Using Technology to build an emotional brand connection


Apparel and fashion companies need an IT framework that is flexible and futureproof as they work to nurture an emotional brand connection with consumers around the world

The end goal for fashion brands ins a timeless one: Connecting with consumers on an emotional level. But achieving it is full of modern-day challenges, from omnichannel commerce to global distribution to the mobile consumerization of technology.

When a shopper is emotionally attached to a brand, he or she often will go to great lengths to secure the desired style. Having it is connected to all sorts of feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction. Yet even the most devoted followers have their limits.

Consumers expect instant gratification more than ever. When apparel brands and retailers cannot fulfill the desired style immediately, shoppers are very quick to look elsewhere. “We as a society know what we want, and we want it now,” says Jerry Sheldon, vice president of technology, IHL Consulting Group. “We’re in an environment where there is a lot less brand loyalty and synergy. If you can’t fulfill it, I’m going to choose another retailer or a brick-and-mortar retailer. If you aren’t able to capture the sale right then and there, the chances are really high that you’re going to lose that sale.”

To create an emotional connection with today’s apparel shoppers, fashion companies must excel at multiple core competencies, including not only on-trend design and stellar customer service but also extremely sophisticated fulfillment. Doing so is difficult, requiring skill and strategy. There is no getting around that fact. However, the work to get there does not have to be impossibly tedious, expensive, error-prone or labor-intensive.

Building brand appeal: IT solutions’ supporting role

Technology plays a vital role in building bonds between consumers and fashion labels – connections tied to compelling products as well as flexible fulfillment. “Apparel retailers are very interested in releasing new products to market on a far more frequent basis, continually moving that product and minimizing discounts,” says Thomas O’Connor, principal research analyst, global retail supply chain, Gartner Inc.

Brands who sell to multiple retailers increasingly view their fulfillment capabilities as a competitive differentiator, he says. Their capacity to get products to end consumers, regardless of the channel, usually correlates with fewer markdowns and optimized margins for them and their retail partners. “When you’re operating via multiple channels, you need to be thinking about how to provide optimal service to the consumer in a cost-effective manner,” he says. “That’s a core component, and it’s something technology can definitely support.”

The latest generation of end-to-end fashion IT solutions can help brands to build strong connections with consumers, alleviating the need for a maze of bolt-on solutions. These solutions touch processes from concept to consumer. Their consumer-facing functionality enables retailers to create a multifaceted front-end marketing and shopping experience. This customer experience encompasses traditional touchpoints, such as stores, as well as e-commerce websites, apps, and social media.

For example, the latest fashion ERP technology includes e-commerce and social features so that shoppers can easily add products to their wish lists on Facebook, Pinterest, or other social networks. They also help retailers connect with their own social media followers, engaging with them based on their personal preferences and fashion flair.

“As consumers have evolved in how they want to shop, with myriad devices in their hands, it’s a necessity for retailers to support these multiple channels, whether it’s mobile, tablet, computer, catalog, or social media,” Sheldon says. “Retailers realize they have to go where the opportunity is.”

With the mobile consumerization of IT, that opportunity often lives on smartphones. Mobile consumerization if IT refers to consumers’ heightened comfort level in using mobile devices to manage many different facets of life, including shopping. In April 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported on surging use of shopping apps in an article entitled “Shoppers Flock to Apps, Shaking Up Retail.”

“The so-called application of shopping promises to radically transform the retail industry by creating new shopping habits, reshaping sales tactics, and carving out winners and losers,” said the article. “Instead of placing one big order from a computer, people are increasingly making smaller purchases in short bursts throughout the day on their phones, a phenomenon retailers call ‘snacking’,” according to the article.

To make sure they can fulfill these snacking orders as well as in-store and other demand, retailers require their technology solutions to support a reliable back-end delivery experience. Coming through on delivery promises is enabled in large part by real-time inventory visibility and distributed order management. “With a distributed order management tool, they can take the different orders as they’re coming in and take their real-time inventory visibility and automatically decide where the item should be sourced from and determine the most time-and-cost-efficient way to fulfill the order,” says O’Connor.

Integrated Design and PLM matters

Omnichannel fulfillment is critical, but first a fashion retailer or brand must have a marketable product portfolio. A strong emotional bond between retailers and their target audience is nourished by a steady diet of fresh fashions. The most appealing brands know complexity is a reality. They need IT solutions that are specifically designed to support overlapping collections of multiple brands and product lines.

It’s increasingly the norm for companies to release new collections every six weeks vs. three or four times annually. It’s also more common for brands to offer a broad and deep product assortment. “With the advent of fast fashion, we’ve seen a lot of apparel retail moving from the traditional model of two or four launch seasons per year to the extreme where they are launching new seasons on almost a monthly basis,” says O’Connor. “That is an interesting challenge for a lot of retailers.”

Technology can help busy fashion professionals keep it all straight. For example, within some end-to-end ERP solutions, there are PLM capabilities that allow companies to tailor many different product matrices to suit different target markets. Within the same solution, the firm uses for sales and distribution, product developers can manipulate style dimensions related to jeans. They can manage different sizes, lengths, washes, and fits such as skinny, boot, cut, or relaxed. With a click or two, they can easily shift their attention to intimate apparel collections, where the dimensions are entirely different, including bra cup size, etc.

The most flexible and robust ERP platforms include many automated functions for planning and producing multiple lines much faster than was possible with legacy solutions and spreadsheets. For instance, there are ‘wizards’ and one-click steps for handling processes such as:

  • Viewing the status of overlapping collections and seasons
  • Arranging product rollouts by channel
  • Prioritizing sales orders for fulfillment by channel if there are product shortages or vendor shipment delays
  • Creating new products quickly by choosing from hundreds of default values
  • Automatically updating washing and care instructions when fabrications change
  • Recalculating a style’s grading across all sizes if a change is made to the pattern (through integration with Adobe Illustrator)
  • Applying a ratio curve of sizes to order, i.e., automatically calculating how many of each size should be included based on programmed parameters or actual sales history

IT enables global and omnichannel expansion

Being an omnichannel, global brand is within reach for any innovative brand, thanks to technology advances. It’s not a matter of if you can go multichannel and global but how you want to prioritize your expansion. Cloud-based computing has been a huge factor in helping companies of all sizes to grow their businesses internationally and across all channels. One reason is that with the cloud, powerful applications no longer have to be managed on-site by the apparel business’ IT department. Cloud hosting frees companies from a lot of maintenance time and expense. “It’s democratizing technology for businesses,” says O’Connor. “It’s driving down a lot of the costs associated with technology. It puts technology within reach.”

To help apparel companies compete globally, IT solutions must keep the business humming along in a multicurrency, multi-language, multichannel world. Global expansion can be simpler when associates work on a common IT solution with a familiar user interface. This was a big benefit London-based fashion retailers Charles Tyrwhitt saw in ERP technology from K3 Software Solutions. K3’s ax|is a fashion solution that is completely embedded within the Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP platform. “Our users really enjoy working with Dynamics. They find it very easy to get on with, using that traditional Microsoft look and feel,” says Simon Kerry, CIO for the retailer, which has 16 stores in the UK, one in Paris and five in the US. Technologies have evolved to the point that they “support the ability to be international relatively easily,” says Sheldon. And as for omnichannel, “software today allows for more of a single view of the customer across all the channels,” he says.

How to ‘futureproof’ your business

As fashion companies consider their IT investment strategy, they want solutions that are able to support today’s needs and provide a path to tackling tomorrow’s brave new retail world. Some call this ‘futureproofing’. Whether apparel brands are ready or not to dive into the Internet of Things (IoT), their IT solutions should be IoT-ready – able to process different types of heavy data streams. For instance, leading ERP providers have laid the groundwork to support 3-D body scanning (from in-store scanners or at-home game consoles), wearables, hologram applications, virtual dressing rooms, and other innovations. They understand that fashion businesses need a helpful analysis of IoT data to get real returns.

At a very pragmatic level, futureproofing for the next 12 months or 12 decades is likely to involve attaining real-time inventory visibility and omnichannel fulfillment capabilities. That’s one reason Gartner is devoting a lot of research to ‘algorithmic business’, in which machine learning continually adapts to changing data inputs, automatically proposing optimal decision-making paths. IT solutions set up to support real-time inventory management and distributed order management rely on om these algorithms. This type of technology will play a major role in futureproofing fashion businesses.

To future-proof their businesses, one of the most important things fashion executives can do is create a well-defined technology roadmap, says Sheldon, ensuring their solution partners’ strategies and capabilities align with where they want to go. “You need to look at who the market leaders are in the space,” he says. “They tend to have the broadest feature-function set. And typically a broader feature-function is one of the best ways to future-proof the technology decisions that you’ve made.” 

Resource Credit | K3 Technologies 

Power BI Service Mobile feature Summary

Read on for a summary of the announcements we made both in the service and mobile.

  • Shared and certified datasets (Preview)
  • AI metrics in the Premium Capacity Metrics app
  • June update for on-premises data gateway
  • General availability of Power BI template apps
  • General availability of Paginated Reports in Power BI
  • Bring Your Own Key (BYOK)
  • Viewer role for the new Power BI workspaces experience
  • Updates to Power BI mobile apps
  • Roadmap updates

Shared and certified datasets (Preview)

We kicked off June by announcing a public preview of shared certified datasets. With this feature, you can now use a single dataset to build multiple reports across different workspaces. That’s right – dataset owners only need to maintain a single copy of their datasets in their own separate workspace and provide permissions for report authors to use those datasets to build reports. To help users to discover relevant and shared datasets, we released a new discovery experience in the Power BI service and Desktop to make it easier for you to browse and find content. Lastly, as part of this work, we also added new capabilities for dataset owners and tenant administrators to control the use of shared data. Learn more.

AI metrics in the Premium Capacity Metrics app

We released a new version of the Power BI Capacity Metrics app to include new AI metrics that provide details on the health of your AI workloads within your capacity. The latest version ( of the app also has an AI summary dashboard to show you a seven-day summary of all the capacities that you are an admin for. Check it out for yourself by installing the app or learn more about the latest update here.

June update for on-premises gateway

We also updated the Power BI On-premises data gateway for the month of June. Version 3000.6.204 has a new mashup engine, performance profiling based on gateway CPU, SAP Common Crypto library support for SAP BW Application Server Kerberos based SSO, and other small tweaks to keep your datasets up to date. Learn more about the updates in our release blog.

General Availability of Power BI template apps

In February, we announced a public preview of template apps. These apps are integrated packages of pre-built Power BI dashboards and reports, configured to connect to specific data sources. With them, Microsoft partners can quickly access analytics for the apps and services they provide. Partners can also manage the template apps development lifecycle, from development to marketplace to updates. In June, we made template apps generally available by iterating on the feature based on people’s feedback.

Power BI mobile

General availability of Paginated Reports in Power BI

We also announced the general availability of paginated reports. Based on the technology used in SQL Server Reporting Services, paginated reports bring a new set of enterprise reporting capabilities to the Power BI service. It enables developers and BI professionals to create and distribute highly formatted, pixel-perfect reports right alongside their interactive Power BI content, becoming the first cloud BI solution that combines the power of self-service BI with the needs and capabilities of traditional Enterprise BI scenarios.

Power BI mobile

Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) for Power BI Premium (Preview)

Power BI encrypts data at rest for all customers. However, for organizations requiring additional control over how their data is encrypted, we announced Bring Your Own Key (BYOK). This feature allows organizations to configure Power BI to use their own keys, stored in Azure Key Vaults, for data-at-rest encryption instead of Microsoft managed keys. BYOK encryption applies to Power BI Premium capacities only, and organizations can choose to associate different capacities with different keys and/or different key vaults.

Viewer role for the new Power BI workspace experience

We super-charged the new workspaces experience in Power BI by introducing viewer role. Now you can grant read-only access to users within workspaces. The viewer’s role requires a Pro license or for the content to be in Power  BI Premium. If your workspace is in Premium, users with a viewer role who don’t have a Pro license can view the workspace in the workspaces list, navigate to the workspace, and view the content without getting a Pro Trial prompt.

Power BI mobile

Updates to the Power BI mobile apps

There were multiple updates that went out in June for mobile apps on various platforms. Heres a quick summary:

  • Barcode scanning in Android – We updated the Power BI mobile app on Android (phone and tablet) to scan barcodes printed on products or shelves at your store to display related Power BI reports filtered by the scanned value. More about filtering your data with barcodes.
  • Support for PBIX reports hosted in PBI-RS over ADFS configuration (iOS & Android) – We added support for Power BI reports (PBIX) hosted in PBI-RS over ADFS configuration in iOS and Android apps
  • Siri shortcuts support (iOS) – We updated the iOS Power BI app to allow users to create Siri shortcuts to their Power BI reports and dashboards, that can be accessed via voice later.
  • Device-level search (iOS) – We added the ability for you to search for Power BI content within iPhones and iPads that matches the search criteria.
  • Protect Power BI with device Biometric ID – We doubled down security by providing iOS app users (or admins) with the ability to configure the Power BI app to require Face ID, Touch ID, or passcode to view their data. Learn more.
  • Slideshow (Windows app) – Lastly, we added support for an auto-refresh for single-page reports in a slideshow. If the underline data source of your report is updated, we will pick it up and update the data on your slide automatically.

Roadmap updates

We use the Power BI section in the Business Application Release Notes to share details on what’s coming in the next three to six months.  These release notes are updated weekly with details on shipping dates, screenshots, and new announcements. Here’s what we disclosed recently:

  • A new experience for report consumption
  • New Microsoft Flow actions
  • Entity detection and OCR
  • Data lineage capabilities

Resource Credit | Microsoft Power BI

11 Important KPIs for a Highly Effective HR Manager


As the competition grows, workplaces around the world are facing pressure to attract, engage, and retain employees. Under the scrutiny to demonstrate the value they add to a company’s strategy, many human resources (HR) departments are turning to analytics supported by key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics.

Assessing HR Goals

HR managers are responsible for balancing the needs and goals of both the company and the workforce. From talent acquisition to performance management, there are a number of goals that an HR manager needs to prioritize every year that align with the organization’s overall business objectives.

Here are some specific S.M.A.R.T goals a typical HR manager would be working towards;

  1. Hire 20 new employees this year to grow the company’s headcount by 5%
  2. To create an engaging work environment and reduce turnover by advancing professional development and implementing a referral program
  3. To improve employee performance and productivity by 10%

Once you have clearly identified goals, it’s time to start thinking about the measurable values that you will use to track and determine your progress towards achieving them.

11 HR KPIs and Metrics to Monitor

In today’s data-driven world, the role of HR is changing from an administrative and operational function to a more strategic and advisory one. HR managers are using supportive data quantifiable measurements, like KPIs and metrics, to back up their employee hiring and retention related decisions.

To measure the effectiveness of your HR department, not all KPIs are relevant. You can come with KPIs for everything from compensation and culture to employment and performance – but you don’t want to measure them all. Not only is it extremely time consuming, but it’s also an inefficient use of your time. Once you have selected the KPIs that align with that your department plans to achieve this quarter or year, you can place them in a KPI dashboard for a quick snapshot of how you are performing.

Using the examples developed in the previous section, here are 3-4 corresponding KPIs that an HR manager could use in an operational dashboard to monitor progress.

  1. Hire 20 new employees this year to grow the company’s headcount by 5%
    • Cost per Hire: Shows the number of resources invested in acquiring talent
    • Recruiting Conversion Rate: Helps identify the best recruitment method
    • Open Job Requisitions: Shows how many jobs are currently open
    • Job Offer Acceptance Rate: Shows how many job offers have been accepted (working towards your 20 job goal)

2. To create an engaging work environment and reduce turnover by advancing professional development and implementing a referral program

    • Absenteeism Rate: Shows the amount of labor and productivity lost due to sickness or leave
    • Turnover Rate: Indicates the success of retention efforts
    • Employee Satisfaction Score: Using a company-wide survey, this is a key metric for understanding talent retention
    • Net Promoter Score: Measures how likely an employee is to recommend the company to their network

3. To improve employee performance and productivity by 10%

    • Performance Rating: Rating is achieved through internal performance reviews
    • Employee Productivity Rate: Helps to measure workforce efficiency over time
    • Average Time to Achieve Goals: Quantifies how effective your employees are at meeting the goals they set each year

One of the biggest challenges with developing goals and KPIs is making them relatable and realistic. That’s why it’s important to include your employees and managers in these bigger discussions. When employees are engaged and understand how their work relates to the company’s overarching goals, they will be more committed to using and optimizing analytics.

Start Building your HR KPI Dashboard

Now that you have established your HR goals for the year and the KPIs and metrics you plan to use to track progress, you can start creating your KPI dashboards. To make your dashboards super effective and useful for your role and department, we have a few tips to share on building your dashboards that we wrote about in a previous post. Included in the post are 10 best practices and some advice on business intelligence solutions designed for Microsoft Dynamics that will help you get started quickly.

Resource Credit | Jet Global 

Allonline365 Newsletter

* indicates required
Business Software News
Call Now Button