Wright predicts that this is a direction many B2B commerce models will adopt in the near future, noting that although trade shows such as Magic and Pitti Uomo have started to create digital extensions of their physical events, they are still in their earliest stages.
“They’ve [trade shows] not been able to create experiences that allow buyers to shop designers or tailor a retailer’s preferences of what they’re looking to buy to create a relevant recommendation engine. It’s allowed online services that help professionals do their jobs via online services to succeed,” Wright said.
Last July, The Runthrough made its debut — becoming the first Web site to digitize the often tedious sample trafficking process that occurs between publications and brands. Former editors themselves, founders Meggan Crum and Mandy Tang wanted to streamline the process so members of the press could go to one destination to view and pull any of the samples they want — from multiple brands. The two conceptualized and executed therunthrough.com as a one-stop shop for brands to showcase their product and for editors to discover products from emerging and established designers.
The platform went from 17 brand partners at launch to more than 60 — Fenton/Fallon, Kara Ross, Made Her Think and Pamela Love among them — and boasts more than 200 members of the media (editors and stylists included) that use the site.
“There is momentum in the B2B space. Things are happening, and people are really looking at what opportunities there are to solve problems. It’s similar to when brands realized that everyone needs an e-commerce site,” cofounder and ceo Crum said. “A lot of brands are realizing that there are major needs for digital tools and anything that can streamline the behind-the-scenes process. Everyone has so much to do that there just aren’t enough people or hours in the day to do it all.”
She predicts a radical change in the buying process due to emerging B2B solutions that allow one to make wholesale purchases without traveling.
Fragments, ShopToko and The Runthrough might be making headway as far as navigating a still-nascent category, but Fashion GPS is arguably the pioneer of B2B digital platforms industry-wide.
Founded in 2006, it counts IMG and the CFDA as industry partners and is used by clients such as Marc Jacobs, DKNY, Chanel, Dior, Jimmy Choo, Victoria’s Secret and public relations firms like KCD, HL Group, Starworks Group, Bismarck Phillips, C&M Media, LaForce + Stevens and Paul Wilmot Communications.
The site has become the go-to for sending and receiving digital fashion week invites, but offering a seamless fashion week RSVP process with the click of a button via the site’s GPS Radar is hardly the only service provided. Other features include digital check-in and mobile seating apps for fashion shows, Web and mobile-based sample trafficking, event planning, inventory management and virtual lookbooks and press image galleries.
“I wanted to create a platform for the fashion industry that made complicated tasks like sample tracking easy,” founder and ceo Edwin Mullon said. “When I experienced the pure joy that the first Fashion GPS platform brought to interns when making a delivery or being able to track a lost sample, this motivated me to investigate this further.”
In the past year, the company’s client roster has more than doubled and it maintains operations in New York, London, Paris and Australia.
Editd, a London-based company founded in 2009 by Geoff Watts and Julia Fowler, produces data and analysis in real time for the fashion industry. Their ethos is that brands, retailers and suppliers need factual, tangible data to make impactful business decisions via current consumer purchasing habits.
Available on a monthly subscription basis, users can scour editd.com for market intelligence, with applications tailored for merchandisers, buyers, designers, traders and marketers. According to Watts and Fowler, Editd — which monitors more than 10 million product stockkeeping units and up to 12 million opinions daily — provides three key services.
The first is commercial in nature, meaning that the site has the ability to track a product’s every move once it hits the retail floor. Users can learn when and if the item sells out, if it goes on sale or even when it’s restocked. The second service is social, as Editd has a richly visual, searchable database that contains more than 600 million opinions tracked from tastemakers and influencers plucked from every social media platform imaginable. Lastly, on a creative scale, the site provides qualitative reports and visual analysis based on runway shows, forecasts, street style and trade shows.
“It’s a really interesting time. There are many, many more [B2B solutions] coming to prominence, and within the venture capital industry, no one was taking fashion seriously until the last 12 to 18 months,” Watts said. “Now people understand that apparel is a place with a big opportunity. Technology people are starting to realize that as well.”
Then there is creative talent agency The IdeaLists, which helps many fashion companies develop content and digital platforms. Founded by former Tokion editor Adam Glickman in January 2010, the firm’s site assists designers and brands that might not have the internal resources to grow their online presence or pay the fees associated with employing a large agency. Brands such as Kate Spade, Cynthia Rowley, Diesel, C. Wonder and Levi’s have used The IdeaList’s services.
Glickman is clear that this is not a crowdsourcing site — coining it a “bespoke matchmaking service” that assists clients in developing video content or e-commerce on a budget.
Once a client initiates the project on theidealists.com — which is free for clients to use — the job is posted and sent to creatives with the appropriate skill sets. An estimated budget for the project is set, and talent then bids on the job. Glickman said clients typically have a match within hours.
“Print was the primary communication for storytelling [in the fashion world] up until now. We saw that there was a need for members of the fashion community to be introduced to other kinds of creative storytellers besides photographers, whether it be in film or technology,” Glickman said. “It’s a common need in the industry.”