Updated: Dec 21, 2018
Fashion (with a few notable exceptions) is still playing it safe when it comes to tech and true innovation. I think that traditional views still dominate the industry today but tech when done right can really help improve efficiencies, connect customers and even elevate the creative process.
Our list of Fashion Tech trends is nothing new, but I anticipate that they will continue to make an impact, though still slowly. So here are our top 5:
It’s impossible not to talk about Blockchain, the technology that underlies cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin has had a rollercoaster ride in 2017, but the technology itself will be extremely useful for the fashion industry, particularly when it comes to authenticating products.
It is well reported that the tech made its debut in Shanghai Fashion Week, when Babyghost, a nascent Chinese/New York label, worked with blockchain specialists BitSE to create an anti-counterfeiting application.
Similarly, Marine Jarlgaard launched an initiative that uses blockchain to create transparency and trust around her collections.
In an industry in which authenticity is incredibly important, Blockchain will become an important tool in verifying that the products are what they claim to be.
Personalised shopping experiences, as always, will be high on the agenda in 2018. Although chatbots aren’t quite there yet, bots will enhance how brands give recommendations, provide increasingly tailored customer service, enable conversational commerce, give product advice and provide feedback.
So, whilst in 2018 you may not be able to speak to your favourite brand as you would your best friend, you can expect to see bots personalising your shopping and discovery experiences.
In fact, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s and Louis Vuitton have all launched bots (some you can find on Facebook Messenger), and companies such as mode.ai are creating a new generation of bots aimed at augmenting the shopping experience.
3. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
AI has been a buzzword for a fair few years now. And, although it perhaps hasn’t delivered on its promises yet, significant advances are being made in the field.
For example, Zalando has rolled out a supply chain service for retailers that uses algorithms to predict demand. Such technology could help a problem that has been plaguing e-commerce since its inception: the high rate of returns.
At the same time, companies such as TrueFit are using innovative AI solutions to help ensure consumers choose products they will happy with.
So, as with 2016 and 2017, AI may not mature in 2018. But we can expect to see existing AI applications being further refined and new AI solutions hit the market that will particularly enhance personalisation and provide better recommendations.
4. AUGMENTED REALITY
Augmented reality allows customers in a physical store or environment to digitally “wear” products or place them in their surroundings.
Tom Ford in his new Covent Garden store in London, for example, has cleverly combined AR with digital content to create a unique experience where you can not only try on lipstick digitally, but also receive tutorials.
Though Charlotte Tilbury already beat him to the AR mirror in 2016.
Recent news that Amazon was granted a patent for a smart mirror, which will superimpose "digital" outfits onto your reflection, sounds very promising.
In fact, according to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple for retail brands
As retail environment gets tougher, the experiential aspect of shopping will become ever more important, and clever AR can help add newness and surprise to the experience.
Will voice change the future of SEO? That’s the question on everybody’s lips. Of course, people talk differently to how they type and speaking in natural language is significantly faster than typing. So, SEO is likely to shift toward vocal interactions making mobile even more important in 2018.
Amazon is making some serious progress in integrating this tech in fashion. They launched Echo Look, which uses an Alexa-powered camera to take photos and videos to help show off your wardrobe (if that’s your heart’s desire).
And Perry Ellis introduced a new Amazon Alexa skill “Ask Perry Ellis” to help men pick outfits.
In case you have been living on the moon and don’t know what Alexa is, it is a voice activated AI assistant that sometimes inappropriately misinterprets children’s commands.
So clearly still a long way to go, but if you believe Mary Meeker of KPCB who says that by 2020, half of all web searches will use voice or image searches rather than text, expect this trend to continue in 2018.
What do you think the biggest tech trends will be for the fashion industry in 2018?
Email me your thoughts.