Last week, the K3 team had the pleasure of attending IAF’s 38th World Fashion Convention in Philadelphia.
Rik Veltman, Fashion Industry Specialist, joined a panel discussion to talk about how brands can best extract value from the copious amounts of data flowing through the apparel, textile, and sewn product industries.
His insights were so well received that we couldn’t help but write up a summary to bring them to a wider audience.
People don’t just buy products anymore – they buy data
Today’s reality is that people don’t just buy products anymore – they purchase products and all their associated data.
From wash and care instructions to critical factors like whether child labour was used to construct them, product-specific data is a commodity valued by all consumers.
However, with so much data scattered throughout multiple systems and channels, brands lack an efficient method for collating information, generating insights, and displaying the results to consumers.
The actual act of collecting data is nothing new, and it is something that has been present since the earliest days of written civilisation.
Even back then, capturing inventory and transaction information was a fundamental part of business.
The difference today, however, is that so much business is conducted online.
In an age of hyper-digitalisation, brands have to handle an increasingly exorbitant amount of data, and this issue will only continue to exacerbate over the coming years.
As an IT company, K3’s IP handles the millions of records brands create annually in a single company environment.
Within this ‘single company’, our solutions gather many product details ranging from colourways, care instructions, materials, material suppliers, certificates and test results through to where the goods were bought and to whom they were sold.
In the last two years, we’ve added a solution to our portfolio that goes beyond that single company environment to connect data originating from different sources, coming together in the product supply chain.
For instances where references are made to third-party involvements, our solutions roam the internet to find proof of that involvement and subsequently validate the certificate or other claims.
For us, the purpose of connecting millions of records across many companies is to offer insights to businesses and consumers alike, not just about where goods originate but also the CSR and ESG details tied to these products.
Whatever can be collected, offered, and shared is precisely what we provide to brands.
K3 is transitioning from being an IT company offering administrative solutions to fashion customers to an IT company offering data solutions to the fashion industry.
We seek to enable our customers by providing them access to comprehensive data that empowers them to make smarter decisions on their inventory and products.
Brands also need to collect data to suit legislative mandates
It’s worth remembering that it isn’t just consumers seeking more information about products; there are also a plethora of legislative mandates shifting the responsibility of a product’s supply chain to brands.
If brands, fabric mills, knitters, weavers, and hangtag suppliers do not allow their data to be shared, they will soon find themselves in trouble.
But to transmit that data to begin with, their data sources need to be connected and this is where K3 plays a vital role.
Since the onus is now firmly on brands, they must start taking steps to understand their product supply chains and know where they are most vulnerable.
While this data is commonly available, it is still shielded and protected or sitting in an on-premises environment unavailable to grab.
Companies that still rely on antiquated software find this issue even worse, and have to manually source and share the data.
Manual processes offer some modicum of control as those businesses will only share what they make available and only to customers who specifically request that data.
But it also hinders them since they will slowly notice more and more customers demanding that they share data.
Furthermore, some brands are reluctant to share any data since disclosing it can often be akin to sharing their ‘secret sauce’.
Fashion brands, like beverages and food companies, do not like sharing their unique ingredients, but it also presents an opportunity.
When sharing these more secretive aspects, a stronger bond is formed with the supplier of that material, helping to foster an open and honest relationship.
In instances where the balance of a relationship between a customer and buyer is more weighted towards the customer (i.e., where the customer decides and owns the most power in the relationship), disclosing the ingredients to a larger audience will benefit the supplier in the relationship.
So, sharing data will directly influence how the customer and supplier relate.
To continue with this example, consumers will have more insights into a product, which could lead to a better understanding of why an item has a specific price.
At the same time, consumers may also see that some products fail on particular points (i.e., carbon footprint, the chemicals used in the production process, or certifications).
Worse yet, brands will soon find that while they can communicate and share data with the suppliers closest to them, who will more than likely sit in the fashion industry, there will be suppliers further up the chain that operate in chemicals, paper, mining, wood, and farming.
Crucially, this means that they will interact with suppliers across multiple industries, many of which are still not sufficiently prepared to share the data consumers and legislation demand.
Rik spent time detailing these challenges for a fundamental reason: to stress that disclosing transparent data will be an evolution – not a revolution.
At K3, we cannot hammer this home hard enough. Change is a slow and often painful process, and this is no different. It will encompass everyone. Our job as an IT company is to offer simple solutions to brands that support customers when their data requests come.
We’re here and ready to help brands follow up on new legislation in countries where they trade in, if not for sales and marketing purposes, to help attract and inform consumers.
If you’d like to learn more about how K3 can help you in handle data, feel free to drop us a line today.