The Fashion Industry is Lagging Behind in Digital Transformation

Chris Calverley
April 20, 2020
Digital disruption comes for every industry eventually. Just ask a taxi driver or a hotel owner.
The fashion industry has arguably already been disrupted by e-commerce and online shopping, but that’s only half the story. When we consider the rise of fast fashion giants such as H&M or Zara, as well as the creeping domination of Amazon, traditional fashion retailing could seem like a dying art form.
Unfortunately, we know that real digital transformation is yet to take place in the fashion industry. Since silk merchants began traveling between Asia and Europe centuries ago, very little has changed within the fashion supply chain. Particularly when we consider the methods for tracking orders with suppliers and manufacturers from overseas.
Many garment manufacturing operations are still relying on paper based processes or whiteboards which track the progress of a particular order and are then wiped clean upon completion. This is primitive when we consider that Gartner has predicted more than half of large companies globally will be using AI, predictive analytics and IoT sensors to manage their supply chain by 2023.
Underpinning these transformative supply chain technologies is data, and this is what is sorely lacking currently in fashion supply chains. Apparel businesses lack any real transparency and visibility into their supply chain. This drastically reduces their ability to control their costs, and also puts their business in some unethical and risky scenarios.
For digital transformation to be truly effective in fashion supply chains, it needs to be through partnerships at every stage of the supply chain. There is no point in transforming the customer facing side of an apparel business to dazzle customers with a new app if you cannot guarantee you will receive delivery of your goods and materials on time from your suppliers.
We believe that the best results are achieved by working with suppliers and manufacturers to ensure they have the tools and technology to begin collecting real time data about the status of orders. At each stage of your supply chain, from the factory floor to your store shelves, you need the tools and processes in place to constantly record and track the status of orders.
Where this would once require a massive capital outlay in computers and infrastructure, cloud and mobile technology means we can connect virtually any location in our supply chain to our software. Through affordable technology, we can provide incentives for factory and manufacturing managers to begin recording their progress – in turn making their own lives much easier without the need to manage manual tracking systems.
Of course, data tracking within your supply chain is only one part of an overall digital transformation program. Ultimately, it is about maximizing the value you can provide to your end customers, and every aspect of your transformation should be viewed through this lens. Today’s customers place a higher value on sustainability and ethical production than ever before, so there is a huge opportunity to use digital technology for guaranteeing sustainable and ethical practices from your suppliers.
By understanding our customers’ expectation completely, we can begin looking at each aspect of our operation, from garment sourcing through to product marketing, to see where transformation will allow us to meet these expectations better than our competitors.
About The Author
As the Country Manager at Zilingo Australia, my team and I work with apparel businesses of all sizes and scale to understand their strategic growth objectives. We then help them to discover new avenues for sourcing more cost-effective and sustainable materials from diversified suppliers by connecting them with our local networks. If you would like to discuss how Zilingo can help you overcome your business’ current and future sourcing challenges, feel free to get in touch with me at
Chris Calverley
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