspace company, the emphasis is on removing all the obstacles in the way of workplace collaboration. By creating a single virtual location that integrates with all popular software, from Adobe to Zoom conferencing, Bluescape eliminates the need for staff to manually share and access each other’s work. Instead, it all lives in real time in a shared digital space.
A common frustration facing large and growing businesses is the tendency to form siloes. However, by mapping out an entire production process in one shared space, from design to marketing, it becomes easier to keep everyone informed and engaged on the brand’s overall mission. And with all parties aligned, production becomes less fragmented, which is especially important for creative industries.
“Everyone is able to contribute their content, regardless of what tool they’re using,” said Demian Entrekin, CTO at Bluescape. “Then, when they do the design review, it’s smoother, it’s faster, they can review more content; they feel like they’re able to make better decisions. For some workplaces, there’s a cultural change from ‘my work is mine, it’s on my computer in my folder’ to ‘our work is ours.’”
For many brands, the biggest area of challenge — and opportunity — right now is the final stage of the product journey: selling to the customer. Adapting to the new demands of the consumer has retailers searching for creative ways to communicate and establish a connection with their shoppers. Increasingly this looks like personalizing the experience for every customer, both on- and offline, but these interactions can become unwieldy without the right support.
“Businesses can no longer afford to dictate the terms of communications; customers do,” said Roberto Marzo, head of strategy and business development at communications platform MessageBird. “Businesses have to meet their customers where they are, on the communications channels they already like and use.”
For global businesses, this means utilizing a range of platforms for different markets, which is where an external partner like MessageBird comes in. Shoppers are frequently visiting a brand or retailer through various online channels — both before and after visiting a physical store — and so capitalizing on each of these platforms is important to retain the consumer. The most crucial part, however, is curating that conversation for each individual.
“It’s one thing to tell a customer you’re having a shoe sale,” said Marzo. “It’s another thing entirely to tell them their favorite running shoes are on sale and that a pair in their size, in the color they like, is available at the store location closest to them.”
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