Applications of data in fashion and textiles
Introduction and overview
The use of data in the fashion and textile space has become increasingly exciting over the years. With Covid-19 creating a paradigm shift in how we live, work and play, attention quickly turned to how businesses would take advantage of a combination of e-commerce
and emerging technologies to keep sales going through a rapid and prolonged period of uncertainty. Within the fashion and textile world, key questions arose. For example: How could a customer try on different clothing lines and styles without being able to visit a store? How can a customer gauge if the garment really suits them? This is where virtual dressing rooms (VDRs) come in.
Virtual dressing rooms
Virtual dressing rooms allow customers to try on clothing without needing to visit a physical store. While it’s a good solution in giving customers flexibility in not travelling to a store and is also a market expected to be worth $15 billion by 2029, it brings a host of challenges: large capital investment (in other words, it’s very, very expensive to deploy), the need for advanced camera/image sensor technology and deep rooted technical expertise. Despite these challenges, some companies are already utilising VDRs: For example, Walmart acquired Zeekit (a startup specialising in VDRs) in 2022 and offer customers the option to see how clothes fit on body types similar to their own. Similarly, Klarna Virtual Shopping also are another key player in the field. It’s important, however, to recognise though that VDRs are only one tile in the mosaic: how VDRs can be intertwined into the broader customer experience is where things get interesting.
In amongst VDRs, obtaining deeper value from the data is paramount in encouraging repeat business. Yes, the virtual try-on of items is a great way to expand a customer base, but taking a step further in recommending shoes, bags or jewellery that’d pair well with the selected garment is an extra step in building trust. With the e-commerce market expected to be worth $6.3 trillion in 2023, it’s a dog eat-dog scenario to win not just business, but loyalty.
As we move further into 2023, there’s several key areas coming into focus. For one, the customer experience will become increasingly important. As a portion of the $120 billion expenditure Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to grow to in the US by 2025, retail
alone is expected to account for 28% of this figure. As markets feel the effect of various political situations across the globe, it’s more important than ever to invest in experiences that keep customers feeling valued and loyal to the brand. Behind this though and arguably more important, is the ethics. It’s important to recognise tools such as AI aren’t universally liked and thus, industries considering deploying or expanding such tools should be mindful of this. A 2023 Cisco Data Privacy Benchmark study found 75% of consumers want AI complemented with human input, and more interestingly, 71% of consumers wish to opt out of AI altogether. From a holistic standpoint, the use of AI presents a tug of war within organisations: the balance of needing data to provide a better customer experience and educating the consumer that you’ll respect their data in every decision made: it’s a balance that’s easier said than done. How will this pan out as we move further into 2023? Only time will tell, but it’s certainly a space to watch.
Article by INRO London.
Ana Simion is the CEO of INRO London, a Bespoke Product Design company and the Institute Director at The Simion Institute of Innovation. Her expertise is frequently called upon across academia as a Board Advisor in Design and Emerging Technologies as well as
Industry, where she regularly contributes her knowledge through Advisory Councils, keynotes (Including the likes of London Tech Week, Women in AI), podcasts and written articles.
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