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A hybrid solution: Integration of virtual and physical showrooms

By Aileen Yu


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Historically, fashion has invested mostly in the consumer facing digital experience, but because of the pandemic, everything that was ‘under the hood’ in the industry came to a standstill. From how garments are created to wholesale selling, there was still very little digitization in those areas and the reliance on manual processes didn’t allow for flexibility and halted the supply chain immensely during the Covid crisis. Adding to that travel restrictions and lockdowns, brands all over the world had to shift to wholesale selling remotely and digitize quickly. It made the fashion industry realize that their entire sales force was able to sell virtually, and even with very little samples. Seeing how effective and cost-saving remote selling can be led to an ‘industry awakening’. Many brands are now realizing that they need to leverage technology in smarter ways to make their value chain more flexible and adaptable for fashion’s digital age.

At the forefront of innovative software for virtual showrooms, Hatch sees the future of wholesale selling moving towards a hybrid solution. The SaaS start-up combines technology with fashion expertise and commercial thinking to create digital solutions that help brands reinvent their value chain and Hatch’s Digital Showroom is on a journey to transform wholesale sales. Last week, FashionUnited had an in-depth call with Anne-Christine Polet, the SVP of Hatch & Stitch, to find out what their learnings have been through Covid. Mostly, on how the PVH backed start-up envisions a future where a seamless movement between in-showroom and virtual remote selling will help brands be more aligned, unlock business value, and even contribute to sustainability goals. Polet advises:

Don’t let go of newfound digital skills, but find how to leverage them for the long term.

Anne-Christine Polet, SVP of Digital Ventures, Hatch & Stitch

A hybrid solution of virtual and physical showrooms

As sales teams realize the possibilities of virtual selling, brands are now considering hybrid solutions by merging the virtual and physical showrooms. According to a poll Hatch recently conducted on LinkedIn, brands are combining remote selling as well as inviting customers into showrooms. Tailoring a physical in-showroom experience is just as important as building the ‘house of the brand’ virtually for customers visiting remotely. Customized to each brand’s profile, Hatch’s software allows wholesale sellers to engage with their buyers and truly tell their brand story in the virtual showroom. At the same time, digitizing the in-showroom space with hardware solutions such as the Digital Workstation, helps brands to sell more in less space, and facilitates a seamless movement between in-showroom and remote selling.

Segmentation while building long lasting relationships

In the current climate with limitations on travel, brands have had to become more strategic with how they conduct wholesale selling, Hatch sees segmentation happening as businesses start to look at how to spend their time and budget most effectively. For example, brands may focus on their key accounts and invite them into the showrooms while serving smaller and medium accounts virtually, leveraging remote selling for smaller brands. No matter how brands are engaging with their customers, the Hatch Digital Showroom (DS) always provides the buyer with a guided experience. This helps the sales teams nurture buyer relationships and personalize proposals even when selling remotely.

Brand alignment, unlocking business value

As brands grow bigger and seek more efficiency, collection and assortment alignment across different countries becomes more important. The better a salesperson can start preparing by leveraging data and collecting the optimal assortments for their customers, the more value can be unlocked for brands and the greater the contribution to sales uplift. By simplifying cross-team collaboration, the Hatch DS creates brand alignment between internal teams across the board. Marketing and Merchandising upload their seasonal stories directly into the Hatch DS, allowing Sales to start working with the new collection faster than ever before. All the sales appointments are centralized under one platform which allows access anytime, anywhere, whether in the showroom or connecting remotely.

Sample reduction strategy: sustainable, efficient, time saving

Just a few years ago, brands would often say, “No sample, no sale”. Sales reps relied on samples and fabric swatch books to conduct appointments. Today, in a pandemic rattled industry where remote selling rules and sustainability is at the top of every company’s list, Hatch is spreading the “No data, no sale’’ mentality to brands and encouraging brands to actively reduce their sample collections, which in turns unlock the potential to start optimizing showroom space.

How does that work? Hatch recommends brands to ignite their sample reduction journey by decreasing carry over styles, or not sampling color multipliers. Buyers are often familiar with these styles and with all styles being available digitally in the virtual showroom, it eases the transition to digital selling.

Reducing dependency on samples also has another benefit: not needing to wait for samples to arrive to the showrooms to start the selling season. Already selling digitally for years, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein shortened the window they have opened to conduct their wholesale selling by 50 percent and are now able to plan the bigger buying appointments right at the beginning of the season, greatly optimizing business value.

With the time and space saved, brands can now put more focus on newness and innovation in the showroom. Replacing a part of the sample line with digital samples means less product in the showroom and more opportunity to showcase focused, brand-centric stories. Use that newly available space to its full advantage by emphasizing the merchandising of the season’s key stories, sample a new silhouette or a new wash on a pair of denim. With the right mix of software and digital transformation, brands can provide more engaging and cohesive experience to retailers while reducing costs of servicing them.

To find out more about HATCH, go to hatchstudio.co

Digital Showroom
hatch & stitch