The trend away from traditional brick-and-mortar retail and towards e-commerce has long been clear and pronounced enough for “retail apocalypse” to become part of the popular nomenclature. When Covid-19 added more fuel to this fire, that trend kicked into hyperdrive, and we saw a clear distinction between our e-commerce-based customers and those who are not reliant on e-commerce: the former saw their sales grow significantly. We had customers calling us saying, “It’s like Black Friday every day.”
We expect people to return to brick-and-mortar shopping in time, but e-commerce, which is attractive because it gives consumers nearly unlimited options from the comfort of their own home or office, is here to stay.
Digital enables end-to-end benefits
Following the explosive growth in e-commerce, we are experiencing unprecedented demand for our digital solutions. If, in the past, it was mainly driven from the design and sampling side, we now see a big push from the operational side to be more efficient and more sustainable. The fashion industry has a technologically advanced design and consumer-facing front end that constantly pushes the envelope, but a lagging production and fulfillment back end that is analog and does not adapt fast enough. For years, it has been about digital samples, digital showrooms, and digital designs, but not digital production.
Digital textile printing helps these businesses solve production challenges with smart, digital solutions for on-demand manufacturing. The benefits are twofold—sustainability in every sense of the word: economically, environmentally, and socially; as well as powering consumer self-expression.
In the case of one of our customers, textile manufacturer Calvi produces approximately 100,000 T-shirts per week for brands such as Pull & Bear, Zara, and Bershka, and operates a separate eco-conscious apparel brand, Nüwa. Calvi implemented the Kornit Avalanche HD6 to produce efficient, retail-quality digital decoration on demand, all without needing to produce minimum quantities. With our digital printing solution, Calvi and Nüwa only use water-based inks in the printing process, without needing to use chemicals in their products.
Self-expression and on-demand go hand in hand
The consumer is dictating what they want today, not retailers or brands, and the trends of what they’re buying come from social media. In the U.S., a study from digital marketing agency ODM Group said that 74 percent of consumer decisions are driven and impacted by social media.
This is where on-demand comes in, which digital production serves effectively. Otherwise, brands and retailers get stuck with inventory they can’t sell and designs they can’t replenish fast enough. Covid-19 has accelerated the use of social media and, subsequently, on-demand manufacturing.
Understanding the consumer’s need for self-expression is essential, especially during these pandemic-driven times. As an example of meeting these shoppers’ needs, Spoonflower, a North Carolina-based supplier of decorated textiles serving entrepreneurs, graphic designers, and DIY artisans worldwide, doubled its production capacity when it installed four new Kornit Presto S systems for roll-to-roll, direct-to-fabric digital decoration in the spring.
Upon launching a Mask Response Project to give creators the means to design, manufacture, and distribute protective face masks to healthcare providers, community groups, and private citizens, Spoonflower saw a huge demand surge across all of its product lines.
The fashion industry overproduces, and a significant proportion of clothing is wasted because the industry produces items that are never purchased. It takes about 2.5 tons of water to make one T-shirt, and about 7.5 tons of water to make a pair of jeans. Each time an item is produced but not purchased, tons of water are wasted. Countering this impact on the environment starts with zero-water waste printing. The digital printing process is completely dry, which requires less machinery and uses less water.
It’s also eco-friendly and does not use any harmful materials, adhering to the strictest requirements, so you know the clothes and fabrics are safe.
What’s more, brands gain the most out of the digital technology when the distance between their production and the end consumer is the shortest. A short and digitized supply chain provides shortened time-to-market, and less wasteful fulfillment options. The real impact of on-demand printing and just-in-time production is the elimination of overproduction as well as unnecessary and environmentally harmful waste.
Consumers demand transparency—which digital enables
Due to COVID-19, we have seen an acceleration in the need for transparency. The end consumer wants to see where and how their clothing is made, by whom, and what’s in it. By using on-demand, zero-water waste printing, brands can confidently share more information about their production processes.
Furthermore, as brands and retailers introduce sustainable, smart, digital on-demand production into their supply chain, the biggest opportunity for them is the new vision of how to sell their products and interact with customers online: endless variety of products, delivered fast and produced ethically.
Omer Kulka is CMO of Kornit Digital. Kornit Digital develops digital textile print systems for efficient, eco-friendly, on-demand production of fashion, accessories, home textile and DIY applications. Visit Kornit.com to learn more.