Where is the crossroads of software and fashion? In real-time. At least that’s what the engineering leaders at last night’s meetup agreed on. The discussion, hosted by the New York Software Engineers (NYSE), Grind Spaces and Qwiker Liquor was titled “Software Meets Fashion: How Software Will Impact the Fashion Industry”.
The panel, moderated by Dalia Strum, NYSE’s Advisor on PR and Brand Management, focused on the use of software to influence and enhance the fashion industry. Engineering leaders Michael O’Brien, senior technology manager of Condé Nast, Michael Bryzek, founder and CTO of Gilt Groupe, and Bryn McCoy, co-founder and CTO of Citizen Made, provided a look at the direction that fashion is taking as gaps in the industry are beginning to be filled by software solutions.
With a room full of engineers and curious entrepreneurs, Michael Latulippe, founder of NYSE, introduced the panelists and the evening began with the three engineers providing looks into the exciting ways they are currently shaping the future of fashion tech.
O’Brien, who has been the tech manager for Style.com since 2008, led with Fashion Week. He believes that fashion week has transformed; what was once purely professional and for industry insiders has opened itself up to the public. The importance of fashion week entertaining is what drove Style.com to develop a cleaner system and a new process for instant fashion shows. With companies like Now Fashion providing near-real-time coverage, and The Cut providing large images of the looks, Style.com could no longer work like a traditional publication.
Luckily, with processors that can automatically sort and file images as they are submitted, in addition to technology like ImageMagick, Condé Nast Technology has been able to “pave the cow paths,” as O’Brien put it. Essentially, automation of the process has reduced manual labor, and an image that may have taken two days to publish five years ago, can now be seen online within five minutes of the photo being taken.
With the implementation of this streamlined process, O’Brien emphasized the necessity of close, day-to-day collaboration with producers, designers, photographers and stakeholders as the key to success within the real-time fashion culture.
Bryzeck continued with a notion of personalizing your approach, stating that shopping and e-commerce can be very emotional. To shed light on the concept, he explained that much of Gilt’s success is built on selling moments of joy – not happiness, because that’s too long term – but short moments of joy that can be renewed by the customer returning and finding a new product that elicits that same feeling of comfort.
The key to succeeding may then be led by a company’s willingness to provide the customer with the most perfect experience imaginable. Inspired by a more perfect customer experience, Bryzeck went on to explain that minimum viable products (MVPs) are on their way out, simply because they tend to encourage a sub-par standard of products. Instead, he encourages engineers and companies to explore MVAPs, or “minimum viable awesome products“, the awesome part taking root in the idea that it’s better to have one awesomely perfect product feature than a few mediocre features floating around for your customer to hate.
For companies, MVAPs are a key takeaway because too many options can be detrimental to operating in real-time. What does that mean? Consumer confidence is key to your success as fashion and technology grow together. The best way to provide that confidence is to let the consumer “create” what they want, which is what Bryn McCoy believes is going to allow smaller brands to make an impact on the industry.
What is important to understand is that real-time to a customer actually translates to just-in-time for a company: providing the right product at the right time. Mass-customization seems to do just that, and that’s why McCoy agrees with industry forecasters that mass-customization is the third industrial revolution. The ability to create can develop a sense of pride and importance, which in turn produces customers that trust your brand.
During the main panel discussion, the focus of the discussion was on topics including: why join a fashion tech company, strategies for building features, developing trust in a team and creating a strong foundation.
Takeaways from that discussion: from teams, to partnerships, to customers, it is essential to understand the value of investing in people. Build your company around a team that accepts responsibility for their individual contributions, and your customers will enjoy features they believe were perfected and customized for them. Potential partners should provide the same type of feeling. Bryzeck suggested that if a potential partner wouldn’t fit in with your office culture, you should think twice about partnering with them.
The final tips the panelists offered were simple. Analyze your competition and beat them at social, SEO and mobile if you want to be the best. Use tools like the Third Wave Fashion Tech Database to analyze which industry areas have successful APIs, then create them for the areas that are lacking. Finally, the personalization of every facet of your company will create the precise product for the perfect customer experience.
As products change and technology improves, one thing remains constant. You need your customer, and your customer must believe that they need you. If a feature does not exist that will optimize the need for your product, then develop it, and watch as you rise above your competition.
Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.
Jeff Wilber is a guest writer from TheFreelanceRider.