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Your special makeup business can be improved.


The special makeup (SMU) business is a potential profit machine for any brand. Retail partners pre-commit to the purchase, so they assume all the inventory risk of the product. But instead of being a fast-flowing river of value and profits, the SMU function is typically a brackish backwater of manual processes, late deliveries, and frustration.

What should be a smooth, collaborative process of design and development is all too often a nightmarish slog of rework for both the brand and the customer. Time-consuming changes in colors, fabrics, styling, and trims slow down the SMU process and jeopardize on-time delivery. That’s not only irritating, it risks causing the customer to miss a brief trend, or in the worst case, even a whole season of profitable selling. The delays erode profits and customer goodwill like rust on iron. The good news is, there is a solution!

The current state is painfully slow.

The SMU process at most companies involves a repetitive – and manual – back-and-forth between the brand and the retailer. At its most basic level, it looks like this:

  1. Retailer emails request to the brand.
  2. SMU manager designs it in a CAD program (or makes a 3D printed model) and emails it back.
  3. Retailer reviews CAD/model and sends feedback. 
  4. SMU manager reworks CAD/model and emails it back. 
  5. Rinse and repeat, until the retailer is satisfied – which could take four or five rounds. 
  6. SMU manager emails the specs to the factory.
  7. Factory makes a sample, and ships to the retailer.
  8. Retailer reviews sample, and either approves it or requests changes, in which case the process restarts with step 1. 

Here’s the problem: with the manual approach at most companies, there’s lost time at every step of the process. After each email, there’s a delay. Sometimes the SMU manager doesn’t get to the email as soon as it arrives, and it sits in an inbox for a day. Or the retailer can’t get all the people in the room to evaluate the CADs for a day or two (or even more). If the factory is in Asia, there’s typically a day lost between sending the specs and starting sample production. And these delays are compounded when there are multiple rounds of changes – which there almost always are for an SMU.

The total design and development process time might be just a few hours, but with the manual back-and-forth, the total lead time could be weeks or more.  

Customization software eliminates delays, streamlines the process.

Customization and personalization software is the antidote to this problem. 

Typically, brands use this software for direct-to-consumer sales. But it can just as easily be used for retailer SMUs. The configuration software allows the retailer to design the product on the fly and see the changes without needing the brand’s SMU manager to act as an intermediary. It completely eliminates the time lost to waiting at each step. And the high quality of the rendering reduces the number of iterations, because the retailer can better visualize what the product will look like.

Brands can save even more time (if they choose) by connecting the software to the factory’s sample room. Front-end configuration software that incorporates an order management module enables the retailer’s sample orders to be placed with minimal delays. The lead time for the SMU shrinks and comes closer to the actual process time for the product. 

No product is ever right the first time – there’s always going to be a certain amount of iteration and rework. But customization software can eliminate the temporal friction that causes production delays, reduces profits, and strains business partnerships.

Want to learn more? Please contact us. We are here to help!