The Future of Fashion Retail
About 70% of those surveyed by BoF consider the introduction of AI in 2019-2020 the key to the success of their companies. Adapting to the realities of the digital world is one of the main challenges for the fashion industry. Founder of Fashion Politique Ltd. (fashionpolitique.com), FP PR&Media (www.fp-pr.com), Editor-in-Chief of F'OLITIQUE magazine, Founder Institute USA mentor, and Vogue UA Conference scout Anna la Germaine told about the main technological trends that will affect the fashion business in 2020.
When the American comedy Clueless about the wardrobe of the Alicia Silverstone’s character came out in 1995, one could only dream of a special program that helped manage outfits and make selections of the best looks for going to school. It was especially impressive that the computer could tell if any of the things did not go well together at all. After 24 years, all this came into reality. The technology is based on a combination of augmented reality, voice control system and artificial intelligence (AI).
The development and progress of these technologies will be happening especially after the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 when the world faces the problem and has to reshape business models and adapt to the new rules fast.
Fashion Politique has been focused on adapting the latest technologies within fashion and, in some ways, has been predicting the future since 2010. Fashion Politique's first project was one of the first-ever digital magazines, F'OLITIQUE, that also focused on emerging talents and latest technologies when all major publications were just thinking of launching digital editions. Thanks to F’OLITIQUE Magazine, while talking to various designers in different countries Fashion Politique started working on the development of Allée Germaine marketplace, where emerging talents would be able to sell directly to both consumers and buyers. At this point, Allée Germaine is relaunching its website, where an AI-based virtual stylist was implemented to help customers create their looks.
The company aims to pay a lot of attention to sustainability; therefore, it negotiates with brands using 3D technologies and allowing customers to pre-order items from the upcoming collections. More innovative technologies will be implemented and announced in the near future. Besides the digital magazine and a marketplace, Fashion Politique operates FP PR&Media, a full scope PR and production agency. Since 2019, FP has been working on the development of URGENT PR, an automated PR service, which will help companies with small PR & marketing budgets to get noticed by celebrity stylists, international editors, influencers and also buyers. URGENT PR is extremely relevant nowadays, especially taking into consideration the impact of COVID-19 on the businesses. Back in 2011, Fashion Politique has also launched a project Virtual Fashion Week, primarily aiming to support young talents who had no budget to participate in top Fashion Weeks. This project appears to be extremely relevant nowadays, not just for emerging talents, but also for top brands (using 3D technologies and creating videos, or using regular video production technologies with real models, garments, and environment).
Companies will be focusing more on digital technologies and ways of doing business online more than ever before. Therefore, we would like to take a glimpse of how our future will look like.
Today's smart mirrors are so clever they have access to the databases of global fashion retailers, which means they will help not only to choose new outfits, but also to take measurements first, choose the right size, help the clients see themselves in the chosen clothes, and order everything online.
The mirrors of the future will be able to play the role of a personal stylist, selecting outfits based on the user's needs, for a business meeting or a cocktail party. If, in addition to such a mirror, you have a pair of VR glasses, you can also try on the outfit and wear it in the virtual world to get a look of yourself.
“It may seem to many that this is about a very distant future, but I’m sure that such progress will happen much earlier than we think,” says Antonin Girardi, creative director of Michael Kors Jewelry. Anna la Germaine is confident that smart mirrors will become a kind of home department store, which makes a purchase decision possible without the customer leaving the house, while the shopping experience will be much better than at ordinary e-commerce sites.
Personal AI stylist
Personalization has been one of the most important trends in recent years. Companies are trying to provide their customers with a unique experience. When shopping online, users see recommended items that they might like. Previously, such suggestions and filters were manually set by employees of the e-commerce site. Therefore, we often see similar recommendations for everyone. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be the key to mass personalization. Machine learning expert and entrepreneur Prashant Nandavanam claims: “Artificial intelligence will change brands' approach to design, production, and sales. They will be able to predict what consumers will want in the future, and this is a real revolution in working with customers.”
Thanks to AI, recommendation systems will become as personalization-oriented as possible so that each client can find what they really need based on their preferences. Such a system would be especially beneficial for small and new brands, which might not be noticed by stylists immediately but would quickly end up on Pinterest and other platforms' recommendation lists.
However, you should not bid farewell to the profession of stylists, as robots and computers are unlikely to be able to replace such specialists completely. Star stylist Arnold Milford is sure: “Social media has changed everything: the world is losing touch with humanity. Modern technologies, such as smart mirrors, are designed to reduce contact with other people and the world. I don't like this approach because often when choosing clothes, we lack a sincere opinion from the outside. In addition, many continue to shop at physical stores, specifically because they can see and feel the fabric. Applications and modern technology are not yet able to compensate for this.” Unfortunately, after the COVID-19 outbreak, humanity has to be able to adapt and use digital technologies as a primary shopping source.
This is what really makes our lives easier. The benefits of voice dialing messages and voice commands, from ordering food and tickets to listening to music and even jokes, have already been appreciated by everyone (admit it, you've also heard Siri's favorite joke “Two iPhones walk into the bar”).
Today, voice assistants have already gone beyond conventional smartphones and are present in cars, smart homes, education, and, of course, retail. The market for speech recognition systems is expected to increase by 35% by 2024. With the growing popularity of Amazon Echo and Google Home devices, ordering through voice commands will be the next preferred shopping channel. While some say no one will buy clothes or cosmetics in such a way, the OC&C Strategy Consultants report claims that by 2022, the profit from voice purchases will reach 40 billion US dollars in the United States.
It is hard to call the technologies of virtual and augmented reality innovative in 2020. While their potential for use in life and business is discussed at all technological conferences, the fashion industry is already confidently taking its first steps with these. Virtual and augmented reality, of course, are becoming a powerful channel of interaction between the brand and consumer, just like social networks and mobile phones. Dior and Tommy Hilfiger already experimented with VR glasses in stores, which allow customers to see the current collection at the fashion show. Lacoste created the LCST Lacoste AR mobile app, with the help of which you can try on shoes in virtual reality, and, while in the shop, bring the store windows to life and get additional discounts. There are many such examples, but the main aspect of the process of mass adaptation of VR/AR is the speed with which users will get used to downloading such applications and feel comfortable with using VR glasses. Some successful cases have already been witnessed in the beauty industry with L’Oréal Paris’s MakeupGenius app. It allows trying on makeup and was downloaded by more than a million users on Google Play last year.
There are also shoppable videos: movies, virtual fashion shows, etc (e.g. - a movie character wears a dress that you really like, you can click on that dress while watching the movie and get an option to purchase it).