Join Daniel Grieder, CEO of Tommy Hilfiger; Nadja Swarovski; and Jim Lanzone, President and CEO of CBS as they discuss their secrets to longevity.

In fashion, ROI is no longer sales per square foot – it’s now surprise per square foot. There isn’t any industry in 2018 that can still expect to attract customers if something experiential isn’t offered to the customer in return. Businesses must do a lot more to engage with the customer and give them reasons to come to them, and whatever those reasons are can’t be limited to just offline or just online; it needs to be omni-channel.

Tommy Hilfiger has approached this challenge with a digital experience in their physical showrooms. The thought of digital immersion in a physical retail space can be a scary one, as customers want to touch fabrics and see products in front of them. The brand still offers swatchbooks, but all the rest is completely digitised. The advantages are obvious: The digital showroom is faster, less expensive, more sustainable and can have a wider range of products than the brand could have physically made or had available in store.

Proposing ideas for new online and digital products can, at times, feel like an existential threat to companies’ traditional channels. Instead it needs to be viewed as an opportunity – patiently work with the different parts of the business as partners, but impatiently push everyone to make small changes, no matter how stressful the growing pains are in the beginning.

One issue brands are already beginning to think about is the oncoming availability of 5G. What happens when 5G is in the hands of companies and customers alike, and technology once again transforms the industry? CBS are already facing that challenge with other sources, such as Roku and the Amazon Fire TV Stick, bringing streaming services right to the TV, an evolution of what has always been a core channel. What will that landscape look with the addition of 5G?

It can be challenging to deal with this speed-driven, demanding, modern-day consumer. Instagram shopping bringing consumers straight to a product’s website, for example, is one new digital feature which has a huge impact on retailers. But this can be an opportunity if brands simultaneously start using data to understand demand in real-time for modifying supply, as well as utilising regional hubs, which offers the benefits of speed and reduced carbon emissions.

Still, what can a brand do when a copycat brand takes a design from a fashion show and gets it to consumers faster than the original brand can? Some retailers are combating this by having pieces available in store the day following fashion shows. It’s a nightmare for logistics, but it’s what consumers expect in a time of instant gratification – and that’s true for all industries, not merely fashion. If an industry is experiencing a shift in consumer expectation, brands in that industry cannot wait until they have a profitable project to meet that demand. They need to move with the speed of consumers and then optimise it to something that works for the company.

If brands focus on the consumer, they’ll be able to tackle and keep up with any AI, VR, or yet-to-be-developed tech that comes their way. Machine learning and AI is already helping with customer recommendations and advertising opportunities. VR is still in its very early stages, but it’s inevitably going to be a huge turning point. We will see AI and robots, too, but only in ways that help make things easier for the end-consumer.

And though it’s a given, still it must be said: If your brand is using any tech or data, you will need to use it in the right way. Learn from other industries that are very advanced (e.g. how Formula 1 uses their data inputs), discover why and how they use data and be creative in applying that to your own industry or brand.

Keeping up with competition requires companies to experiment with different business and pricing models in order to fit into the larger landscape. It’s never beneficial to only focus on the competition. Instead, focus on what is to come and stay ahead of the game in terms of design and sustainability. Brands (and consumers) are constantly having to consider the disruption of new tech players, e.g. Amazon in multiple industries, from jewellery to clothing. Brands must work with them and find new ways of sharing data in order to try to create the best experience for wholesalers and designers.

The biggest challenges for everyone in 2019: Uncertainty in the world and time-to-market in such a fast-paced, digital era. If we all stay open-minded, we can make the impossible possible.