Lessons in entrepreneurial thinking from the US business using 3D scanners to shake up men’s fashion.
Shoppers at Alton Lane first sip on a scotch or a beer while relaxing on a leather couch. It’s all part of the experience, which combines old fashioned service with cutting edge technology, as the business uses 3D scanners to make suits that really are made to measure.
Like Australia’s own Shoes of Prey, Alton Lane is one of a growing cohort of businesses using tech to deliver a new take on an industry that has been around for centuries. Made to measure clothing is not new in the rag trade, but using a 3D scanner to deliver it is, and technology is just one of the differences in Alton Lane’s approach.
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The business was founded by college best friends Peyton Jenkins and Colin Hunter. While there are only six Alton Lane stores so far, Jenkins and Hunter have big ambitions for their business. At the recent Netsuite SuiteWorld conference in San Jose they shared their tips for shaking up an industry.
1. Question everything
Hunter says the Alton Lane team is “trying to rethink the fashion industry from every angle”. For Alton Lane that started with looking at the product then going to the supply chain and asking how to have a more unique individualised supply chain. Next Alton Lane looked at the shopping experience and how to rethink that experience.
“The menswear industry is this massive multi-billion dollar industry but most men hate to shop,” Hunter says.
“We are trying to redefine shopping. Our experience of doing that is one on one for every single customer.”
2. Look to trends: in fashion, it’s hyper personalisation
“The future of fashion is hyper personalisation,” Hunter says. “To be hyper personalised you have to have a dramatically different experience for the customer.”
Alton Lane does this by setting out its stores to look like “your buddy’s bachelor pad” but using “amazing technology” to deliver a more personalised experience and better fit.
When training staff, Jenkins says success in service is when customers are on their way home and “want to go in and get a drink” at Alton Lane with no expectation of purchase.
3D scanners are used to determine customers’ precise measurements.
3. Take advantage of being small
Jenkins says small businesses have advantages over big business as they can move quickly on trends such as that of hyper personalisation.
“All the big brands know it but they can’t adapt,” he says. “They’re too big. Their cruise boat can turn around but it takes a long time.”
Jenkins says Alton Lane wants to focus on the individual every single time and in order to meet that aim the business has to scale in a manner that allows this.
4. Learn from your mistakes
“Good service is hard and excellent service every time is nearly impossible,” Jenkins says. “But that’s what we strive for and we’re not perfect.”
Jenkins says when they make mistakes at Alton Lane, they try to look at it as an opportunity rather than a roadblock to success.
“It’s an incredible learning experience to say ‘I’m sorry’ and then to deepen that relationship,” he says.
5. Stay nimble
“What’s important is that we are always able to stay nimble and adapt to our consumer,” Hunter says. “When we looked at the actual industry, we thought that it was all about the ego of the designer not the needs of the consumer.”
Hunter says the needs of the consumer are constantly changing, and so as technology changes and customer expectations change, businesses need to change with it.
“From an experience standpoint, we are working on some really cool channels for customers to engage with our product and to get measured and get the experience,” Hunter says.
To improve its products Alton Lane is asking its customers ‘What are the products that you want?’, ‘What are your pain points?’ and ‘What do you need?’ “It no longer becomes about us but it becomes about delivering for our customer in a new way,” Hunter says.
“We need to stay nimble enough to adapt very quickly to this ever adapting world.”