Now more than ever the fashion industry needs to re-think its approach to relationship building. The impact of COVID-19, paired with the accelerating demands of the digital era, has made it a non-negotiable. And while it is true that industry relations were historically built on physical touch points – trade shows, in-person meetings, outings and so on – the reality of today is different.
Harvard Business Review identified ‘relationships’ as the most important element of trust. And trust is the currency of business. But how, in an environment of rapid digitalisation, can trust be fostered between buyers and suppliers? How can fashion industry relationships be built and maintained without the familiarity of personal interaction?
Fundamentally, the answer lies in a willingness to accept that digitalisation is here to stay. The sooner the industry embraces it, the further down the line it will be to realising the benefits. This can be seen in the emergence of virtual trade shows, as a way of adapting to the current restrictions on travel and gathering publicly, and to continue providing opportunities for business-to-business networking and supplier sourcing.
Moreover, what we at Serai see as the future of trade, is the coming together of buyers and suppliers on a B2B platform capable of facilitating trusted relationships between them. Because Serai uses a digital-first model, it is designed to replicate, if not enhance, the experience of partnership building and doing business offline. There are three key benefits to this approach:
Having a centralised online location where buyers and suppliers can research each other effectively and share referrals is a key benefit of platforms. It gives needed visibility to participating members that may not otherwise be known or easily found using physical channels. Given the evolving needs of buyers, it also enables suppliers to amplify their capabilities clearly for the rest of the network to discover.
One of the most worrying effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been the deterioration of confidence across fashion industry supply chains. Concerns about cancelled orders, delayed payments and liquidity crunches have created an air of hesitation about entering contracts and making financial commitments. To overcome this, digital platforms offer end-to-end visibility into supply chains, allowing participants of a transaction to track their orders effectively. In this way greater transparency translates to more reliable business dealings and stronger bonds between parties.
Disparate data and siloed systems add complexity and are simply not efficient. Platforms have the ability to create new ecosystems of exchange by connecting different data points, which results in more synergy and makes way for an open, unbiased stream of information, free of walls.
Staying in touch is a key principle of effective relations between buyers and suppliers. And although this used to be done in-person through factory visits and outings, now it can be done through integrated platform communications and video conferencing. Virtual meetings on a regular basis can ensure supply chain inefficiencies or other issues are discovered quickly and a good rapport is kept over the long-term.
As the apparel industry moves further into the digital era, Serai is creating a B2B community where buyers and suppliers can connect, build trusted relationships and conduct business efficiently. We believe the importance of this in a world where remote working is fast becoming mainstream cannot be overstated.
To expand your network and strengthen your industry relationships, join Serai today.