Although fashion and technology are often perceived as entirely distinct fields, the two have always intersected — generally to the betterment of both industries.
Take today’s ultimate staple for example: blue jeans. Originally manufactured for cowboys, miners and factory workers in the mid 1800s, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Rebel Without a Cause and its star James Dean sparked their popularity and widespread adoption — a perfect example of the influential scope that technology and fashion industry possess when they converge.
In recent years, technology has been dabbling in the fashion industry. With the shift from brick-and-mortar retail shopping, technology’s impact has been difficult to ignore – especially with e-commerce in full force.
As in all sectors, tech is revolutionizing how businesses operate, with the use of data analytics, artificial intelligence, virtual technology and so on -leading to streamlined and efficient processes. In light of these technologies, the retail sector is growing as well as the need for retailers to adapt to the new landscape and embrace the turning point of the fashion industry So, which technologies are making the biggest impact in the fashion industry?
This era of connectivity has introduced a sleeker form of shopping through mobile commerce. Armed with our smartphones, now not only can we shop online but, have easy payment experiences with digital wallet options such as Apple and Android Pay.In fact, BigCommerce found that two out of three millennials prefer to shop online rather than go to a physical store.
There are three main ways to capture consumer attention :
These are the text-message style pop-ups that anyone who downloads an app can opt in to receive. With email open-rates steadily declining, the push notification is an appealing new marketing channel for fashion brands that attracts people ! Usually, consumers accept push notifications: about 90% of downloaders will opt in to receive these messages.
This is when your phone knows exactly where you are, so that apps can send you location-specific deals, invitations and promotions. For fashion brands, it is an outstanding tool to link the dots and combine personalized online and offline experience.
This is where retailers can leverage on customers who have downloaded their app, and capitalize on the social web, by linking up with customer’s Facebook account, to show them what products their friends have liked, or by keeping track of what products they browse and offering them special discounts.For fashion brands, there is no doubt that mobile is going to continue to play a critical role. Recent studies have shown that people who are 25-34 year olds prefer to purchase products via mobile app. What is more, a survey by the Luxury Institute showed that 67% of wealthy smartphone users regular shop on their devices.
This newer method of shopping makes buying on the go easy and simple with just the click of a button. Take for example Instagram’s shopping feature. Now customers can enjoy a seamless mobile-friendly shopping experience by clicking on the item they like and be redirected to the product page – effectively reducing search time. Businesses can provide their customers with a simple way to discover products and shop, all through their handy smartphones.
Fashion Industry Leads M-Commerce Worldwide with 33% of purchases in the sector now deriving from mobile. In the UK the figure reaches almost half (49%) – the highest rate among markets featured in the report, with Japan (46%), Netherlands (40%), USA (37%) Germany (36%) and Spain ( 29%)
Internet of things (IoT)
One of the biggest opportunities reaching the retail industry is the introduction of IoT. This technology mechanizes our world by letting us interact with everyday objects through the internet.
What is the Internet of Things?
At Wired.com, the term IoT is described as something that encompasses everything connected to the internet, but it is increasingly being used to define objects that “talk” to each other. “Simply, the Internet of Things is made up of devices – from simple sensors to smartphones and wearables – connected together,” Matthew Evans, the IoT programme head at techUK, says. By combining these connected devices with automated systems, it is possible to “gather information, analyse it and create an action” to help someone with a particular task, or learn from a process. In reality, this ranges from smart mirrors to beacons in shops and beyond (Feb 2018. Wired Explain by Matt Burgess).
For fashion, this means a drastic change is emerging. A recent Retail Vision Studyreport stated that 70% of retail decision makers globally are ready to adopt the Internet of Things to improve customer experiences. Apparel items will have digital capabilities that open communication between retailer and customer – such as OMsignal, for example, is a next generation thread that’s woven into garments and has the ability to track your heart, breathing rate, count your steps and calories burned.
As technology presses onward, each successive generation of computing becomes more personal, and wearable technology like the Apple Watch seems to be the next logical step.
That said, plenty of devices, past and present, are riddled with a nerdy stigma (cellphone belt clips, bluetooth earpieces anyone?). If technology is going to be attached to you, you don’t want to look like a cyborg.
This example and other IoT apparel, interact with the user to collect data that helps retailers understand needs and concerns, and implement it to create a more personalized experience.
Big data is the buzzword sweeping most industries in the business world – and the fashion industry is no stranger to this. In fact, retailers have started jumping onto the digitalization bandwagon and are using these machines to their advantage.
As of now, social media is the ruler of the web – and is providing customers with the platform to mend and shape trends. But, what most customers don’t realize, is that they are also providing brands with a goldmine of data that can be used to predict trends and significantly reduce the gap between what is being produced, and sold.
A number of fashion brands already use machine learning to enhance predictions and improve the search functionality on their sites. Whether this intelligence is built in-house or facilitated by a third-party, it involves training algorithms to predict shopper behaviour with a high level of accuracy based on its understanding of a set of largely consistent and recurring parameters. As more and more sites focus on the need to be super efficient in fetching products, recommending suitable alternatives, and improving the overall shopping experience, customers are almost tuned to expect this to be the default setting.
While 1:1 personalization might not be feasible unless you have years worth of data for each customer, there are a number of factors that are sureshot indicators of a customer’s preferences. Factors such as the number of visits to a website, type of device used for purchase, or geographical location are largely permanent characteristics of a shopper that help brands in gauging their preferences and accordingly tailoring experiences on the site.
Mobile and e-commerce technologies brought about the first wave of transformations for the fashion industry. Now, we can look ahead to the next possibilities for retail, more specifically virtual reality technology.
These days, on their mobiles customers can easily browse through the various items and with one click, purchase. However, there have been many occasions where brands have suffered the backlash from customers who received items that didn’t match their online equivalents or simply didn’t meet expectations.
But, new VR platforms are arising that are changing the game by merging the physical and online worlds of retail.. For example, try-on avatars are becoming a big hit in the fashion industry. Apps such as DressingRoom are using augmented reality technology to enable shoppers to try outfits on an avatar – customized to the correct measurements – before purchasing an item. These platforms, change the online shopping experience for the better, as avatars and virtual platforms engage and retain the customers for longer. Now, customers can physically see the product on themselves or in the intended space before purchasing.
In the future, a trend will influence the virtual world more than one can perceive here at this point in time. As per DigiCapital, augmented reality and virtual reality products would generate 120 billion in revenue at the end of 2020. On the other hand, Greg Jones, the director of AR and VR at Google opined that the role of augmented reality is set to be transformative. Moreover, he also added a further note that the case would be same when applied to the fashion retail industry.
Over time, these platforms provide added value to the retailer, as brands can gain valuable insights through regular customer use, which can be leveraged to provide customers with a more personalized experience.
For instance, to attract customers, Zara has planned to integrate AR into its chains. Quite phenomenally, the retailer would bring this technology to more than 130 locations across the world. With the help of AR, Zara would be able to depict models sporting the latest apparels to its customers when they place their smartphones near the sensor located in the store.
At the Paris Fashion Show, AR was used to organize a fashion show. It allowed the spectators to scan models by using a smartphone application that has the ability to reveal hidden images. Quite interestingly, AR can be used to solve one of the fashion industry’s most significant problems: how to show the consumer what the clothing would look like on them. This problem assumes seriousness when you are an online fashion e-commerce brand.