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Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe, Managing Director, EMEA & Oceania, EVRYTHNG

According to the CBI Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Europe’s apparel import market was valued at €177.3 billion in 2019 and is growing at an average rate of 5% a year. The market is vibrant, and the region is already home to many of  the world’s biggest and most renowned fashion brands.  The largest markets: Germany, France, the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy, comprised nearly 72% of all EU apparel imports in 2019. Imports from developing countries are growing faster than the EU’s overall import rate.

Despite this growth the industry faces significant challenges as consumers demand more transparency from their favourite brands, while those businesses in turn battle IP infringement and counterfeiters eating into their hard-earned brand integrity and income, damaging the brand. Regulatory and consumer demands for sustainability are accelerating the push towards more circularity in the supply chain and huge growth in the secondary market. In response, global apparel brands are recognising the need to adopt innovative strategies to address these demands and recognise one significant way to do this is by bridging the gap between physical and digital channels in a mobile-first world.

The tide is turning

The apparel industry has reached a tipping point where the developments in technology now enable an affordable solution to the challenges of brand protection, traceability, and consumer experience. Leading brands such as Ralph Lauren and Puma have made ground-breaking strides in adopting a Born Digital strategy. Born Digital is based on the ability to give every single item in their range a unique digital identity. This identity, or ‘digital twin’, is activated at the point of manufacture, enabling each product to be tracked, authenticated and interacted with throughout its life.

For brands this results in an unparalleled real-time visibility into operations, better  control of supply chain integrity and the data intelligence needed to operate with more efficiency and agility.  

Opening the door to a new, direct engagement channel

Just as important, these Born Digital products enable brands to reach their consumers in a new and powerful way – creating a direct engagement channel with end customers. By scanning or tapping interactive labels on garments with their smartphones, consumers can access contextualised experiences as well as sustainability and product information. The opportunities to turbocharge revenue growth and cost efficiencies while deepening the connection between consumer and brand are highlighted here:

  • Data intelligence at scale
  • Consumer convenience and information 
  • Brand protection
      • Thanks to these advances in data science brands can protect their brand integrity, reduce illegal production and recapture lost sales. Machine learning and crowdsourced information from end customers is gathered as they  authenticate products themselves using their smartphone. The result is unprecedented data capture across all geographies and products, giving more cost-efficient and wide-ranging detection than any legacy brand protection tools can offer.
  • Traceability, transparency and circularity 
  • Increase in operational efficiency and agility 

It is estimated that the market for counterfeit clothing, textiles, footwear, handbags and watches amounts to a staggering $450 billion. That cost alone highlights to brands that measures need to be taken to address the impact on their IP and bottom line. With 66% of consumers willing to pay for more sustainable goods and the estimation that the Circular Economy will create in excess of €1 trillion in value in Europe by 2025 means that the opportunity for brands to evolve and adopt a Born Digital strategy is a reality. 

As the last 18 months have shown, time does not stand still. Consumers are demanding more and more. Those organisations that hesitate to address their customers’ growing needs and that ignore addressing the complicated demands of their supply chains will be the losers in the great race to a more transparent, traceable, sustainable and engaging future

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