After Working with Hundreds of Suppliers and Retailers Over the Past Several Months, One Thing Has Become Quite Evident: Email is Slowing Down Fashion Buyers and Sellers, and Making for Some Very Long Days
Don’t get me wrong, email is a wonderful tool. It has been around since the 1970s and has revolutionized communication. Did you know there is currently a dispute over who invented email? Some say Ray Tomlinson invented it in 1971, but others say it was first created by 14-year-old Shiva Ayyadurai in 1978. The answer could be that texting was truly invented in 1971, and email, as we know it, first appeared in 1978.
Notwithstanding scientific arguments about the origins of Electronic Mail (“e-mail” or “email”) many of us haven’t hand-written a letter, endorsed a paper check, or put a stamp on an envelope and deposited it in a mailbox (what we now call “snail mail”) for years. All of our written communication is electronic, from keyboard or keypad, to send or return. Some of us are even emailing birthday and holiday cards, or even wedding invitations! However, despite how much email and the Internet have made our personal lives easier and faster, it isn’t perfect for business.
Email is has become overwhelming in the fashion business.
Our research indicates fashion buyers are receiving as many as 200 to 300 emails each day. Assuming an 8 hour workday, that means buyers are receiving a new email every 2 minutes or less. Each must be read and then be given a written response, shared with coworkers or third parties, archived, or simply thrown into ‘trash’ or junk mail. This sheer number of communication transactions alone can make for a tiring workday.
The great news is that without email we’d never be able to handle such a high volume of correspondence. If the average daily volume coming into our inbox each day were via “snail mail” and paper instead, it would fill rooms from ceiling to floor. It would take months to answer and organize everything the mailman carted in through the front door. Are not we fortunate to have said farewell to file cabinets, parchment and quills? In short, yes, but the bad news is that now even email is behind the times – even email is now slowing us down.
Because email was originally developed for rudimentary correspondence sometime in the 1970s, email truly isn’t the best technology for processing or organizing today’s high-volume business communication, especially for fashion buyers and sellers.
We have to keep moving faster by continually upgrading our current technology and by adopting new technology. This is critical because the volume of correspondence we will be handling in the future will only be ever-increasing. Part of the reason for this is that concept to cash cycles in fashion have gone from four to six months to four to six weeks in the last twenty-plus years. Some experts believe that with the advent of things like 3-D printing this cycle will soon be reduced to as little as one to three days. Additionally, with recent headcount reductions being so prevalent in the fashion industry, buyers are often expected to handle the workloads of two to three personnel. Most of us will not argue that these factors, and many more, have increased the number of daily emails landing in our inboxes by as much as 10x in the last decade or two.
If you are in the fashion industry (buyer or seller) the answer is to start using StyleSelect.
1. Facebook – Facebook is replacing personal email and even phone service because it offers more than one billion people a platform for doing all of their personal communication in one place. On Facebook, you can communicate with everyone you know from one portal via group sharing information, including images, instant messaging, and even voice and video communication. One log-in portal makes every form of communication accessible and in one place. All of your devices, be they mobile phones, tablets, or laptops tie to Facebook via the “Cloud.” Most importantly, it is easy to use and everyone is using the same portal. There is a reason Facebook has become one of the largest companies in the world within years. In short, it is an improvement on email and it is an awesome way to have group conversations as well as share information and ideas. The “like” system even flags the most prominent discussions.
2. Slack – Slack, I believe, for non-fashion buyers and sellers, is the general commercial improvement on email. Or we might say it is the new business version of Facebook. Slack, according to Samuel P. Jacobs of Time Magazine, is “an email killer.” Slack works. Comcast, Expedia and NASA are using it in lieu of email.
3. Visualization – We fashion buyers and sellers are very visual people. Images and drawings are our art and our livelihood. I’ll make my point about the value of trading your email account for a platform like Slack or StyleSelect by asking you to open your email and then to open your Facebook account. Can you immediately see how Facebook is visually driven, while your email is text driven? Which conversations are the easiest to follow? One is much easier to “see.”
4. File Sharing – Have you ever lost track of an Excel spreadsheet or of an image, and then you spent too much time searching through virtual manila files? How about sending the wrong version of a file? Because email is not an organically integrated means of communication, it is easy to get lost is hundreds of piecemeal conversations and files, including multiple versions of documents and images. Integrated communication platforms help us surmount these hurdles. For example, how often does a conversation around an image on Facebook get scattered or lost? Almost never! Everything is in one place. Slack and StyleSelect work the same way.
5. Communication Groups – Once again, think of your emails versus Facebook when it comes to an integrated conversation. In Facebook, a single conversation around an image, or multiple images or videos is all in one place. Everyone privy to the conversation is tied to the same conversational chain. New contributors can be added after the fact and the person who started the conversation can eliminate or exclude contributors. She can also limit who is able to view or add to any given discussion. Once again, email does not provide such incredible and easy ways to have a group dialog where nothing gets lost and everything is in one place and easy to read and see. Contributions are easy to make be they text or images. Editing and adding content is seamless.
6. Organization – Once again, the right communication platform will organize into one snapshot what was once perhaps a hundred disjointed emails containing scattered files and versions of files. It will also organize many groups and subgroups of people into a single conversation.
7. Searchability – Searching an email box can require you to find and piece together several emails in order to understand and view a complete conversation. Searching an integrated communication platform only requires you to find a single conversation in which the entire dialogue is in order from start to finish. It is easy to follow and to understand.
StyleSelect is an all in one supplier marketing platform and mass merchant buyer marketplace that people of any skill level can use. It’s a self-service supplier-marketing platform that streamlines, measures and optimizes supplier tasks that increase efficiency and grow revenue. StyleSelect’s breakthrough platform lets professional buyers and their colleagues connect with each other to share linesheets, request samples and create aggregated assortment plans; and it helps suppliers market and deliver curated linesheets and personalized interactions to retailers and their professional buyers. Headquartered in Denver, CO with offices in LA and NYC, StyleSelect serves as a strategic platform to mass merchant buyers and their suppliers. For more information about StyleSelect visit www.styleselect.com
Content provided courtesy of Simparel