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, Scott Gravelle, founder, CEO and chief technology officer at robotics supply chain company Attabotics, shares how fashion brands can better harness data and why he never returns online purchases.
Name: Scott Gravelle
Title: founder, CEO and chief technology officer
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
That is a tough question. There are good pieces of lots of supply chains, but what we have seen is that most of them cannot react as quickly as they need to if there is a massive shift. Most supply chains have not even adapted to the massive changes in consumer behavior—for example, fast shipping, vast inventory, seamless returns—and now COVID-19 is dramatically highlighting those inefficiencies.
Apparel will need to embrace and share technology and data seamlessly to help eliminate waste from single-source supply chains by creating a supply chain that is not speculative but a supply chain that is reactive.
Do you consider yourself a typical consumer?
What is a typical consumer? That is the million-dollar question. I do not think a typical consumer exists; consumers have so many options on how to engage that there is nothing typical anymore.
Historically, a typical consumer was the person who went to the store to purchase an item, then went home. Now, you can buy online and pick up in-store, shop in-store and get it delivered, or buy on a website, etc. There are many options, and retailers need to start accommodating the individuality of the consumer.
Do I buy things online? Yes, but I have never returned anything that I have purchased online because I do a ton of research rather than having a “try and see” mentality.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
Have what I want. I would prefer companies to understand what I want better than I do. When using data science, tracking, and AI, retailers can make better decisions while monitoring my actual consumer behavior to make recommendations of what I should buy next.
What’s your typical uniform?
[In] wintertime, jeans and a black T-shirt, maybe long sleeves. [In] summertime, shorts and a black T-shirt.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
Right now. The thing that I like about right now is that there is more flexibility and individuality in fashion. There isn’t a work uniform or a set of expectations that you need to look a certain way to fit in, and there is more of an opportunity to be comfortable in your own fashion.
Who’s your style icon?
Henry Rollins—he just does not care. He has never been judged by how he dressed; he has been judged by the quality of ideas that come out of his mouth.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
To listen and not believe that we had all the answers. We have allowed our conversations with our customers and our partners to drive the direction of our product, actually listening to them and building what we hear they need and what will solve their problems.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Our culture has a focus on empowering our people. We hire adults, and we trust them to act like it.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Apparel can start using technology and data to curate products across a more specific subset of customer bases, and brands will be able to create more tailored products with a better understanding of their customer. Their supply chain has to be able to produce efficiently in smaller batches, react quicker to customer trends, and allow a variety of types and levels of customer engagement.
What keeps you up at night?
Right now, it is making sure that the decisions we are making as an organization are—to use a Canadian analogy—going to where the puck is going to be, instead of just chasing it. Can we continue to develop our product to meet the market where it needs us to meet it? With COVID-19, everything we thought we knew is either being accelerated or changing. I believe that being a lean and forward-thinking organization that was already developing technology for the future, we have a better opportunity than others.
What makes you most optimistic?
The massive transition in consumer behavior towards online purchasing is validating the hard work that we have been doing.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
We created Attabotics to provide brands and retailers with the tools they need to compete and be successful in modern commerce. We know that micro-fulfillment is the future and believe that we have the best tech for it, but micro-fulfillment isn’t a standalone solution. It needs to be part of an optimized multi-tenancy network utilizing cloud, AI, and a distributed shared infrastructure to get the right goods in the right market to the right people at the lowest cost in the shortest amount of time.