There are various components of fashion design that require an efficient, accurate, and innovative process. Manufacturing and merchandising are extremely important to this industry through the web and in stores resulting in increased sales, profit, and improving productivity overall. Manufacturing encompasses designing/producing goods and services while merchandising finalizes the operation by taking the products and getting them to their prospective consumers.
While these processes have their own unique significance, both are very pivotal aspects of the fashion industry. Recent research has shown that the industry is pushing toward “smart merchandising and manufacturing”, incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their business line.
You might be asking how this advanced technology would be useful to a fashion designer. AI thus far has upgraded product development, accelerated manufacturing, accurately forecasted to smoothen supply chain, provided data for retailers, and used bots and smart mirrors for CRM purposes.
These are the more broad categories of AI usage in the fashion industry. In this post we’re going to see each one in more detail.
- Fashion Designing
- New Merchandising Platforms
- Decision Making Using Data
- Supply Chain Management
- AI Chatbots
- “Smart” Mirrors
1. Fashion Designing
As a designer, your goal is always to produce the next best collection.
Watching and hypothesizing future trends to sell the kinds of products your target market wants is a crucial part of a successful fashion brand.
This type of analysis is very complex and while it can be done by a vast number of experts, it is inefficient. The amount of time it takes for a machine to compute and analyze data compared to a human does not compare. In fact, there is a multitude of quantitative analysis that can not be done by a human.
The use of Artificial Intelligence in designing produces results at an extremely quick rate, specifically, powerful algorithms that analyze past and future apparel, trends, and patterns that are then used to estimate what should be made for the present.
These machines also design apparel showing detailed sewing structure and fabric material.
The designers incorporate this feature as a replacement for having to do handiwork themselves and can produce a large number of items at much faster speeds.
After these automated designs are shown, the designers themselves can make alterations as wanted and move onto the next step.
2. New Merchandising Platforms
A more recent addition to this industry are innovative styling platforms that allow for personalization and customization per customer or client. This improves advertising and marketing strategies as well since customers want products that are individual to them and their interests. These customizations can also be edited on the platform and sent directly to the customer so they have it for their own reference and inspiration.
In addition, to styling platforms, visual platforms where designers and retailers develop 3-D displays to showcase products feature artificial intelligence. AI machines are used to upload these displays to particular web pages in efforts to shed light on unique trends, reach out to groups of customers based on similar interests, and expand globally as efficiently as possible.
3. Decision Making Using Data
As mentioned before, AI machines and platforms provide extensive detailed data that is used to plan for the future strategically.
Not only do designers use the analytics to determine future trends, but retailers use it as well to determine distribution and allocation on a global scale. They are then able to use tracking data to manage the products production cycle. Retailers also use AI to determine which groups of customers fall under which market segment.
This is a critical factor of the maintaining yet recruiting customer process that retailers must adhere to. Their goal is to keep bringing the same customers back, while keeping up/improving their reputation so others seek out their store as well. To do this, it is important to be accurate and up to date on what the target market is willing to spend money on AND make sure they are willing to choose your brand over a competitor.
AI machines can monitor competitor strategy and pricing computing a suggested price point for your brand to gain a competitive advantage. By this machine giving suggestions for the retailer to optimize revenue, they know exactly when to increase and decrease prices to stay within their desired margin while producing maximum profit. Pricing strategy, product innovation, seasonal trends, competitor analysis, and more are pieces of information retailers gain from AI data.
4. Supply Chain
AI has improved efficiency by producing a timeline of estimated information for what the future holds in the fashion industry. An example would be the weather – fashion designers must know how bad a winter season may become in order to produce a line that accommodates to that. That particular season the designer may focus more on heavy coats as opposed to just simple sweaters.
AI display TTM (Time to Market) reports so both the designer and warehouses distributing the products know what to expect by providing businesses real time data of the market trends and what their inventory holds, improving agility overall.
AI allows us to know which products are resulting in profit and which are not. Retailers can then pause the production of items that are not selling with appropriate numbers and focus on increasing those that are. Furthermore, AI can choose between various sustainable suppliers whose prices, quality, and motives will be the best choice for the company’s finances and values. AI computes data where we can see a leverage between profit and sustainability.
Retailers will look for data proving that their profits will not be reduced in any way when investing in new resources and partnering with suppliers.
5. AI Chatbots
Chatbots have been incorporated into various industries including fashion. AI chatbots allow one on one connection from brand to consumer. For a brand to be successful they must make their customers feel valued.
Chatbots have recently been used for retailers and designers to stay in contact with their customers. Chatbots have a huge impact through e-commerce offering guidance right to their customer.
You have probably seen chatbots yourself when visiting a website and a message pops up asking if you need help – that is a form of a chatbot. Various social media platforms are equipped with these AI bots and allow for communication on the same channel the customer is browsing through. These bots allow for immediate responses and a convenient resource when a customer needs assistance. Retailers are able to be present when needed and customers are free to shop and search, while having a reliable and accurate tool to connect them to a retailer if needed.
This is a form of CRM (customer relationship management) a very important part of a business cycle. Without customers there will not be a successful business, so using an AI to determine exactly when a customer needs to be in contact with a human is important. You have most likely spoken with an AI bot before. For example, if you call your credit card company you usually first speak with an automated voice machine before you are connected directly to a representative. This AI bot is designed to estimate exactly at what point they are no longer able to offer general assistance to a customer and when it is time to hand it over to a human. Some tasks an AI bot is capable of handling on its own include making a reservation, checking an account balance, cancelling appointments, and more.
6. “Smart” Mirrors
A really unique innovation to fashion stores recently are “smart” mirrors, which are able to communicate directly with customers on a one on one basis. They customize and suggest outfits that would fit with their interests. This allows for quick recognition of possible outfits as well as a satisfying shopping experience for the customer. Additionally, if a customer is unhappy with their choice of clothing they can find suitable alternatives that they can request to be brought to them by an employee who is ready to assist them in the fitting room.
This way the customer who was already in the midst of trying clothes does not need to walk out, return the clothes, pick out new ones, and try more on. Given that most customers will be very satisfied with this method, they will return and this will lead the store into becoming more profitable. Customers who return are more likely to refer stores to their peers improving the store’s reputation overall.
These are just a few ways AI has been incorporated into the fashion industry. From producing designs to computing forecasting data to estimated prices and trends, we can see this machine has a lot of use for making a successful fashion brand.
However, this does not entail that all types of Artificial Intelligence will work for this industry. Every designer is able to utilize this new technology in their own way. It takes a lot of application and practice for a business to use AI and become successful with it. Fashion designers and retailers should tailor to using AI to improve their current process instead of replacing it entirely.
This will categorize their resources, overcome recessions, maximize profit, reduce costs, increase efficiency, encourage sustainability, enhance customer satisfaction, and much more both in the store and on the internet.