When your house is on fire, put out the blaze before you start building on the addition. Conventional wisdom, right? Maybe back in a year ago… but these days, according to industry veteran and former Neiman Marcus president and chief merchandising officer Jim Gold, “...we all have to walk and chew gum.” That means not only tending to the critical, short-term needs that have to be addressed to survive the moment.
Gold advises, “at the very same time, you have to begin to parse out which of the trends that we're seeing are going to stay with us, and which ones are going to fade with the pandemic-- from a lifestyle, from a consumer, from a workplace standpoint. You've got to make hard choices, and put a stake in the ground in terms of what you think the future will look like and begin to adjust your business model accordingly.” In other words, to stay on top of the current pace of change, brands will have to constantly balance between today’s expediency and tomorrow’s strategy-- learning from one to create the other.
Here’s a few of the areas Gold sees this process already playing out:
SHORT-TERM REACTION: Rely on promotional pricing and other diverse and creative measures to repurpose excess inventory.
LONG-TERM STRATEGY: Build a more agile production model to pivot with customers and grab opportunities as they emerge.
Gold says to get there, companies need to:
SHORT-TERM REACTION: Wing a reactive virtual go-to-market plan--throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks.
LONG-TERM STRATEGY: Construct a thoughtful digital-first market strategy, based on your own learnings and analytics as well as emerging industry best practices.
Internationally and across industries, B2B buyers and sellers have expressed a preference for remote purchasing over the pre-pandemic process--even for six-figure plus transactions. Video and supportive technologies provide necessary info in a more direct and focused way. The elimination of travel and in-person meetings saves considerable money and time. And brands and buyers can refocus those resources towards developing deeper and more strategic partnerships in this tight and competitive market.
Because of the dramatic efficiencies, Gold predicts the majority of wholesale transactions will happen digitally even after the health crisis ends--with in-person meetings reserved for only a handful of times a year, and only for the most important relationships and markets. “The pandemic has permanently changed how brands and retailers transact,” he explains. “Virtual wholesale is here to stay. It is essential that both brands and buyers learn how to fully leverage a digital marketplace, like JOOR.”
SHORT-TERM REACTION: Put up a virtual showroom.
LONG-TERM STRATEGY: Tell the digital story of your brand.
Consumer-facing shopping sites show every detail and angle of a product--with zoom capabilities, video virtual try-on and more. Yet Gold notes the majority of wholesale brands have served up only a fraction of this digital product experience for their retail partners--despite the availability of dynamic and shoppable video, 360-degree imagery, curated virtual showrooms, and immersive collaboration tools. “I get it’s the early stages of digital marketplaces,” Gold explains. “But now that we understand digital-first is our future, it’s time to ramp up the B2B side as well.” Here’s why this is so important:
Wholesale has fast-tracked temporary solutions to 2020’s big disruptions; and learnings from these are helping to shape the longer-term--and in many areas long overdue--transitions to digital-first. Among these is the understanding that digitization involves more than just moving offline processes, online. Just as the first ecommerce sites did not replicate the experience of walking down the aisles of a brick and mortar department store, these more mature solutions strive to capitalize on the unique benefits of digital--like automated processes, easy-access to real-time trends and data, and strong storytelling and collaboration capabilities. The good news is, making these needed changes in the long term will make wholesale trade simpler and easier, and help our community emerge even stronger.
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