Envision this: You’re on a business trip to China. It’s summertime, so you decide to stroll around Hong Kong to take in the sights. You see a girl, dressed like she just came from a business meeting, dragging a bag seven inches taller than she is. You naturally stop to take a second look and ask her what’s in the bag.
“Sample books,” she says, and goes on to explain that she works for a big apparel company in the U.S. She’s here with her boss to view garments for the upcoming spring line they’re putting together. She’s coming off a day of viewing thousands of samples and needs to bring back records of what they saw so they can discuss and make final decisions for their product line when they get back to the States.
“Shouldn’t there be an app for that?” you joke with her. She laughs and says, “You would change my life!” explaining that no one in the industry has developed one yet.
(Luckily for her, she’s wrong. More on that in a minute)
If you work in retail, it’s probably not surprising to you that much of the industry still operates this way. We have apps for almost everything, virtual buying options for purchasing a home, browsing for a new car and even trying on clothes in virtual fitting rooms at retail stores. But the backend of retail still looks like it’s 1999; we’re using spreadsheets to track product, physically carrying sample books back from overseas trips and leaning on thumb drives to share ideas and inspirations with other members of the retail community.
Turning to tech: Virtual showrooms as retail’s saving grace
In theory, if you want to sell $25,000 worth of garments in one season, you need to look at $100,000 worth of samples. Unless you have tremendous superpowers that allow you to be omnipresent and function on no sleep, this feat can only be done collaboratively, virtually.
Virtual showrooms can help ease the burden of retail buying through:
- Giving teams the ability to browse through more product options, quicker.
- Making the overseas buying trip more efficient and effective by allowing teams to identify priority products to sample ahead of time; this cuts multiple steps out of the buying process.
- Reducing time spent on overseas trips and carving out more capacity for what matters most: Being creative.
Winning at retail requires a great supply chain. By being able to sample products faster, smarter and more virtually, teams can get to the product mix they want more quickly and deliver great, high quality product to their customer base – without lengthy, tiresome overseas trips that end with lugging heavy sample books back home.