YBF Melbourne, August 1 – New York‘s own Pavan Bahl, founder and co-host of Fashion Is Your Business podcast, collaborated with Melbourne-based Saskia Fairfull, founder of the Independent Fashion Advisory Board (IFAB), to deliver an exclusive event to Melbourne’s fash-tech scene.
The duo hosted a live podcast recording at dynamic co-working space YBF along with 12 engaged guests; tech startup founders, blockchain experts, SEO specialists and trend forecasters, to name a few. The topic: fashion-tech.
How To Connect With Customers Through Innovation
The aim of the podcast episode was to explore how to use technology or innovation to connect with one’s customers. We touched on topics like ‘customer experience’, but the take-outs I found most interesting were from a mix of subjects discussed throughout the evening (accompanied by red wine and cheese boards).
1. There is no ‘Retail Apocalypse’ in Australia
“Retail is dead, it’s all over the internet, people only want to shop online, all retail stores are closing, customer service is terrible – It’s all over.”
That is literally what I thought of Australian retail before joining the IFAB Slack Channel at the start of the year. Little did I know that there were many amazing technologies and organisations out there disrupting the retail industry, slowly replacing (or integrating with) the outdated methods of traditional fashion businesses. Solutions like “smart” dressing rooms, 3D scanners to determine body shape and trackable clothing are already being introduced worldwide – the Australian fashion industry just needs some time to adapt.
2. Businesses That Support Social Causes Can Increase Their Validation x6
One of the guests, Catherine Ross, appeared on the podcast to introduce the i=Change initiative; an extension for retailers that allows them to donate $1 per online order to charity. The customer then gets to pick which of the featured charities their online purchase will support, as part of the checkout process. From a PR-perspective, I can definitely see how this model would work well to promote real behaviour change. It provides a process that is quick and requires no additional cost or effort from the customer. i=Change is upping the game by providing a unique way for retailers to make a difference, all whilst going about their business-as-usual. I’m following their journey with great interest, so get around it.
Pavan then mentioned that many business owners increase their validation by up to six times (!), by supporting a social cause. Personally, I love and support many ‘Social Enterprises’ and think there is a lot of opportunity for growth in this area (see Good On You and Thank You Water).
It’s like growing your own organisation by helping others. A win-win, really.
3. The Biggest Challenge for Retail Start-ups is Bridging the Gap Between Technology and Fashion
While there are a lot of retail startups in Australia, most of them struggle to find their way into the fashion industry. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – the fashion scene isn’t exactly famous for being inclusive.
The question becomes; how do you connect a group of techy startup people to high-end fashion brands and prestigious retail stores? It is challenging enough to communicate something that doesn’t exist (see point 5), but to appeal to the fashion elite? Forget about it.
This is a hard nut to crack, but IFAB founder Saskia (featured in the picture below) is working furiously to bridge the two industries in Australia. So, here’s a little side note for you: if you have your own brand or store and want to explore what technology can do for your business, visit the Innovation Page to sign up to the new Retail Pilot Program (for free!).
[This is not an ad, just a friendly recommendation]
4. Blockchain in Fashion – a Major Opportunity
OK, for those of you that still don’t really understand blockchain (like me), here is an article that explains it. Or, if you’re feeling really lazy, click here for a video. Basically, it’s the technology behind the infamous cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Blockchain advisor Susan Dart is one of the people that really stood out to me during this podcast recording. She has an impressive business background, and many published articles and speaker engagements under her belt. It was really quite inspiring to hear someone talk about a subject (especially as technical as blockchain), with such passion and expertise. Some of the opportunities that she had identified for blockchain in fashion included: using it to increase transparency and sustainability practices, to improve inventory and distribution and to effectively authenticate luxury goods. All of which could greatly benefit both the fashion industry and the environment. Susan mentioned that out of the 50 blockchain startups she works with at Blockchain Centre in Melbourne – “none of them were in fashion or retail”.
Again, I think the fashion industry is adapting slowly, but it will likely speed up in the next couple of years. It wouldn’t surprise me if blockchain was a mandatory part of Australian fashion-textile production by 2025. *Excited*.
5. PR-Perspective: The Challenge with Communicating Startups
I’m writing a whole post on this topic, but it is worth mentioning in the context of this podcast for a few reasons: First of all, every startup struggles with PR and marketing. It’s not because they don’t care about it or “don’t get it” (although sometimes, sure), but because they don’t have the resources ($$$).
Secondly, let’s consider the fact that most founders are not social media “gurus” or marketing savvy, at all. More often than not, they have amazing technical expertise in their own field, but no real sense of style, tone or branding (no offence, guys). So if you are a PR or Marketing professional, entering a business that does not yet exist on the market – how do you communicate what it is to the public? Especially if the startup is in its early stages and keeps changing direction? I’d love to get some input here; if anyone has worked with PR or Marketing for startups – let me know below ↓ I really love the startup space and find it challenging, but also very rewarding. I’ll share some of the experiences that I’ve had myself (good and bad), at a later date.
6. Live Podcasting is Amazing! I’m Starting My Own Podcast Now.
Jokes. But it really made me realise how much work goes into just one single podcast episode. Seriously. It definitely made me appreciate my own favourite podcasts on a whole new level. I wish I could share with you everything that we talked about during this event – but I’ll have to leave some of the juicy bits to the actual release date – which is still TBA.
I’ll post it here once it goes live.
If you’ve managed to stick around for this entire post, you’re either extremely bored right now, or you’re actually interested in Australian Fashion-Tech. Perhaps you even live in Melbourne? If so, check out IFAB’s next event, as part of Melbourne Fashion Week 2018: TUXEDO – for business and technology in fashion. It’s NEXT WEEK on September 5th and there are still some tickets left. I’ll be taking over IFAB’s social media channels during the event – so If you can’t make it, make sure you follow IFAB on Twitter and Instagram for behind-the-scenes goodies.
Also, thanks for popping in guys, I really appreciate it. Any thoughts or feedback is welcome, as always.