The Fashion and Apparel industry has undergone numerous evolutions throughout the ages. Nowadays, fashion drives a significant portion of the global economy, valued at more than $3 trillion, and employs over 300 million people across the world.1 According to a Shopify Industry Report, "By 2022, the global e-commerce fashion industry is projected to grow to $713 billion." The report also predicts that the "E-commerce segment of fashion and apparel will grow at a compound annual rate of 10.6% until 2022.”2
In this article, I am celebrating a long-lasting partnership between technology and fashion development and exploring how emerging technologies are changing the face of the fashion industry.
Nowadays, Fashion players are under pressure to become digital-first by leveraging new technologies. Retailers are using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and e-commerce automation tools that offer personalized customer experiences. Moreover, innovative brands will likely take share as fit technology, virtual fitting rooms, AI-powered virtual shopping assistants and virtual stylish which helps consumers tailor or select the size and look most closely aligned with their tastes.
The main question fashion competitors face in the digital age is: How be a savvy apparel company to approach customers and stay ahead of their competitors?
The answer is simply maintaining a symbiotic relationship between the Fashion and Tech Industry to build buzz, boost brand awareness, improve shopper experience and drive efficiencies, in other words, investing in technologies.
There is fierce competition in this industry making it a real challenge for these companies to stand out from others. Fashion retailers must expand their strategies to survive in this new digital world, and that expansion is dependent on providing the best experience possible for consumers. Below are examples of companies using technologies improving customer experience:
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
AR and VR are core pillars influencing fashion, but it seems that AR has so far been leading the charge. Apparel industries will use AR mirrors to try on products conveniently and customers might be able to see themselves wearing the products, which personalize some items online or buy digital versions of the clothing to dress online avatars. For example," TIMBERLAND is experimenting with virtual fitting rooms created with KINECT. Shoppers stand in front of a camera and see a virtual version of themselves on a large screen."3 In Addition to this," TOPSHOP is another apparel brand that is using KINECT to create virtual fitting rooms. They partnered with AR Door to create this experience for customers in their Moscow store."4 AMERICAN APPAREL is a clothing brand that has also equipped customers with mobile app-driven experiences. SEPHORA is my favorite cosmetic retail and e-commerce has a powerful strategy of social contact when customers try on its products. I enjoy the experience of trying new makeup to boost my looks according to my outfits, sampling fragrances via touchscreen and what I have never expected trying on makeup virtually and to elevate the experience its stores are dog-friendly. Last Saturday, I went to the Retail and Luxury Conference of Harvard Business School and Ceo of Sephora was invited as a keynote speaker and he pointed out: The future of retail is how tech fits into it and fashion goes beyond narrative.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The proliferation of AI assistants will play a significant role in intuiting what people want and influencing purchasing decisions, having a personal stylist to respond to services, many retail brands use chatbots to help customers or attendees to navigate the shopping journey and, also fashion events started using chatbots to assistant you sending you text messages giving options of parking lots, hotels, maps of the show/events where are you attending at. I have a nice experience in the COTERIE Fashion TRADESHOW in New York, I received an email which encourages me to download the app to customize the events I want to attend and include the lists of fashion brand I was interested in visiting that day, moreover, I started receiving text messages from Reggie, the friendly AI chatbot of COTERIE who assisted me with location, agenda in order to get a great experience in the event. The reason I like the most was the discount for my parking lot that day, after traveling 4 hours from Boston to New york. According to an interview with Peter Diamandis for Vogue Business article, he said “The question is, can AI ultimately become a better fashion adviser to me than any human can? I believe the answer is going to be yes because AI will know me even better than myself.”5 He continues, “But this decade is less about AI displacing humans [and] more about AI-human collaboration.”6
With smart garments, fashion becomes an interface between body, clothing, and environment, making your commuter lifestyle easier every day. Jacquard is the smart jacket made by LEVIS in collaboration with GOOGLE. This jacket answers calls, plays music, takes pictures and includes google's assistant, so commuters can be connected without being distracted. Personally, I haven't tried it on, but looking forward to walking with my dog around Jamaica pond lake on a spring morning in Boston and a levis jacket can assist me with music and google maps.
Retailers are effectively using Data
Mckinsey & Company team up Mall of America to create an innovative store called Modern Retail Collective combining technology analytics and operations for an elevated shopping experience. McKinsey & Company point out that shoppers encounter various opportunities to engage with technology –from virtually trying on products in augmented reality mirrors to scanning near field communication (NFC) tags to rapidly access product information from their phones without troublesome app downloads.7 Amazon and Alibaba are leveraging their data and platforms to deliver products consumers want at the speed of their preferences. They have a strong presence in fashion shows like the fashion week, these companies can show off products to B2B consumers, while fashion brands benefit from data and innovative toolsets. NETFLIX has a new NEXTINFASHION original series that Tv fashion hosts persuade viewers to click through to the next episode, they ask if we enjoyed and invite as to press the next episode button, a slightly call to action in my own TV. It works, I watched all the season because 2 hosts literally engage their audience talking to us and influencing me to go to the next one,
According to Shopify, "75% of consumers prefer brands to not only personalize their messaging but also personalize offers. After all, 43% of purchases are influenced by personalized recommendations and promotions".8
Thanks to improvements in technology in the supply chain and manufacturing of garments, fashion brands are more accessible to consumers around the world. Today’s shoppers want to buy more and it is not enough for them to visit stores and have websites or social media. It’s not enough to simply go digital. Surviving today’s digital evolution means transforming aspects of your fashion business to involve customers, from the development of new apparel products to the promotion of those products, throughout the entire purchase customer journey, and even beyond into loyalty programs that ensure repurchase.
There is fierce competition in this industry making it a real challenge for fashion companies to stand out from others, so they must expand their strategies to survive in this new digital world, their strategy relies on providing the best experience possible to consumers. Technology has become a key source of innovation for fashion players, and consumers increasingly demand connection with products through different platforms, which boost their shopper experience. In my opinion, fashion goes beyond designing, it is a resource to inspire others and tech has been a good partner to make your experience as a shopper could be better.
In the next article, I will write about how tech has supported the production of fashion during the last 100 years. I invite you to share this article and leave me your comments and thoughts.
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