As digital transformation takes shape across not just apparel, but all industries, speed to market and customization continue to become greater demands for consumers. The rise in content platforms such as Spotify and Netflix, as well as delivery services like Amazon Prime, has produced an expectation that individualized tastes need to be catered to at all times.
Omer Kulka, chief marketing officer at Kornit Digital, says that a successful on-demand production process requires three characteristics: it must be completely sustainable, flexible and presented as a standalone technology without relying on processes from third-party suppliers that are not there.
“When you think about on-demand, you need to think about very fast delivery times,” Kulka said. “When I buy online, I have a set of expectations right now that is a completely different set of expectations than it was five, seven, 10 years ago. That means that when I do on-demand, I need to produce it close to you—close to the end consumer.”
While on-demand production and digital printing provide personalization and mass customization to individual garments in a way large-scale production can’t, Kulka makes it clear that the benefits extend far beyond those use cases in helping shoppers express themselves.
“Self-expression in fashion doesn’t mean personalization,” Kulka said. “Expressing yourself is what’s important here, because this is what changed. I want to be able to wear what I want to wear right now, and what I want to buy right now, and not what’s on trend because someone else dictated that to me. When I want it, you need to produce it.”
In a recent video conversation with Sourcing Journal founder and president Edward Hertzman, Kulka said that personalization and mass customization remain important to on-demand production as more apparel businesses turn to co-creation, which he describes as “one of the best ways to create that linkage, that bond between consumers and the brands.”
This co-creation process, which brings the shopper into the design and development stages, could enable consumers to feel closer to what they wear.
Whether on-demand manufacturing is used for personalization, customization or self-expression, implementing the process is a necessity for brands, particularly as fashion buying habits have evolved both before and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The struggles to catch up to these changing habits are only magnified by the fact that the current fashion industry itself is “bipolar,” according to Kulka. While the front end of the e-commerce experience has adapted to the recent digital transformation, the back end operates largely similar to how it did 30 or 40 years ago, he said.
“The most successful brands are going to be the ones that will actually be able to balance the right categories and the right way of production,” Kulka said.
For example, he suggested that basics should still be manufactured offshore to keep costs per unit as low as possible, since they are a near-guaranteed sell. At the same time, he recommends against offshoring categories that quickly go out of style due to the risk of overproduction.
Click the image above to watch the video and discover why Kulka says the entire fashion ecosystem has completely changed, and where digital printing solutions fit into this new paradigm.