During today’s episode of Vogue Global Conversations, Vogue China’s Angelica Cheung virtually hosted Virgil Abloh of Off-White and Louis Vuitton Man, Stephanie Phair of Farfetch and the British Fashion Council and Remo Ruffini of Moncler to talk about the future of the e-commerce. Although it may seem that the online retail business is immune to the upheavals caused by the lockdown, the three guests see the period as an opportunity to reset and rethink their commercial strategies while remaining firm in the fact that success in retail always derives from putting at the center the consumer.
“This is a time to stop, reflect and review fashion”, Virgil Abloh.
“It is very difficult to predict the future but I believe that such crises act as a catalyst accelerating certain already existing trends,” continues Phair. “I hope some will be consolidated. I think, for example, of the sustainability and the consumer tendency to choose the quality and to opt for make more informed purchases. I believe that people will favor companies with a valid purpose and mission “.
Here are some of the main points of the talk.
Communication with the consumer is fundamental
Ruffini, Abloh and Phair begin by confirming that dialogue with the consumer is the most essential aspect of digital retail. “We have to study a new way of being close to the customer. Not only that: the tone of communication must also be changed, ”says Ruffini.
“At the moment, we are in a position to listen to the consumer and then respond,” says Abloh who wanted to emphasize how many fashion houses, including Louis Vuitton, quickly mobilized in this emergency, converting their ateliers to produce personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer gel and whatever else was useful in this epidemic. “It is important that today stylists, institutions and brands retune with the voice of the people“, go on. “This means that the traditional image of fashion we know can become more empathetic. I believe it can reflect the real public and humanity in a more supportive way “.
Beyond social media, Abloh explains that another way of establishing dialogue with the consumer is to introduce younger voices to the company. In Louis Vuitton, his team is made up of young talents, some of whom had never worked in fashion. “A term as popular as the diversity it doesn’t have to be a marketing strategy but the real insertion and listening to new voices, which we allow to grow and be realized “.
Phair, who monitors the e-tailing effect at Farfetch, explains that consumers have the power to bring about change but that they can be supported by this by larger corporations. “I think the change will be driven by consumers. It is always like this. But the sector has the opportunity and – to be honest also the responsibility – to do the right thing and correct some of the systemic problems that exist within it “.
Ruffini confirms. “For me, staying tuned to the consumer is one of the most important things.”
New technologies offer great opportunities
Cheung explains that in China, brands and influencers launch and find new ways to shop, for example through FaceTime on WeChat or by organizing livestreams where customers can buy a product directly from celebs or public figures. Recently, a livestream was followed by an audience of 38 million viewers and generated sales of over $ 100 million (including that of a rocket worth $ 6 million).
“Model direct-to-consumer it is not based on the transaction alone. As stated by Virgil and Remo, it is a question of establishing a dialogue with the consumer, “comments Phair. “I believe that brands can adopt new technologies but they must do it in an absolutely personal way. The idea is to go where the customer takes you. “
“This is where technology comes in,” he continues. “We have seen huge advances in size and fit technologies, virtual fashion and augmented reality retail. Many of these are able to offer an almost tactile experience of online shopping“. But Phair warns us against considering e-commerce and physical retail as two separate experiences and strategies. “It is no longer a matter of choosing one or the other. Online and offline will work increasingly synergistically. ” The future scenario that illustrates us is one in which the consumer enters the store attracted by the experience of the brand and to try on a garment, to then complete the online purchase at a later time, thus creating an increasingly approach omnichannel. Then he adds: “I think brands will move away from the difficult to control” wholesale “model and instead prefer sales in concession which allow the control of the product offline and online. But, as with everything, it will be a question of balance. “
“We have to show resilience,” adds Abloh. “This is the time to prove that ours is a valuable sector. I am not going to clear, stop or take a break. For my part, everything will continue as scheduled. I’m looking for new ways to work and do it more efficiently. I started a new collection, in addition to the one I was working on for June, precisely because I have more time. “
Echoing Abloh, Phair declares, “If there is a sector that can adapt, it is precisely fashion. We are storyteller after all. “
Collaboration is essential
The era of monolithic mega brands is over. “Now it’s time for the coalition,” says Abloh. “If our sector wants to continue to thrive, showing that it is not frivolous but has a human face, we should have a sort of”formalized coalition “. A space in which stylists communicate with other stylists, companies communicate with other designers and resources are shared “.
The guests then talked about the potential for sharing resources and for intra-corporate collaboration and Phair pointed out that some stylists who are members of the British Fashion Council already operate in this way. “Many young designers have already opted for an approach open-source, sharing and thinking about new ways of working together. I think the new generation is leading the way in collaboration. Bloggers should also do it. It will change the face of fashion. “
The biggest companies to support the new generation
“The biggest brands have the responsibility of create an ecosystem that helps younger or emerging designers to maintain wealth within the industry, “says Phair.
“I think new talents bring a lot of energy to the market, as well as to established companies,” adds Ruffini. “It is important for us to keep up with the times. So every season we look for young designers, new ideas and energy “.
Abloh, owner of a small brand until recently, offers advice for those who are starting now and in small sizes: “If you have a new brand and you are entering the market in this period, do what the established fashion houses cannot do: think freely. Drop the idea of what you thought was success, “he says. “These are the things that attract the interest of colleagues and maybe even of the big you want to work for in the future. In short: do what has not already been done. “
To review the talk:
Register here for “The Future of Brick-and-Mortar” with Emanuele Farneti of Vogue Italia is The Vogue Man, Vittorio Radice of La Rinascente, Pete Nordstrom of Nordstrom and Pierre-Yves Roussel of Tory Burch on April 17th at 3pm.
Due to the numerous requests, the talk will be available in streaming on YouTube here.
To see the previous talks:
“The future of creativity” with Marc Jacobs, Kenneth Ize and Edward Enninful editor of British Vogue, click here,
“The Future of Sustainability” with Stella McCartney, Gabriela Hearst and Eugenia de la Torriente editor of Vogue Spain, click here.
“The Future of the Catwalks” with Olivier Rousteing, Natacha Ramsay-Levi, Cédric Charbit and Nicole Phelps of Vogue Runway click here