Over the past couple of years I've seen plenty of retail-tech start-ups claiming to help retailers increase their revenue, retailers are always open to new ideas that improve website conversion a few percent or reduce cart abandonment. This is the glamorous end of the retail-tech space, where the technology built by entrepreneurs directly impacts consumers and the results are clear to see, but talk to any retailer and you'll quickly learn that most of their work goes on behind the scenes on order management, inventory and production, so why aren't more entrepreneurs seeking to disrupt these areas?
Many behind the scenes processes in fashion are still a mix of manual forms and excel, or dominated by large established incumbents like SAP. Many retailers may not even realise they have a pain point around inventory management or what benefits new technology could bring, entrepreneurs are likely to run into the age old barrier of 'if it ain't broke, don't change it'.
I though think there's a really exciting opportunity for here for start-ups and just as much if not more value to be captured from optimising retail operations, with knock on effects on profitability and cash conversion, as increasing top-line revenues. Emerging technologies around connected devices, artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine communications will all have a role to play and I'm sure we'll see more start-ups getting under the skin of fashion operations.
From e-commerce to social media, digital has revolutionised the consumer-facing front-end of fashion, reshaping sales and marketing. Yet, for years, the industry’s less glossy back-end systems — used to manage everything from production to excess inventory — have remained relatively untouched.