NRF Big Show Series, Part 3: First Insight and Li & Fung on Getting the Right Products to Market Faster and More Sustainably

First Insight CEO Greg Petro says that early product testing can help brands understand what might have been missed in the initial design, so they can get the right product to market faster. Retailers and brands used to be able to spend 20–30 weeks developing a product before putting it on shelves to see if consumers liked it, but that doesn’t work anymore, says Sean Coxall, Li & Fung’s President of Supply Chain Solutions. “The consumer knows what they want, and the companies that don’t give that to them quickly won’t be relevant anymore,” he says. “If they don’t change, these companies will go out of business.”

Petro and Coxall sat down with host Matt Rubel at NRF 2020: Retail’s Big Show to talk about how three things consumers are demanding—differentiated products, speed to market and sustainability—are impacting the product development process.

Shoppers want unique items…

E-commerce means everyone can see the same products everywhere online, but consumers want differentiation, says Petro. Early consumer testing can unearth the kind of information that helps brands avoid missteps and create products shoppers really want. Coxall agrees, noting that consumers are not as loyal as in the past. “If they have a brand that they’re quite loyal to and you don’t have the product they want, they go somewhere else,” he says.

…and they want them fast…

To get products to market fast enough to meet consumer demand, Li & Fung is using 3D design tools to create digital garments and then collaborating with First Insight to test those designs among consumers. The process can cut months off the typical product development cycle.

…without sacrificing sustainability

Li & Fung’s development process is inherently more sustainable than traditional approaches. It eliminates the need for physical samples of garments and allows the company to gauge consumer appetite for a product (via First Insight’s testing) before manufacturing at scale. It cuts down on physical waste and resource usage while speeding time to market.

To hear the rest of Petro’s and Coxall’s insights, listen to the full episode.