The Council of Fashion Designers of America wanted to provide a new point of view on innovation to its members to help them connect to customers and define the future of fashion and retail. It partnered with Accenture and Fjord, Accenture Interactive’s design agency, on ground-breaking programs that help emerging and established fashion designers gain practical retail experience, better connect with customers and drive business results.
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Innovation in fashion isn’t just about design. To reach new customers and offer them novel experiences as well as exciting new clothing and accessories, designers should embed innovation into their business. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) selected Accenture as its innovation partner to help emerging and established designers experiment with new technology in-store and online to innovate their brands and connect with consumers. CFDA and Accenture are working on several programs—from research and immersion programs to a hands-on store called the Retail Lab—that help designers gain real-world business and retail experience.
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Accenture and Fjord, Accenture Interactive’s design agency, are helping fashion designers gain insight into consumer behavior, apply that new understanding to their brand and drive results across channels. For instance, designers learned how engaging customers with the product story and encouraging them to interact with the product can lead to feelings of ownership and a potential increase in sales.
Customers interacting with products to drive a deeper engagement.
The Retail Lab, a physical store in Cadillac House, New York City, is a living showcase of technology and innovation that enables designers to explore the new retail customer experience, hands-on. CFDA selects designers to run a retail shop for three months and learn the skills they need to succeed in a challenging retail market. Accenture teamed with the designers to think differently about the space and to create inventive experiences for customers to engage with products. For the selected designers, their stint in CFDA’s Retail Lab is their first experience in running a store and translating a brand to physical space. Accenture works side-by-side to help them develop critical business skills, covering messaging, brand in physical space, retail analytics, artificial intelligence, tactile product engagement, and storytelling. Some new concepts include:
Testing RFID tags in the fitting room to identify which garments and pairings customers find most appealing.
Product tags that can pair in-store products with online products based on the designer’s recommendation. Unlike the usual recommendation engines on many retail sites, this one is based on the designer’s discerning taste, not customer behavior. It could even allow brands to build in predictive intelligence capabilities that align with the designer’s vision.
INSIGHTS FOR FASHION DESIGNERS
A group of individuals doing a brainstorming session which focuses on consumer behavior, new business models for designers, behavior in spaces, sustainability, social engagement, fashion and technology.
Immersion Program: Fjord works with graduate design students to explore human-centered design and business strategies. Design challenges extended students’ academic work in a fast-paced, design-intensive program. They learn how to research, prototype and pilot new concepts through a hands-on design process. Students focused on consumer behavior, new business models for designers, behavior in spaces, sustainability, social engagement, and fashion and technology.
How can designers use their fashion design process to build their business? Fjord shared its view on “How Designing a Collection is like Designing a Business” for industry insiders at CFDA’s 6th Annual Fashion Education Summit, as well as at the inaugural Fashion Future Graduate Showcase. The presentation challenged the industry to see building a business and brand as a parallel process to designing a clothing collection.
The Future of the Fashion Customer Experience
Accenture and CFDA are conducting new research on the future fashion customer experience and testing them in live pilots with CFDA members. The first study, conducted with DHL, looks at how the fashion supply chain model will need to transform in line with changing customer expectations, new technologies and digitally enabled business models.
In partnership with the H&M Foundation, designers learned how they can use some of the latest textile innovations from the Global Change Awards to build into their design process.
Elaine Gold Launchpad
Accenture mentored emerging fashion designers on how to scale their businesses and build personal brands as part of this CFDA fashion education event.
DESIGNER RESIDENCIES AT THE RETAIL LAB
Pamela Love – Customer and event matching
The team used social analytics to help the designer focus her marketing efforts. They identified existing events where her customers might be. In addition, they analyzed the attributes of her customers to suggest new events that Love could create to boost sales.
Prabal Gurung – Engaging storytelling
Political messages are important to Gurung’s brand—but how can they combine new technology with stories to hook customers? The team created a patent-pending projection mannequin, which highlights stories and messages in the retail space. A projection system inside the mannequin projects the political messages onto the chest, which helps customers understand the political messaging and encourages shoppers to touch the products.
Together, the CFDA and Accenture are empowering emerging designers to create deeper connections with their customers and products. Designers are acquiring highly sought-after digital skills needed for them to be at the forefront of industry innovation, develop customized retail strategies, grow their businesses and networks, and drive tangible business results with new technology. CFDA designers now have a better understanding of how to:
Apply innovative new technology to drive sales, not distract customers
Drive tactile product engagement and customer engagement
Best use their retail space and conceptualize their brands
Run practical and iterative processes for innovation
Tell stories that focus on the product and brand to drive deeper connections
The innovative collaboration between Accenture and CFDA is helping to integrate new technology and consumer insights into the fashion business—and define the future of fashion and retail.
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