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Imagine buying a garment with a story behind it. With a quick tap or scan you could see where it was made, who made it, what it’s made of, how to look after it, and how to sell or recycle it. You could even access personalized offers or make use of convenient in-store purchasing options. 

Imagine then selling that garment on one of the many growing secondary marketplaces, fetching a respectable price because your potential buyers can prove the authenticity of that product for themselves. 

Imagine a scenario where supply chain stakeholders had the tools to take responsibility for their products long beyond the point-of-sale. It’s not difficult to imagine the benefits this would have on an industry’s sustainability credentials, or on a retailer’s ability to capitalize on the growing second-hand trend.

This can be a reality for the fashion industry, which collectively recognizes the need for innovation, but only if the sector overcomes cross-industry silos and arrives at a unified technology solution. 

At the forefront of this transformation, you’ll find Avery Dennison’s digitized triggers, cloud-based data systems, and applications that add value for all stakeholders in the supply chain. 

We’ve partnered with Avery Dennison to bring you a report using bespoke research into how technology can restart retail for the better. 

Here are some of the themes we covered.

Reimagining omni-channel retail

Fashion retailers grappling to understand a post-pandemic reality often come back to a fundamental question: what will be the balance of in-store vs. online shopping in the future?

Despite the swing toward online channels we’re all familiar with, in-store purchases in categories like clothing, shoes, and accessories (jewelry, handbags, etc.) have remained quite strong. 

Fashion buyers gravitate toward a mix of online and in-store; using one channel doesn’t lead to the exclusion of the other.

The key takeaway is that online has become more versatile and front-of-mind in its interplay with in-store shopping.

To remain relevant in this changed environment, physical retail locations need to adapt by building better links between online and offline touchpoints. 

Now is the time to reimagine omni-channel, where elements of the physical storefront connect to the online discovery, purchase, and advocacy experiences in new ways facilitated by technology.

Three-quarters of fashion shoppers want retailers to offer up more digitized solutions, with self check-out (32%), curbside pickup (26%), and mobile payment compatibility (22%) topping the list. Much of this is borne out of safety concerns or convenience, or a mixture of both. 

During the pandemic, many fashion retailers have encountered logistical challenges when reconciling fulfilment between online and in-store orders. Digital ID technologies and smart labeling of apparel and footwear are being used by innovative companies to gain greater visibility and inventory accuracy. 

Digital triggers: a turnkey solution

Whether it’s frictionless touchpoints improving the in-store experience or digital labels for consumer interaction post-purchase, technology solutions like QR codes, RFID, or NFC can add value for every stakeholder in the product’s lifecycle.

And this is not just hypothetical. The benefits brought by this technology are important drivers of in-store footfall according to fashion buyers themselves. 

Over half of global shoppers we surveyed said receiving a personalized offer on their phone that they can use in-store would increase their likelihood of visiting a physical shop. 

44% said the same thing about digital experiences in-store (such as the ability to scan a QR code for product information), and 40% said that connected/smart fitting rooms would motivate them to visit. 

Only 9% of shoppers were apathetic to these types of technology solutions, indicating the mass appeal that retailers can likely expect if they were to integrate more of these solutions into their infrastructure.

It’s actually those who plan to shop mainly online that are most receptive to technology solutions that might drive them in-store. 

The key message here is somewhat ironic; digitally-enabled store experiences might actually have the most impact among the very people who physical retailers are most at risk of losing due to the pandemic. 

Brands and retailers must meet their customers online even if they want to get them offline.

Sustainability, transparency, and circularity

Fashion buyers have high expectations of fashion brands in driving sustainability forward, and the technology behind ID solutions is equipped to meet these expectations head on. 

Demands for environmentally-conscious fashion are multi-layered, stretching from the use of sustainable materials and packaging to carbon-neutral shipping, permeating throughout the entire lifecycle of a brand’s product. 

Using intelligent labels and ID solutions, the entire footprint of a fashion item can be visible not just to companies, but to the consumers themselves. 

This level of transparency is not only necessary, but in demand. 

Fashion buyers express a strong interest in having transparency over the manufacturing and movement of their products, and it’s not just those with an established interest in sustainability who are asking for this. More than 40% in the U.S., more than 50% in Europe, and almost 70% in China say they want more information about the journey their clothes went on before they make a purchase. 

This broad recognition that digital triggers bring significant value toward greater sustainability underpins the importance for stakeholders to rally behind these solutions. It will better enable the industry as a whole to meet sustainability goals.

Currently, once a fashion item leaves the store, stakeholders in the supply chain lose visibility of that item, but still retain the responsibility in the consumer’s eyes. 

62% of people said brands and retailers themselves should be making end-of-life options accessible for their products, with 58% saying fashion brands should help consumers repair items, and 57% saying brands should help consumers resell items when they no longer want to keep them. 

Worse still, the product’s lifecycle falls far short of its potential, and the forward value and authenticity of that product is diminished. 

This means brands can’t adequately take advantage of the growing second-hand and resale market. 

41% of buyers we surveyed said they buy second-hand fashion, and one-third of people said they’ve become more inclined to do so in the last 5 years. 

Without tools to help facilitate the resale exchange smoothly, the industry leaves a huge amount of value on the table. 

End-to-end ID technologies represent a viable solution. 

They amplify value and visibility for products throughout each stage of the supply chain. Every stakeholder stands to benefit from this innovation, even those who do not have to invest directly into the technology, such as multi-brand retailers, recyclers, and consumers. 

Focusing on consumers, this innovation can deliver tangible value, through extending their usage of an item through proper care and repair, supporting them in responsibly disposing of that product, or reselling that item with assurances of authenticity.

Whether it’s product care support, recycling, repairing, or reselling, there’s ample consumer demand for brands to take an active role in enabling these latter lifecycle activities.  

Through QR codes giving consumers relevant information, or product authentication allowing for verified secondary market purchases, the future promises greater circularity once the fashion industry implements item-level digital ID technology.

This technology is already in our hands, and the potential payoff for implementing it is enormous. 

If all stakeholders across the fashion industry and supply chain get behind digital triggers and item-level ID solutions, the benefits will be felt in all corners of society, not least in corporate balance sheets. 

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