Zara secret sauce. How to respond to customer demand successfully

To be able to react to customer demand, do you really believe clothes can be produced in 3 weeks?

Cooking requires time, no matter the chef. The same goes for clothing production.

 

After 4 years at Inditex, I can tell you Zara’s secret sauce is the planning – not the actual cooking time.

They buy the ingredients and then prepare the kitchen counter; this planning is what gives them the ability to react fast.

The key is to be able to change recipe with the same ingredients. Then if part is already cooked just serve it to the right guests (don’t serve the meat to the vegetarians.)

The most important is to get the data of your consumers preferences as soon as possible and then be prepared and able to react.

 

Back then, a new basic shirt meant buying at least for 200 000 units of fabric on the first order.

So how did we decide on THE style that at the tip of our fingers would mean producing 7,5M budget?

The usual stuff: fashion trends, historical data, experience & flair….

So, your question is: yes, but how could we never get it wrong?

We did. Sometimes.

We flew in by plane a small first quantity to stores and “tested” the basic shirt. To our disillusion THE basic shirt wasn’t selling well AT ALL.

 

At this point we had all the fabric but only part of it was in the dyeing process and another part in the cutting & garmenting process.

We worked very closely with our suppliers, it was a partnership more than anything. At all points the supplier was aware of our preparation process and he was key to the last-minute changes of recipe.

We stopped cutting, we stopped dyeing and we asked creatives to design a new long dress in the viscose fabric we had left – a smart way to consume the fabric – and we knew from historical data that our Southern market would enjoy it.

With this first test, we managed to get the early data that the red color was selling better than anticipated. So, we balanced the fabric dyeing with the production we had engaged ourselves to.

We sent what we had left of the shirt to the stores performing better and used the rest of the fabric to send some long dresses to Southern markets who enjoyed it.

Being able to react is Zara’s secret sauce, testing products in-store before and re-allocating stocks is no secret.

However, the cost associated to in-store testing and stock re-allocation is high depending on your logistics.

Nowadays, technological advancement makes the process of getting data on your customers preferences easy: at Sustalytics, we apply algorithms, AI and chatbots to detect the potential of each products using sample pictures or sketches.

By predicting which products are worth producing we enable brands to save both economically and environmentally – and you know that 9 in10 consumers will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues. (Forbes, November 2018)

So, whether you want to develop a sustainable collection like Zara’s “Join Life” or you simply choose to produce more efficiently with Sustalytics, being able to respond adequately to customer demand is the secret to sustainable success.

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