The Shocking Secret of Fashion Consumers

By Lauriane
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There’s a secret held by every consumer that is nearly unknown to brands. It’s the shocking truth that almost every fashion house and sport products company ignores. Because of the blindfold that they have chosen to wear, they have lost billions of dollars in potential revenue. Each day, individuals look less and less at what a brand is trying to sell them and, instead, focus on their own curated tastes. Every person has their favorite pair of jeans, their most comfortable pair of shoes, and their go-to t-shirt.
As individuals, we have collectively decided what will be our “look” and what we prefer to wear on a daily basis. This has resulted one simple truth: Consumers do not shop from a single brand.

Consider this; one male consumer might wear the following outfit:
• Chuck Taylor low-tops from Converse
• 501 jeans from Levi’s
• Tee shirt from H&M

Another male consumer may wear a similar outfit to achieve an entirely different look:
• Chuck Taylor low-tops from Converse
• 511 slim fit jeans from Levi’s
• Slim fit dress shirt from Calvin Klein
• Ludlow blazer from J. Crew

But the sad fact is that these brands may never share consumer data, nor may they ever try to cooperate in any way in order to increase their respective sales figures. The consumer has moved to a true omnichannel model where they have created their own personal consumer “brand”, with their unique set of preferences and data, and are expecting traditional corporate brands to meet their needs. Unfortunately, the modern fashion industry simply isn’t set up to meet these expectations.

Product Development

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If these brands are going to change, and start embracing this new consumer model, they need to start at the beginning; with the product development process. Today, fashion companies focus on creating a single product that can reach as many different consumers as possible. In the future, however, customers will be expecting product that they can tailor to their own specific tastes. Therefore, companies who are eager to differentiate themselves are now shifting to tools and processes that allow for easy product customization. This is especially true in the footwear industry where each runner has a specific stride, foot strike, and comfort preference.
Tools are now starting to arrive that will allow footwear to be designed so that it can be easily customized at the point of sale. The next step would be to allow customization, of color and material, that might allow a pair of shoes to better coordinate with the pants from another brand being worn by the consumer. Here again, this may require brands to cooperate in their design approach to the consumer.

Changing Face of Retail

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Traditionally, companies have drawn a sharp division between their online stores and their brick and mortar counterparts; each selling product using completely different methods. At brick and mortar retail, the consumer is free to browse a small, fixed collection of products and soak in the brand identity. Online however, the consumer has to give up much of the brand identity, but are given access to a much larger, searchable set of inventory.
Looking forward however, some companies are breaking out of this model and mixing the best of the online experience with the best of brick and mortar. These companies are starting to bring the online experience into stores so that, while consumers may be able to browse key items and colors in store, they have access to the entire online inventory at the same time. They can also use these tools to build outfits, predict fit, and customize products; perhaps even customizing the product directly in the store. Finally, consumer preferences can be captured by these digital devices and fed directly back to the product teams via analytics built into modern PLM systems. But what’s still missing is the ability for the consumer to build a virtual closet of all their favorite products, regardless of brand, and have it travel with them from store to store; whether that store be physical or online.

Consumer Customization

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© Julien Fournié

Product customization is nothing new; especially in footwear. Many of the major footwear brands have offered customization for years: Adidas, Nike , and New Balance all offer online product customization. But this is typically just color and material customization and doesn’t allow for changes to fit or cushioning. Some brands, such as New Balance, are just starting to use modern 3D tools to provide customized outsoles to the elite athletes and, eventually, consumers. Once again, however, this begs the question of customization across brands. Will I be able to print the authentic Vans checkerboard pattern on my Gap t-shirt? Will I be able to customize the color of my 3D printed New Balance outsole to coordinate with my faded Levi’s 501s? Probably not. But the marketplace is changing and what was unthinkable in the past, may just become commonplace in the future.

Want to know more about how to engage consumers in the ultimate personalized product and purchase experience?

Closing the Digital Divide

By Alyssa
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According to a recent study by the World Bank, only 19.2% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa and 16.6% of residents of South Asia have internet access, compared with nearly 80% of those in Europe. This dramatic gap is often referred to as the “Digital Divide,” putting developing countries at a distinct disadvantage for economic growth, social mobility and citizen engagement.

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Now, however, thanks to advances in technology and the efforts of entrepreneurial risk takers, a number of firms are racing to launch advanced satellite systems that promise to bring broadband internet access – even multichannel video streaming – to parts of the world that still lack such basics as around-the-clock electricity and landline telephones.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: If you provide Wi-Fi access to a lemonade vendor in Africa, can it transform his business? #3DSCompass http://bit.ly/CloDigDiv

A article in the most recent issue of Compass magazine explores several different projects that aim to bridge the digital divide.  These include including OneWeb which plans to ring the Earth with a chain of 648 small satellites that can transmit to simple terminals anywhere on the planet and CMMB Vision, which aims to provide audio, video and internet services at little or no cost in China, India and the Southeast Asia countries.  It also covers Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org initiative and Google’s Project Loon.  What will such projects mean for citizens, business and government if Internet access becomes more widespread? Come discover more about these innovative projects that aim to provide digital access to every corner of the world.

How drones are helping Japan overcome a labor shortage

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

The “i-Constructioninitiative was unveiled last December by Keiichi Ishii, Japan’s minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism. Its goal is a 50% increase in construction workers’ productivity. Japan’s labor force is projected to decline to 56.8 million in 2030 due to a shrinking population, down 14% from 2010, and automation is seen as a strong solution.

The program mostly involves developing standards for integrating information and communications technology (ICT) with the construction industry. The new technology is being developed by the private sector.

Komatsu Ltd., a large Japanese construction company, is leading the charge. With experienced bulldozer pilots in scarce supply, Komatsu three years ago started looking for ways to make the job easier.

“Bulldozers move earth to get the foundation ready,” explains Christian Sanz, founder and chief executive of Skycatch Inc., a San Francisco company that uses its own specialized drones to create extremely accurate land surveys, which is working with Komatsu. “To do that, you need a really skilled pilot to cut the earth.”

With real-time, digitized 3D data about the volume and shape of the dirt, the bulldozers can be highly automated.

What is removed from the equation is how experienced the pilot has to be,” Mr. Sanz says.

Completely robotic trucks and equipment already are at work in Australian mines, but for safety reasons, the Komatsu bulldozers continue to have a person in the cabin. Automation allows less-experienced pilots to execute complex maneuvers and experienced pilots to do them even faster, vastly improving productivity.

Skycatch drones work in two ways. First, drones gather data to generate surveys of the site. A traditional survey done by humans takes about two weeks to complete on a typical construction site. Skycatch can do the same work in four to six hours, and the resulting data can be communicated to automate bulldozers.

In addition, objects, such as trees or construction equipment, on the job site have to be removed before human surveys—a labor-intensive process that can take another week. Software can remove such objects for digitized surveys.

The survey process usually is done twice, once before work starts and then a refresh after the machines have started cutting the earth. That means the drones can speed up work by over a month.

Skycatch’s drones and technology can deliver surveys that are accurate to between one and three centimeters. “You need accuracy within centimeters in order to automate,” Mr. Sanz says. “Our margin of error is almost zero. Human surveys are extremely accurate and reliable, but they take two weeks on average.”

Surveyors can map a few hundred points per day, whereas Skycatch drones can survey a few million points in about 15 minutes.

While Skycatch makes its own surveying drones, it also can use its software to enable other drones that have the ability to collect imagery with GPS and create survey images, but at accuracies of 10 centimeters to 15 centimeters.

Komatsu compares the digital surveys with engineers’ completion drawings, which also have been converted to 3D, in order to calculate the precise area and volume of earth to be moved. Then, the data is used to run simulations of each stage of work.

Komatsu also uses fleets of Skycatch drones to gather information during digging, in order to guide the bulldozers, in what Komatsu calls Smart Construction. Conventional bulldozer pilots follow small wooden stakes planted in the ground, but Smart Construction bulldozers don’t need stakes.

The future of drones in construction isn’t in building, but in gathering data to give machines eyes, Mr. Sanz says. “Drones will never pick up something as heavy as a boulder and move it somewhere,” he says. “The visibility and accuracy of automated machines moving things is what drones will be able to create.”

The construction industry tends to be conservative, he says. “People are married to the old way of doing things. But having i-Construction become the standard in Japan is going to force every company to move in that direction.”

Japan’s i-Construction initiative is a good model for other countries, he says, by differentiating regulation of drones for commercial use—such as construction—from consumer use. The regulations will set requirements for accuracy, cameras on drones, equipment validation and quality of data to ensure quality and safety.

As for the future of drones in construction, the sky’s the limit. “Komatsu has a vision for 10 to 20 years that will blow people’s minds,” Mr. Sanz says.

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock



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