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The fashion industry frequently reinvents itself with new collections and designs. The $1.5 trillion a year industry however has evolved a lot in the past few years, particularly through social media.
What has changed, is the way the industry leverages technology to further develop its product, its glocal reach, and to better serve its client. This article will detail what the fashion retail industry is all about, why it needs technology, and how it uses it.
The first words that might come to mind when thinking about the fashion retail industry might be, celebrity, fame, glamour, and you’d be right. The industry, however, does involve more than that, the fashion retail industry brings together the tactile, design, and merchandising industry.
The retail section of the business which we’re interested in is the section of business that acts as an intermediary between the manufacturers and customers. In simple terms, it's the business of buying from a supplier and selling it to customers for profit.
The business needs merchandisers, managers, sales assistants, and retail buyers to run smoothly, each one of these jobs makes the product advance from the manufacturer to the client in some way. The sector pays well and can be an attractive industry as you get to interact with people, either customers or manufacturers.
Working in the space however does require communication skills, product knowledge, and selling skills. As the use of technology develops in the space, however, you might find that technical knowledge is necessary. Jobs focused on tech in the fashion retail industry aren’t sales jobs that require the above skills but an understanding of the business is fundamental.
Let’s try and understand why technology is an important factor in this industry.
Brands like Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren have turned the industry on its head by launching “see now, buy now”, the goal is to provide a way for customers to instantly buy what they see on a catwalk.
The main theme behind the use of technology in the space revolves around providing the customer with a very easy and quick buying option, as well as delivering a way of previewing an outfit. The previous example is a great implementation of technology as it manages both ideas.
The main focus of the business is to make sure clients can very easily buy the clothes they want, most stores have an extremely efficient self-checkout and various online stores that allow for one-click purchases.
The retail part of the industry has one goal, make sure clients act on their impulse, when finding a product they like, clients have to give minimal effort to buy the product. This makes it easy for retailers to make sure people buy their products.
As online stores are growing in importance, people don’t have the option to try an outfit on and check whether or not it fits them. A bunch of the innovations in the fashion retail industry focuses on this aspect, providing ways for the user to try an outfit without really trying it on.
This most of the time makes use of virtual reality and projects the outfit as an image overlay. In an online store, this technology can make use of your camera to show you what you would like with the sunglasses you want to buy. The technology already exists and is being further developed to answer specific needs and use cases.
We’ll now look at the different technologies used in the industry and how they’re being used.
As in most industries, artificial intelligence is taking an important role, the aim of this technology is to make sense of the data generated by the users. What people buy, what they look at on the internet are all being analyzed by artificial intelligence to offer those clients products they might enjoy.
This technology can appear in various forms, from the mail you might receive, warning you about an incoming sale, or through the ads, you see online. Once you buy something, you might start seeing similar things on the online store of the fashion retailers you’ve just visited.
To retailers, this is a precious tool as it keeps clients engaged with their brands and very often results in much higher sales numbers.
As research in the materials department advances, new fabrics with specific properties are made. From very warm wool to water repellent coats, and materials that absorb heat to keep you cool. All these innovations are a big part of the business.
These advances in material science are what make brands stand out from the competition. As users find out about a specific patented technology that only exists in a certain store, they just might keep buying their clothes from that specific store.
The retail industry knows that and most global brands invest heavily in research to stay in front of the competition.
The use of virtual reality helps customers check what they look like with a certain product. The aim is to facilitate the decision-making process by giving clients the opportunity of virtually trying out an outfit.
Augmented reality is for example used in the mirrors of changing rooms, not to spy as there are no cameras), but to add a virtual overlay to the mirror that offers added information on the product the person is trying out. This gives the user the opportunity of asking for a different size with the push of a button but also knowing the price and what the product is made of, where it’s made, and how it’s made. Rebecca Minkoff stores reported a 150% increase in sales after adopting this technology.
Nike also makes use of this technology in their custom Nike Id stores. As you customize your shoe, your design is directly projected on a white prototype of your shoe, this gives you a real-time 3D impression of what you’re creating.
To keep up with the growing competition in the fashion retail industry, brands have started relying on technology. Particularly on artificial intelligence, virtual & augmented reality, and novel fabrics, to introduce new pieces to its customers and make the buying process as quick and easy as possible.