Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Nate Fleming, chief marketing officer at supply chain management platform Bamboo Rose, speaks about data-driven decision-making and the growing need for environmental responsibility.
Name: Nate Fleming
Title: Chief marketing officer
Company: Bamboo Rose
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
Discrete manufacturers have made exciting inroads toward integrating 3D design, development, manufacturing and supply chain management into a more connected process. This has allowed them to simplify and accelerate incredibly complex design and development cycles. Food companies have also driven some notable innovation around traceability at the product and ingredient level. Both themes will be very important for the apparel industry moving forward.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I’m curious about the products I buy. I want to know the product’s history, where it comes from, how it was produced. I prefer if the brand plays a role in a subculture or has a broader perspective on the world. I’ve also always bought used clothing and have been spending too much time on eBay during the pandemic.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
I think it’s a mix of easy and responsive customer service and adding value beyond just the product you’re purchasing. Again, I like to buy from companies that are telling a broader story or offer a degree of functionality for certain activities or hobbies. It helps if they have an interesting store strategy or hold pop-up events with collaborators in different spaces like restaurants. Most importantly, I want the products to last a long time and evolve with age.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
A pair of simple sneakers or penny loafers. Jeans and a sweater.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
We stayed focus on our platform and customers over the last 12 months. We quickly realized the pandemic offered an opportunity for innovation and change in our industry, and we created pods of cross-functional teams to try to catalyze that innovation in product, customer success, marketing and R&D.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Bamboo Rose has a culture that’s a mix of intelligence and lightheartedness. Our company meetings can go a bit off the rails if someone cracks a joke, but we’re laser-focused on how we can apply emerging technology to our clients’ business challenges.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
I think the biggest lesson is that it’s so important to have a single source of truth amidst instability. Our clients told us that our platform allowed them to make strategic decisions in three to five days that were on their three- to five-year roadmap. This was only possible because they had confidence in their data and were able to work closely with their product and supply chain partners on our platform.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
I think sustainability should be a top priority right now. With all the change that has happened over the last year, it’s a perfect time to integrate sustainability into all facets of your products, operations and business partner communities. We’re already hearing about a lot of impending regulations in the works across geographies that will make many of these initiatives table stakes requirements over the next few years.
What keeps you up at night?
The pandemic changed a lot about our marketing strategy. We had to make some tough decisions over the last 12 months, and the success or failure of those decisions will hinge on how much the business world has changed, and whether those changes will be permanent.
Also, did I remember to lock the back door?
What makes you most optimistic?
I think there are a lot of massive retailers and brands, many of whom are Bamboo Rose clients, that are taking real, tangible steps to lessen the environmental impact of their products and operations. It’s exciting to see executives and boards take responsibility for initiatives that often extend beyond their bottom line, but I also think these decisions will define their long-term success.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
We’ve created some exciting data intelligence functionality around supplier recommendations and product costing. These new capabilities help our clients accelerate time to market and improve margins, but clients can also factor in emerging requirements around environmental, social and governance initiatives. We’re also a Microsoft partner, and we’re starting to extend some of their cloud technologies to our platform and client base.