Every week, The Interline rounds up the most vital talking points from across the landscape of fashion technology news. This roundup is also delivered to Interline Insiders by email.
As we approach the 2020 holidays, the final few of these roundups will be shorter than usual, capturing a blend of our own content from the week and a reduced number of select news items from elsewhere. Detailed roundups will resume in 2021.
Beyond retailers as technology companies, meet retailers as everything companies.
One theme that has emerged several times this month has been that the retailers best-prepared to make, market, engage and sell digitally are the retailers that have adapted the quickest and the most successfully to the disruption 2020 has wrought worldwide.
From replacing commercial photoshoots with virtual photography, to charting a way around restrictions on gatherings to conduct digital-native runway shows, business that can carry on operating and also meet their customers online are the most viable businesses during COVID.
And since it seems highly likely that disruption is set to become a regular occurrence in the near future, it’s becoming progressively clearer that digitisation is synonymous with success. Of course The Interline is a little biased in this regard, but the trend this reveals is one where the best retailers and direct to consumer brands are also becoming, in effect, technology companies.
This is not a new idea at all, but as we’ve written in these roundups before, that change puts retailers on an equal footing with other technology companies – and that’s a playing field that’s more competitive (or anti-competitive, if you’ll indulge a pun) than ever. And big technology companies hardly have the best track record of working with existing industries when the opportunity exists to steamroll them instead.
Interestingly, though, this week revealed that the edge eCommerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba have over traditional retail could soon start to be eroded as legislation and regulation catches up the mostly-unfettered world of online retail. Comfortable in their role of hands-off brokers of connections between third party sellers and consumers, eTailers could soon find themselves having to shoulder the burden of being accountable for faulty products (even if they did not actually sell them directly, and had nothing to do with their manufacture) and having to verify the identities of third-party sellers.
These are, to be clear, fledging rulings, and their impact may not be felt for some time, but whether these or other regulations are the ones to make it over the line, it seems inevitable that online-only retailers will not be able to escape the rigours and due diligence that physical retailers are forced to perform forever. And as a result, it’s highly likely that we will see further expansion by these businesses into other service areas ancillary to retail – including payments and credit.
Amazon and Alibaba are already what we might call “everything companies” that just happen to have retail roots, but news from China this week revealed that even smaller retailers now share their ambition to own every slice of the retail pay, with large numbers of Chinese companies opting to create their own consumer-facing lines of credit and “buy now, pay later” models, rather than using established networks and payment providers.
Here in the Western hemisphere, retailers are tending to work with deferred payment companies to provide services like these, rather than taking on an additional risk for an uncertain benefit. But The Interline believes the desire to own more of the retail picture is going to prove a universal one, and as the friction between fashion and big tech continues, we would not be surprised to see retailers in the US and Europe trying to compete in new areas, rather than letting the giants dominate.
And of course, they’re going to need to invest in smarter, less rigid retail technologies to make that ambition a reality. Which brings us on to…
The best from The Interline this week.
This week, our editorial focus on eCommerce included the following:
- An exclusive op-ed from a founder of Jumper AI, exploring the rationale behind conversational commerce, and why it’s likely to become a requirement for multi-channel retailers in the very near future.
- A brand-new collaboration between The Interline and Nextail, which makes the case for a new model of retail driven by intelligent insights rather than exclusively by past performance.
Next week will be the final week of content from The Interline in 2020, but an exciting calendar of the industry’s hottest topics is already lined up for next year.