Disruptive innovation is no threat to fashion firms

Disruptive innovation, such as rising smartphone and beacon technology usage in retail outlets, has been hailed by global retailers and fashion industry leaders as an opportunity for, rather than a threat to, the sector. 


The third e-commerce conference organised by London Business School’s student Retail & Luxury Goods Club saw executives gather recently to discuss the latest trends, innovations and challenges facing the industry today.

When speaking to the attendees, Martijn Bertisen, Google UK’s Sales Director of Retail, said: “In August 2014, more people accessed retail websites via their mobile phone (52 per cent) than those using a desktop computer,” a precedent for the global retail industry. He added that disruptive innovation creates great opportunities for traditional brands to reconnect with their customers. 

However, retailers hoping to capitalise on emerging technology must be smart about how they innovate. In a bid to offer the ultimate retail experience, companies such as John Lewis are trialling beacon technology, which sends information about clothing to a customer’s phone, in stores. When standing within a 50-metre radius of a mannequin that carries a beacon, customers receive a signal with details about the garments on display, such as the available colours, material and price. 

The industry experts at the event agreed that to ‘fail fast and fail often’ was the best way to take advantage of disruptive innovation such as beacon technology. They also said that with technology changing so rapidly, adopting and trialling new methods to engage the consumer was the only way to quickly test the success of new innovations.
Matthew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency, said that despite the benefits of disruptive innovation, some high street retailers were failing to embrace technology “that focuses on you as an individual rather than on pure product placement”. 

In future, retailers and fashion firms will be able to analyse consumer behaviour patterns based on data algorithms, according to Drinkwater. “I’ll be excited when we can track personality types – there is a shopping pattern to the likes and dislikes of an extrovert versus an introvert.” He added that new in-store technology will give retailers a real opportunity to engage with their customers and tap into their emotional state when shopping.