Technologies are changing the way people shop. Through engaging shopping experiences, interactive retail shops, and augmented realities, fashion brands are utilizing these new tools to bring their products to customers. Pleasing customers is an admirable goal, and mandatory to keep their business, but that’s not the only benefit of the technological change.
This is also an opportunity for brands to leverage technologies to become more efficient and sustainable, so there’s something in it for Mother Earth as well. Fashion and technology are increasingly blending, and the way brands incorporate these technological advances will set them apart from the competition by enticing customers with a better experience and a more ethical production cycle.
Designing and Prediction for Future Trends
As we pointed out in a previous post, artificial intelligence and other technologies have spread across a wide range of industries and have the potential to transform businesses with innovative technologies, more efficient operations, and access to consumer and industry data. Fashion is no exception.
Fashion retailers have adopted a new mindset of viewing AI systems as creative partners. In the designing of new apparel, AI can assist in a combination of manual skills and technology that becomes an extension of designers’ creativity
Designers can reduce fabric loss during the fashion pattern design process with the help of AI and other technologies. By efficiently using resources production becomes more sustainable. Even better, AI can assist with more than just generating new designs. By gathering more sophisticated data, fashion manufacturers can use technology to better understand consumer desires and improve their garments. Every day, millions of photos are uploaded to the internet. These photos say much more than just what a person is wearing. Through photos shared online, factors such as the weather, subcultures, and activities can be deciphered. Using big data and AI algorithms to analyse these photos can be a powerful tool to predict upcoming trends. In other words let AI do the Instagram stalking so you don’t have to, and glean useful insights from its doomscrolling.
Artificial intelligence is changing the way brands approach the design and development process by focusing on predicting what customers will want to wear next. However, algorithms cannot take the position of human designers: human intervention is essential to integrate AI insights and turn them into attractive, usable garments. Luddites can take heart, we’re not ready to hand fully control the machine just yet.
Many of us have a wardrobe full of clothes that we never wear because they're uncomfortable, don't suit our body type or don't match the rest of our wardrobe. There’s finally a solution, other than just living with the guilt: augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
AR technology is being used by fashion brands to add new elements to conventional and online shopping. You can experiment with numerous styles, materials, and colors, as well as different shoes, handbags, and jewelry items in a virtual space.
Augmented and virtual reality provide the ‘WOW’ factor when shopping, bridging the gap between online and in-store purchase experiences, and can be used in many different ways, such as in-store navigation, that guides the customer to their desired product easily and faster, or Virtual Try-on (VTO).
VTO simulates digitally the behavior of textiles on the human body, allowing a virtual application of clothing items onto digital human body models, and providing an accurate approximation of the look, size, and feel of the product.
Product fitting is one of the major challenges that are experienced by most brands. They sometimes seem surprised the entire human species do not neatly fit into the XS, S, M, L and XL paradigms. But now customers can try on clothing, shoes, and other items on a 3D avatar without having to wear them, creating an engaging experience for both customers and brands. All of this results in reducing customer dissatisfaction with products, enhanced customer loyalty and increased revenue, as consumers return less goods when they are sure of how it will fit. In the future we may not have flying cars, but we can at least have a wardrobe filled with clothes actually fit our bodies.
Personalization and customization
Fashion is very sensitive to changing consumer demands and as a result, it’s moving towards greater personalization. Customers want a variety of options that suit their personal style preferences, and as the desire for personalization and customization grows, so does the need for "mass customization".
As we have mentioned before in this series, IT and automation are critical to mass customization because they connect the customer's preferences to a manufacturing team's ability to build products based on those preferences. As such, the better the technology, the better the customization and personalization experience and process.
As the demand for customization and personalization increases, big data plays a critical part in and can foster one-to-one engagement with shoppers. As more and more people shop online, many fashion companies have personalized their e-commerce operations to provide their customers with what they want.
Personalization also has advantages for brands, such as increased engagement, revenue, and profitability, since personalized goods aren’t often returned. This means that the value of customization for a business goes beyond keeping customers involved and satisfied, it also improves the bottom line.
3D and digital twins
Product customization relies on new technology, like 3D product creation. This type of technology enables companies, like PlatformE, to create digital twins.
Incorporating concepts like Big Data, AI and IoT, digital twins are accurate representations of real-life objects and garments. They facilitate the customization process by allowing customers to see alterations in a very realistic way, so they can visualize their final product.
More and more companies are investing in 3D to digitally display their products. Companies that use digital twins will stand out because they provide their customers with an engaging experience that they'll remember.
With 3D, it's possible to recreate products with outstandingly realistic detail, enhancing the shopping experience and leading to higher conversion rates and sales. In fact, recent studies show that using 3D marketing increased luxury brands' conversion rates by 40%.
Supply Chain and Inventory
Improving the way fashion is presented and sold is not the only way that these technologies can be used. Due to the large number of parties involved in global supply chains, end-to-end transparency is becoming increasingly difficult and technology can help us solve that dilemma too.
Companies need to be able to assess and analyse data across the supply chain before they can effectively respond to supply chain disruptions. And that is where IoT and Big Data come in, helping track the status of items as they go through the supply chain, ensuring that everyone in the chain can access data, track status, schedule delivery and complete transactions in real time. An example of this type of technology is RipePulse, which provides omnichannel synchronization and 360º visibility from order purchase to production status and order delivery.
All these Industry 5.0 technologies and others combine to help brands to produce on-demand. This means that when a customer buys a product, it is only produced when the purchase is made, and so there is no stock. An on-demand approach using data and analytics leverages consumer insights to make goods that are custom-made for the buyer and guaranteed to sell, while shortening lead times, and optimising the manufacturing and delivery of made-to-order products.
Industry 5.0 is all about environmental consciousness and sustainability, which is great since the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Fashion brands urgently need to rethink their strategies, and Industry 5.0 technologies can surely help with that.
The adoption of technologies like AI can help fashion designers, for instance, to calculate how much fabric and other components are needed for certain garments, resulting in a decrease in waste.
The potential of addressing present industry difficulties while also opening up entirely new possibilities makes a persuasive case for 3DPC's critical necessity. By streamlining e-fashion (3D fashion) across the digital value chain, a brand can start selling digital goods first and only produce them on-demand, after the point-of-purchase. This is good for the environment because brands don't overproduce and don't get stuck with deadstock.
In the same light, using 3D technology allows brands to create digital samples of future collections and send them to buyers around the world, with a much smaller carbon footprint. Since the 3D samples don't need to be produced or transported, waste is eliminated and its footprint is reduced.
The fashion industry is being transformed by technological advancements, from apparel design to the way fashion is displayed and sold, and it's important that brands take advantage of them to become more sustainable, conscious, and transparent. Technologies such as AI, VR and IoT are expected to change the way consumers shop. What will set fashion brands apart from the rest, though, is how they adapt to the constant changing needs of consumers and to this new reality of the fashion industry.
Embrace new technology to increase efficiency, save money and keep Mother Earth happy and healthy.