Thinking Out Loud #1

Brought to you by Helen Ashton, CEO Shape Beyond

London Fashion Week (16-21 September)

Will artificial intelligence (AI) save or sabotage the fashion industry of the future?

Here’s what we think…

The fashion industry has long understood the need for agility to react to the ever-changing trends and preferences of their customers. Those that predict, react and fulfil most effectively to meet these evolving needs will win. It’s as simple as that.

For some time now, AI has been used in its most basic form to begin a transformation of the end-to-end fashion supply chain. Revenues are being increased through personalisation of customer journeys, improved prediction of changing fashion trends are driving product availability and visual recognition of product to name just a few.

Costs are being reduced through the use of bots and automation in repeatable processes, and algorithms are predicting the propensity to purchase of customer cohorts, increasing the effectiveness of marketing budgets.

Although AI has made a real impact on the fashion industry already, it is only in its infancy, mainly because of the quality of the data that feeds it.

No business that I have worked with over three decades, regardless of size or sector, have had their data collected, stored and nurtured in a way that can effectively and efficiently fuel AI engines.

But this is changing, and once data and technology are aligned, the opportunities for AI are endless.

Photo by @Alanking @insanelighting

Fashion is a way to express individuality. And individuality is personal. So could AI ever truly predict our fashion choices for us? We think yes.

The debate for me isn’t whether people will buy from the high street or online in the future; it is whether they will consciously buy at all?

Although we think that our fashion choices are pretty random and often impulse purchases, the reality is that our brains don’t work in such a random-like way. How we have reacted historically is highly predictive of the choices that we will make in the future.

Couple that with data from a wide range of other sources, such as social media, and there is a possibility that someone else could know before I do that I will buy a black dress, in a UK Size 10, on Friday, on my Mastercard with delivery to my current address in the Lake District.

All the data is out there, it just needs joining up, and then the only thing I have left to do is try it on!

We believe AI is fundamental to personalising the approach a business has to its customers to drive both revenue and efficiency.

Customers want their needs met quickly, at the right price, in the most friction-free method possible. Being ahead of the AI curve is essential to delivering that, and therefore an essential ingredient to future success.

And if all this feels futuristic, then look beyond – emerging NFT fashion brand Replicant will sell you digital fashion your avatar can wear – as a digital file – so you can uniquely digitally express yourself while doing no harm to the planet. Virtual fashion brand RTFKT recently sold a digital jacket for over $125,000. A fad or the future?

Think out loud with us. Join the conversation on Linkedin or Medium.

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