By Sharon Lim, CEO and Co-Founder of Browzwear

Within a few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak and shutdowns, physical sample workflows came to a screeching halt with travel bans, work from home orders, and major disruption to supply chains. Even when some physical samples were still available, there was uncertainty over where they should be shipped, and if it would be accepted at the gates. It wasn’t long before technology and 3D assets came to the forefront. In-person sales review meetings soon shifted to online meetings; according to one leading brand, their entire showroom was “moved” onto a virtual platform and another sportswear brand conducted its wholesale meetings via online conferencing for the first time.

Making Informed Decisions

There is a rising sense of urgency among many retailers and brands to accelerate the digital transformation process in their businesses. These current workarounds are likely to become the new norm, since the future surrounding COVID-19 remains unclear. During these unprecedented times, digital assets and technology are transforming the way businesses and transactions are being conducted, both today and tomorrow.

Over the past 4 weeks, we received news of mass furlough being imposed on an already fragile industry. What’s unsettling is that the industry leaders who have embraced digital transformation and the acceleration of digitalisation as their priority are the same ones that are letting employees with digital skills go. After investing heavily in the digital infrastructure and equipping employees with the right knowledge, instead of fielding these skilled personnel to scale up their digital transformation, they have let them go. Unfortunately, It seems as if they have shot themselves in their foot.

Speaking recently to the GM of a leading retailer, he expressed concern that vendors who used to submit quality work are now giving low-quality digital assets. Upon investigation, he found that skilled specialists and digital creators were either put on leave of absence or let go. Without quality digital assets nor physical samples, how can vendors and retailers effectively collaborate? Sadly, many of these vendors are not even aware of their detrimental decisions.

Gearing up for the Next Phase

As the Pandemic’s dust begins to settle, the world is preparing for a post-COVID-19 reality and gearing up to new methods of working both sustainably and efficiently. A major factory in Asia shared that they either make the decision to go digital today or become obsolete tomorrow. It’s no longer business as usual in a volatile, unpredictable world.

Businesses that view digital transformation as being a critical measure for product & GTM, rather than a temporary response, will have to prepare accordingly for the next phase. All digitally-skilled hands must be on deck to navigate the company through the choppy waters of the next 12 months. Cost-cutting measures should be conducted cautiously as experienced digital specialists are integral to their success. This current slow down is the best time to take what’s proven and expand it to more parts of the business. Companies that have invested in valuable digital skills should know that this is the time to fuel their HR assets to train and equip the entire ship.

Emerging as a Stronger United Force

I will end by sharing a recent incident experienced by the CEO of a leading brand. He asked his management team to submit innovative workarounds that they ”threw together” to cope with the COVID disruption. From Design Development to Selling.

In a nutshell, they advocated that those innovating “workarounds” which are mitigating losses during the crisis should stay for them to remain agile, sustainable and competitive for the future which is already here.

When vigilance meets new opportunities, everybody wins. Let’s be wise and take appropriate steps to prepare and emerge from this crisis stronger together.