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NEW YORK — Move over, consumers. Fashion’s B2B sector is having a moment online.
The fashion world’s digital focus is expanding beyond the confines of the style-conscious shopper to the B2B category, via a handful of Web sites catering to the forces driving the retail industry.
Designers, brands and retailers have used the Internet to deliver interactive commerce and editorialized experiences, as well as satiate a consumer desire for deeper brand engagement — but a select group is now creating more sophisticated experiences online for a B2B audience. Web sites such as Fragments, ShopToko, Fashion GPS, The Runthrough, Editd and The IdeaLists are making strides to streamline sample trafficking, discover talent and make the wholesale discovering, buying and information-gathering processes easier and more efficient.
“There’s market space for B2B-oriented platforms, but they’re only going to be adopted if they add value to a retail professional’s job and are expertly designed,” said Macala Wright, digital marketing consultant, founder and chief executive officer of Why This Way and editor in chief of FashionablyMarketing.me. She calls this a natural next step for the businesses that have spent the past several years watching fashion brands and retailers make digital advances. Wright also cites the economic climate as a contributor to the rise of trade-based Web sites, noting that many companies no longer have the boundless resources to travel to Europe, Asia and the U.S. to seek and source new product.
SoHo-based jewelry showroom and retailer Fragments unveiled a new Web site today at fragments-showroom.com, bolstering its once strictly e-commerce portal to include a password-protected portion for wholesale, retail and brand partners. It will feature designers the firm represents, highlights from current and future collections and wholesale prices.
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According to founder and ceo Janet Goldman, buyers and store owners can view, consider and review product in their own time. She calls this B2B component of Fragment’s digital flagship an extension of its existing customer service.
“It’s about communicating better with our customers and since they’re not traveling as often, we’re bringing the showroom to them. It’s all about giving an education; the more information we give them access to, the better our business will be,” Goldman told WWD.
A wholesale commerce option might be added in the future, but for the moment, Goldman still wants buyers to have the personal experience of interacting with sales reps and vice versa — viewing the online experience as an in-depth preview to upcoming collections, designer inspirations and more.
Fragments will also promote the private-label product it has designed and manufactured for nearly two decades for leading retailers such as Neiman Marcus Inc., Gap Inc. and Armani Exchange. On occasion, showroom designers collaborate with the private-label team — called the Design Workshop — on larger-scale diffusion lines, but this information has never been accessible online. A new Design Workshop portion of the site will exist for Fragments to showcase its private-label work, and Goldman hopes to “attract new business and simultaneously provide a new resource for our existing accounts.”
ShopToko, which launched late last month, looks to service independent retailers within a B2B e-commerce platform. Billed as a “boutique wholesaler with no minimums” that sells current to two-months-out product, ceo Liza Deyrmenjian and chief operating officer Katherine Danesi wanted to make it easier for boutiques to buy and deliver new product to customers by minimizing financial risk.
So far, more than 2,000 retailers are registered at shoptoko.com, with about 100 brands being sold on the site. The password-protected platform (retailers need to fill out a profile, supply tax identification and wait for verification before placing an order) offers free membership for brands and retailers, with ShopToko taking a transaction fee on sales. Deyrmenjian contends that its process is different than an ordering solution because transactions are filtered through the back end and each brand receives an individual order even though the independent retailer has only one invoice.
“Within the B2B space, ShopToko has the ability to vie for that consumer at the wholesale level for the retailer more immediately,” Deyrmenjian said, explaining that if a customer gives a retailer information about what they want in-season, the store now has the ability to participate in a fast-turn cycle. “With the digital world bombarding the consumer, brick-and-mortar is still the hot spot to shop. They need the tools to make them more resourceful, more efficient and more profitable.”
It’s a symbiotic relationship for brand and retailer. For the former, the tool can help find new doors without any up-front costs, especially locations where the brand might have little to no presence. For the latter, ShopToko is a platform to discover products retailers might never have been exposed to otherwise.
The site is also in talks to partner with a trade show to serve as an online solution to events produced in cities around the country. As an online counterpart to a physical show, ShopToko could feature the brands that will present at a given show two weeks prior to, as well as during and two weeks after, the actual event.