One Business Prescription for the Coronavirus Crisis: Work ‘Closer to Trend’

Footwear brands have a need for speed.

As retailers and manufacturers around the world face unprecedented market conditions spurred by the coronavirus crisis — from prolonged store closures and staff layoffs to cancellation of orders and idle inventory — the high-stakes game of adapting to change is more important than ever.

But while finding a working solution is crucial to surviving the economic downturn, experts warn against taking too long to make a move.

“Working closer to market always means that you are more likely to have a higher product success rate,” said Anastasia Charbin, chief marketing officer at product development platform Centric Software. “Working closer to trend means higher product revenues, whether that be in terms of colors, materials, styles or price points.”

For many companies, the shift to remote working and the cancellation of international travel has caused significant delays to usual product development and delivery timelines. Brands are facing disrupted supply chains, while retailers are dealing with closed stores and overwhelmed e-commerce channels. Optimized workflows may no longer run as smoothly — or function at all — under these such circumstances.

Rather than replicate these previous workflows for the new conditions, experts recommend that brands aim to implement streamlined technology solutions that can start functioning almost immediately.

With that in mind, Centric Software launched a series of quick-start, online collaboration packages that prioritize speed and efficiency for fast results.

“All of the packages are subsets of a full technology deployment,” said Charbin. “They are paired down to include the most mission-critical aspects of product development and to be deployed very fast. Functions and connectivity to other systems can be added on with time, if desired.”

Some of the biggest challenges brands face right now include sampling and assortment management. With many supply networks functioning below usual capacity and an uncertain retail environment, brands need to pick the right products to manufacture. But unfortunately for many, they don’t have the same access to their manufacturing partners to review the samples.

Screen showing Centric PLM software in action.
Centric Software’s product lifecycle management (PLM) system targets retail, fashion, footwear, outdoor and luxury brands.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Centric

For brands without an existing digital collaboration set-up, Charbin recommended they focus on leveraging technologies that can digitize both physical and 3D materials, create product sample reviews and allow for vendor quote management. Those firms with an established digital system, said Charbin, should upgrade to features that aid in remote co-design and sample evaluation; this is included in Centric Software’s Vendor Collaboration Package.

On the retail side, buying sessions are being converted from in-person, large-scale meetings to virtual ones. Technology implemented here, such as the Buying Session Package, should allow for clear product demonstration to buyers, sourcing feedback and purchasing analysis, and both regional and global assortment reviews.

“Buying sessions are critical for everyone, as a small increase in buying efficiency can have a very significant impact on revenues,” said Charbin. “One thing we fully expect to see during and post-crisis is an increased sensitivity to price and value for money. Consumers will need new shoes, but most will not have the same budgets as previously.”

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