Whilst 3D has created countless product development opportunities across several industries, the fashion industry is yet to set pace. With a distinct vacuum of industry-specific best practices, strategic use cases, and high resource requirements, 3D integration drops in priority for many, eager to succeed, fashion brands. Unlike Bestseller.
As one of the biggest fashion players in Europe, the Danish parent company of brands like Jack & Jones and Vero Moda started scaling up the 3D transformation of their product development five years ago.
As a former Business Development Manager, Frederik Smed was involved with Bestseller’s 3D exploration from the very beginning. Between 2017 and 2021, Frederik played a critical role in implementing the organization's 3D roadmap that has evolved into running his own fashion 3D agency, Kapsules. With us, he looks back on his journey at Bestseller, peppered with important lessons, unexpected hurdles and celebrated successes.
3D Adoption – Entering unknown waters as the first to swim
Responsible for the coordination of some of Europe’s biggest brands, Bestseller wanted to streamline production processes further and plan out actionable directives with the assurance of their future competitiveness as a main driver for 3D investment.
“We knew that this is something that is eventually coming and not a question of if it is coming. That’s why we wanted to make use of it early on to get a head start from competition.”
At that time, Bestseller couldn’t rely on available best practices, leaving the fashion group with finding their own strategy for this large-scale project. Allocating budgets, finding dedicated people, choosing a matching software, approaching the right goals and KPIs, aligning with suppliers and getting everyone on board – there were tons of responsibilities that Bestseller needed to take care of in a situation like this.
Even a clear approach can have its flaws
To measure the ongoing progress, they set up reporting loops in the form of quarterly meetings and an accountable steering committee. They were responsible for assessing the amount of fabrics scanned so far, the number of suppliers onboarded to 3D, as well as the status of the item library.
While most of these digital mechanisms worked out as planned for Frederik and his team, they also stumbled upon some serious roadblocks. In particular, their initial lack of involvement of external partners could have also quickly derailed the project:
“I would say that the biggest mistake that we made was that we thought we could do it all alone. We didn’t think about including the suppliers to begin with, even though they are equally important to be involved on this road.”
When it comes to 3D, it’s an all of us or nothing success story
Their overall approach on the group-level worked out well, but Frederik felt that in retrospect he could have done a better job at getting everyone on board on a brand-specific scope, which he explains by reviewing an underlying issue he encountered at Jack & Jones:
“Back when we tested our roadmap at Jack & Jones, I didn’t realize that only having one person responsible for 3D design, doing all the sketches for the online catalog, wasn’t the best strategy. She had all the training, but felt overwhelmed and excluded, because she had no one by her side to guide her through. No one else was really able to understand what she was doing and the value it would add once she mastered 3D. I know now that 3D has to be a core part of the entire organization for it to succeed.”
Frederik and his team acknowledged that not only was a deeper internal involvement on a brand-level missing, but that they also needed to overcome the earlier realized lagging involvement of suppliers. Here is how they challenged this for Bestseller:
“Once we showed our suppliers the mutual benefits of 3D, how it can save both sides money, all while making better products; most of them came directly back to us and said: ‘we are on board’. After that, we focused on having our suppliers understand our processes, because then we could push our brands to start sharing 3D samples instead of physical ones. There was a bit of pushback first, but after we told them that ‘now we have one thousand digital fabrics just ready for you to use and 50 suppliers working inside that system’, it started to gain traction.”
Three strategic lessons to be learned from Bestseller
Lesson #1: Not everything needs to be internalized
“At Bestseller, we hired an external 3D expert, which I wouldn’t recommend for smaller brands, as it can get quite expensive. Better work with an external software partner instead and let them help you understand how to get started with 3D. It is easier to buy consultancy hours on a freelance basis to avoid pushing too many resources into it before you even start.”
Lesson #2: Scale it gradually to avoid getting overwhelmed
“It’s still difficult to map out the golden approach for 3D implementation. For us, it was definitely right to go ahead early, but we could have started with fewer software licenses and only begin to scale gradually after being more experienced. But we couldn’t have known that at the time. 3D can be overwhelming enough, so I suggest you invest your resources wisely.”
Lesson #3: Only a few do the designs, but the whole company is in it together
“Calling back to the situation at Jack & Jones, it’s important to know that implementing 3D can never be a one-person-show. Everyone needs to be informed and in it together. Create an environment where learning and progress are valued. This starts with defining the right support structures and intermediate steps. Don’t kill the project off by unrealistic time pressure.”
Despite the remaining questions surrounding the right integration of 3D, Bestseller accumulated valuable expertise and routine handling with this wide-reaching technology. While Bestseller had the money and resources, many smaller brands struggle to even consider 3D technology as part of their product development. That is until now!
WEBINAR: Implementing 3D - A beginner’s guide for fashion brands.
June 9th 2022, 11 AM (UTC +2) - REGISTER HERE!!