Will Artificial Intelligence Transform Apparel & Retail?
Unless you’ve been in technology hibernation, chances are you’ve heard about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it’s making its way more and more into the apparel and retail sectors. By 2020, it’s predicted that the AI market will be worth more than $47 billion, a huge growth from the $8 billion market in 2016.
Today, most brands have begun experimenting with AI as a communication method, via chatbots, to interact with customers changing the customer-brand relationship goes from transactional to conversational.
So how does AI work? With the help of creative algorithms and machine learning, AI programs and systems are designed to perform tasks that work and react like humans. The more data it receives, the more it learns to interact or complete tasks. By looking at multiple scenarios in real-time, AI can develop a more accurate picture of a consumer’s specific needs.
AI technology has been around for some time, but the apparel and retail industry are starting to catch up on the trend. One of the biggest ways it can help drive growth is through leveraging information about customers, and thus creating a personalized shopping experience. AI can help computers identify images and recommend those products online which the customer is more likely to buy.
Another area that retailers should think about using AI is with intelligent forecasting systems for reducing inventory and shipping costs. For example, by using reinforcement learning to teach computers to take different actions based on the best possible decision in that situation. Today, AI can help predict rough quantities of products to order and analyze inventory in store based on historical sales data.
Amazon’s new Echo look device can take full-length photos and videos of users in order to check fashion choices, and recommend additional styles. Image recognition is estimated to grow with other companies such as Alibaba’s FashionAI that uses deep learning to recognize hundreds of millions of items of clothing as well as the tastes of designers and fashion influencers to offer recommendations.
Coupled with augmented reality, image recognition (AI) technology can be used to analyze pieces of clothing and automatically generate an image of the garment on a person of any size, shape, or wearing any kind of shoes. Some companies are already experimenting with smart fitting rooms to allow customers in-store to immediately view themselves in the clothes they pick, and swap those clothes for different styles, without even changing.
Each outfit selection is analyzed to offer additional recommendations both in-store, and can strengthen e-commerce by tracking users’ preferences and giving them a customized shopping experience when the visit online. For example, if a customer browses green items repeatedly, the color would be prioritized for their next visit. Alternatively, if they bought items in store, similar items will show online, with a promotion from the store location.
While AI technologies will not replace humans just yet, it is a big opportunity to scale insight into customer preferences to align supply and demand, provide a personal customer experience, and push all the way to the supply chain to create better products.