The pandemic has accelerated how much businesses use technology within their customer supply chain, internal operations and digitally enabled products in their portfolios by 4-7 years (McKinsey, 2020). In the fashion industry, this is also apparent with brands finding new ways to use technology, to provide consumers with unique experiences. This entices back consumers who are now looking for more digital interactions. Online sales have been booming for apparel; however, this does not mean that the traditional brick-and-mortar shopfront will disappear, but more that brands will need to integrate digitally and physically (Business of Fashion, 2021).
Live-commerce & Live streaming
What comes to your mind when you think of live commerce and live streaming? Most likely not the fashion industry, however, in 2018, the live-stream video shopping market was worth £3.35 billion and only continues to grow (Vouge Business 2020). Live commerce is when a host showcases products through a live stream on social media or a different platform, where viewers can instantly purchase goods. The concept is very similar to Teleshopping channels, and how they sell goods live. Live commerce is well established in China and according to a 2020 survey, two-thirds of Chinese consumers said they had bought products via live stream in the past year (McKinsey, 2021). Live-commerce brings the entertainment factor by brands showing off products, but also creates a sense of urgency for buyers to purchase as there are many others watching at the same time who are also interested in the product(s).
Brands are also using live streaming in other ways including Burberry, who live-streamed their Spring/Summer 2021 fashion show providing customers with an immersive and interactive experience. Following this, we saw the first completely digital London Fashion Week which featured a series of films, live-streamed shows, and one-on-one Zoom appointments with designers (Petter, 2021).
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Some other examples of live streaming in the fashion industry come from Moda Operandi who have integrated video streaming into their operations in the form of MODA LIVE, their new series of exclusive live-streamed shopping events. Gucci have also started to delve into the world of live streaming, focusing on providing great customer experiences with a one-on-one real-time service to connect shoppers with Gucci associates. (Vogue Business, 2020)
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines that mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. You may already be familiar with some AI technology that the fashion industry uses, such as chatbots to assist with queries, visual detection to recommend similar alternatives for products and ‘complete the look’ recommendations. However, it can be used throughout all areas of the fashion industry from design to competitor analysis.
AI can greatly help in the design process, by tracking elements such as colour and fabric along with their past retail performance and future performance indicators to aid product development. An example of a company using this technology is Stitch Fix; producing “Hybrid Design” garments which are created using algorithms that identify trends and styles based on consumers’ favourite colours, patterns, and textiles, which are then approved by human designers (Research Briefs, 2021).
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AI is also used within the industry to analyse past and future trends to create new designs complete with sewing patterns which can be sent straight to manufacturers. AI is able to monitor competitor pricing to recommend price points, gaining a competitive advantage, and in turn, improving revenue. AI is also used in the supply chain to improve efficiency, agility and sustainability (Intelistyle, 2021).
Virtual and Augmented Reality
The use of VR and augmented reality has increased in the fashion industry in the form of not only being able to virtually try on outfits but also through the creation of virtual spaces and the use of 3D rendering techniques. These shopping experiences engage and retain the customer's longer (Kochar, 2021).
BrandLab360 is an innovative digital software solution designed to streamline meeting, trading and press appointments, offering bespoke virtual reality environments and an immersive digital platform to host events and live appointments. Using our ground-breaking CGI and 3D rendering techniques, we can replicate your current physical environment or build a brand-new bespoke brand experience.
BrandLab360 are creative in their approach; providing virtual press days, individual virtual brand stores, virtual marketplaces, as well as being the creators of robust 360° imagery and catwalk videos that can be incorporated into virtual environments.
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Digital clothing has grown recently with Louis Vuitton designing “skins” for League of Legends characters and Drest sold digitised versions of Farfetch inventory. Ralph Lauren recently collaborated with Bitmoji, where customers can create their own Bitmoji look with the new Polo Ralph Lauren pieces (Kochar, 2021).
In terms of augmented reality, a brand called Maggy London worked with Code & Craft to create an AR catalogue for mobile, where 3D scanning with Apple‘s ARKit allowed users to hold a mobile phone up to items in the catalogue and view them as realistic, virtual 3D products. (Research Briefs, 2021).
The pandemic has changed the way the fashion industry is using technology, and these are just a few ways brands have started pushing the boundaries.
McKinsey, 2020: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/how-covid-19-has-pushed-companies-over-the-technology-tipping-point-and-transformed-business-forever
Vouge Business, 2020: https://www.voguebusiness.com/technology/live-streaming-luxurys-new-tech-gamble
Intelistyle, 2021: https://www.intelistyle.com/ai-fashion-retail-applications/
Burgees, 2021: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/ai-personalised-shopping
Research Briefs, 2021: https://www.cbinsights.com/research/fashion-tech-future-trends/
BrandLab360, 2021: https://www.brandlab-360.com/about