Artificial Intelligence in the Fashion Industry

In the past, the fashion industry has solely focused on providing the world with not only something to wear but introducing new concepts, designs and ways to express ourselves. As the decades roll on, we can take these concepts and apply them to new innovations with thanks to technology which has enabled brands to adapt and grow on a global scale. Technology has allowed the industry to expand in areas such as design, manufacturing and the overall consumer experience. This blog post is dedicated to providing an analysis of research based on integrating artificial intelligence into the fashion industry and how brands are utilising technology to produce and sell apparel leading into the industry’s future. Technology has allowed companies to capture their creative core and expand using artificial intelligence beyond manufacturing and the supply chain (BOF, 2018).

As technology grows, artificial systems have opened doors for the opportunity to expand in areas such as creativity & customisation, customer experience and trend forecasting.  The evolution of these systems is now becoming more noticeable in today’s digital shopping sphere and some more than others as brands turn to digitalise retail services.

Customer Experience

The age of online shopping has arrived, and its growth has allowed brands to further their focus on driving consumer experiences in the future. Brands are beginning to utilise chatbots as a form of ‘smart assistant’ to enhance these experiences. These bots can be found in both the brand’s online shop or their social media pages. Here, brands are providing 24/7 assistance for their consumer’s shopping experience. For example, H&M introduced its ‘Kik chatbot’ allowing customers to text the type of garment they want and provide recommendations based on this information. Utilising AI to assist consumers has provided brands immediate access to customers and focus on the goal of achieving brand loyalty in the future.

Trend Forecasting

Introducing AI into the area of trend forecasting has provided many opportunities for the fashion industry. Utilising computer systems such as data insight tracking and collection now provides easier ways to predict future trends for brands. Researchers over time, have managed to build an understanding of how trends work. In their research on ‘Artificial Intelligence in Clothing Fashion‘, Haosha Wang & Khaled Rasheed identify that forecasting is always a big challenge for the industry. However, their discussion of the trend lifecycle clearly identifies how artificial systems can identify and predict what’s next based on customer online and buying behaviours.

Today, we can see a lot of brands using AI to collect data from consumers. Amazon became one of the first companies to introduce AI to its online shopping experiences. Their main cause was to help customers minimise their time spent searching for items and provide recommendations based on previous purchases or purchases elsewhere. In terms of fashion, in 2018 IBM partnered with Tommy Hilfiger to work on a project aimed to provide a digitally advanced buying experience. By adjoining systems to over 10,000 of Tommy Hilfiger’s products and 600,000 runway images, this provided insights for future customisation and inspiration based on colour and current consumer trends across the globe.

AI and consumer insights are a way of determining what’s next in the fashion industry. Newer technology and systems are allowing brands to focus solely on the customer’s needs, wants and their ability to customise their purchases online.

Research 

Discussing the various areas of the business where AI integration is taking part is an important factor as the industry grows into the future. The concept of artificial intelligence incorporation can be both seen and unseen by consumers, therefore it’s important to inform customers. The basis of this blog post is to inform and discuss the ways we as consumers are playing a role in the future of the fashion industry.

In doing so, I conducted a series of primary research to gain an outsider’s perspective on the topic of my research. I posted a survey on my personal Instagram account using the provided tools such as polls and a space to leave comments and feedback. The main use of the survey is to gain insight into how much consumers know about artificial intelligence online.

Phase One:

The first stage I wanted to put to the test the ways my followers interacted with the focus of my research. Stage one involved acting as a clothing brand using the social platform to gain insights for current and future trends. We’ve seen that Tommy Hilfiger has entered an advanced stage of insight data collection, however, brands such as ASOS, The Iconic and other boutiques are taking advantage of tools on these platforms to engage with consumers almost immediately.

Copy of Untitled Design
ASOS – ‘New In’ Instagram Story
Untitled design
Survey

By doing this, I received over 100 collectively. This information plays a significant role in my research as it showcases consumer engagement with the simplest way’s brands are using AI to gather insight data for their products. Gaining real-time engagement to a brand’s product is the definition of utilising artificial intelligence and this information allows AI systems to gather the right data from consumers to gain an objective to plan what products to introduce next.

Phase Two:

The second phase of my research primarily focused on figuring out whether consumers are aware of AI being integrated into their online shopping experience and whether or not they are supportive of these systems moving into the future. The survey I configured identified examples of what brands are currently using AI and gaining a response as to whether respondents think this is a great concept of innovation. I also wanted to cover areas of the long-term goals of the industry by asking whether respondents were supportive of technology to minimise future issues such as sustainability in the future. 

Instagram Survey

Using a social media platform to conduct this survey guaranteed me an immediate response and collectively over 500 answers were collected over the 24 hours.

Based on the survey results, it’s evident that almost 50% of consumers were not aware that fashion brands are using AI tools to enhance their shopping experiences. Although the percentage is low, after providing information almost 90% of respondents saw the technology as an innovative way for the industry to implement into the future. I took this survey as a way of informing consumers like myself of what tools the industry is utilising as it grows into the future.

Moving Into The Future

Just like any other industry, the fashion industry can change its overall impact on the globe as we move into the future. When looking at the goals and objectives from a short, medium or long-term approach, we can highlight how integrating AI systems today have the ability to shape the future of the industry decades from now.

Short Term

As discussed, between 2017 and now we’ve seen how companies are introducing AI systems to benefit both themselves and their customers. Introducing systems such as chatbots and consumer insight data collection services across social media platforms and brand websites have already provided inevitable opportunities. So far we have seen this through online shopping sites and applications such as Google Lens and social platforms such as Pinterest utilising AI to assist consumers whilst shopping online. With newer AI technologies, over the next 5 – 10 years issues such as product faults can be decreased. shipping can lead to the brand minimising returns. In 2015 IHL (a leading manufacturing company) states that retailers are losing almost $700B in returns of products. We will hopefully see an increase in brand to customer relationships via digital assistance much like we are seeing today moving into the future.

Long Term

We are seeing today how much of an impact the fashion industry has become. As we move into a technological future, utilising AI could be the solution for resolving or minimising various issues such as the environmental impact of the industry. In fact, according to the Quantis report on Measuring Fashion – 2018 each aspect of the industry is now accounted for an estimate of 8.1% of global climate impact. Today, many clothing brands are introducing processes of sustainable technologies into their manufacturing processes. Taking into accordance the various aspects of AI in the industry, each factor discussed here acts as a chain link for shaping the future for brands across the globe. Utilising consumer insight data, customisation and chatbot systems will work in accordance to reduce the $107B loss in profits in areas of returns from consumers (2018). AI will change the way we purchase allowing us to customise our orders and minimise the already increasing issue of mass production and landfill in the future. Aligning all factors of implementing AI into the fashion industry can adjust to changes on a global scale. Newer technologies are providing clothing brands with opportunities to ‘play their role’ to minimising their environmental impact across all areas of design, manufacturing and customer experience.

The future of fashion and technology relies heavily on the cooperation of the brands themselves. Integrating artificial intelligence into all areas of the industry is showing improvements in areas such as enhancing customer engagement and relationships with the products clothing brands produce. As discussed through the primary research conducted, it’s important for brands to highlight their use of customer insights and it is evident that customers are reacting positively with these technologies to improve future issues such as industry sustainability.

These technologies are slowly being implemented into the fashion industry in 2019 but it is expected that companies are to be spending approximately $7.2B per year by 2022. This underlines the dramatic forces from the technology we are to be expecting in the future of the fashion industry.

However, like any industry, it is expected that these technologies provide not only opportunities, but brands could face many challenges in the future. As discussed in M. Saponaro’s ‘Challenges and Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence in the Fashion World’ (2018) and this blog post, the most significant opportunities are insight collection and trend forecasting. However, these technologies can question whether or not reducing human relationships and targeting digital shopping could cause questions of whether or not consumers perception of shopping could be damaged. It’s important to highlight the challenges brands could face by integrating technologies to replace consumer data collection systems. It’s also important to understand how both retail and digital shopping experiences are soon to drastically change the fashion industry.

The integration of artificial intelligence into the fashion industry demonstrates how combining technology and consumers can change the way we shop digitally. Looking at both the short- and long-term goals of the industry outlines how the technology we are seeing today can change the industry in the future on a global scale. In the past, fashion has solely been driven by producing apparel suited for everyone however the future forecasts how technology can produce clothing suited for the individual.

 

 

 

 

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