I'm not sure if my thoughts on what lies ahead are trends or necessities.
Great merchandising and demand planning can make or break brands in the long run. When times are good it is easy to look like you know what you're doing.
The explosion in demand and inventory planning tools is timely. Brands can't wait until they can afford an ERP like NetSuite to start doing proper demand planning. Brands also can't afford to think that buying NetSuite means you've got the demand planning tools you need. It is a specialist skill set and you need specialists in your business. I met a Founder a few months ago who was acquired by JD Sports - they were blown away when they saw the size of the merchandising team there.
Brands need newness to hold attention which means shorter, more frequent drops.
I spoke to a £200M+ retailer last year who had moved to monthly drops and had to stop doing them because they couldn't manage the fit process on samples and the number of meetings it creates. The brands that drop weekly compromise quality massively and create throwaway products. But brands who care about quality need to compete. The brands that want quality and speed invest in their processes and tools to do the job. They aren't getting lucky when the product launches on time.
Other brands are finding newness by enabling other brands to sell through their websites. So many companies are on Shopify, Magento, Woo Commerce now and have the standard data sets, inventory feeds and 3PLs. It is a matter of time before this cross-selling between websites explodes as brands with huge visitors capitalise on the new digital supply chains that have been created by DTC.
Vertically integrated on-demand printing and fulfilment offers a solution to the newness challenge from another angle. Inherently a more responsible way to produce printed merchandise and test novel products. Think of a brand putting out a Lettuce t-shirt and emailing their contact base before 17:00 today so their customers could wear it to the pub this Saturday.
My mind is blown that returns and exchanges platforms aren't the de facto standard. Emailing customer support to request a return or printing and filling in a form makes no sense. You don't capture structured data on the return or quality issues for sharing back to design/suppliers.
The truth is, a lot of what I am predicting should've happened for most brands already and I've had a first-hand look at what gets in the way over the past 7 months. You have one senior leadership team and likely one projects team, meeting, and delivery framework that moves key projects through your business and demands resources along the way.
The thing is this. High-growth companies run all of their projects as a 'Growth Delivery Machine' so every project gets compared to one that could grow revenues significantly, even if the likelihood is low, nabs the resources.
Meanwhile, cost-saving projects that would deliver with almost 100% certainty get overlooked. Too complex. Not going to move the needle. Suggest a relatively unambitious initiative - they don't think big enough, we need HEROES!
So what next? I'm advocating for splitting out the two delivery machines and running a genuine Growth Experiments model with sprints, initiatives etc. and include your tech team in that as well as marketing, brand etc. Then split out your Operational project team into a Project Delivery Machine and go after the projects that roll up into your strategic themes but perhaps don't get the same juices flowing in your CEO and Head of Marketing. If needs be, separate out your tech resource for this team. If you can't do that....get some help!