Fashion retail has always been fast paced, but that pace has increased remarkably in recent years, and it’s down to one predominant influence: the consumer.
The growth of new channels such as mCommerce and shoppable social media platforms have made it possible for fashion fans to browse and buy items in even the tiniest shopping window; from their morning commute, to when they are sitting in front of the television during the evening.
This increasing number of channels and growing volume of opportunities to shop have made life more complex than ever for fashion retailers. They are on a continual quest to balance supply and demand across digital and physical platforms, in a market where external influences are continually shaping what consumers want to purchase.
In response, many are seeking innovative new ways to drive more customer-centric operating models, and this is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) can have a transformative effect on fashion retail.
Getting to really know the fashion consumer
One of the challenges many fashion retailers face in their quest to keep up with the consumer is the complexity of their customers’ behavior. More channels equals more data, which should be an enabling tool, but how many retail organizations are fully utilizing the insights available to their business at present?
AI can significantly enhance the level of customer understanding that retailers have, simply because it is capable of processing more data sets than any team can do manually. Not only that, but it can analyze this data to identify trends and behaviors, resulting in decisions that respond to the real-time reality of how shoppers are actually behaving.
Everything is automatic
On the subject of decisions, another strength of AI technology in fashion retail is its power to automate everyday processes. The right solution can both analyze a much greater volume of data than any one person or team, and make decisions on behalf of the business – often with greater accuracy than human personnel.
By investing in technology that automate everyday decisions, key personnel can focus on the more complex elements of their job, which cannot be replicated by technology. It’s a win/win situation in which insight can be actioned far quicker, and talented staff can play to their greatest skills and strengths.
Responding to market fluctuations
Fashion moves faster than many other sectors, often because it is far more susceptible to external influences. Like fresh food in grocery, something as simple as a change in weather can completely alter the course of consumers’ buying habits.
Equally, pricing is a constantly moving field in fashion, and seasonal factors together with competitor price points can change what consumers are willing to pay. It’s something we discuss in depth in our recent pricing report with Retail Week.
This is where AI comes into its own, as it has the power to model multiple outcomes based on data inputs, and select the scenario most appropriate to that moment in time. By embracing AI, fashion retailers can become truly responsive to ever-shifting consumer behavior patterns, in order to maximize sales opportunities.
AI’s in vogue with major fashion retailers
One of the greatest benefits of AI in fashion is the speed at which it provides a return on investment – and many major fashion businesses are already realizing its value. For example, Blue Yonder has been working with German fashion retailer OTTO. Our AI solution has empowered the company to increase sales, reduce stock levels and decrease returns, by using data to make strategic decisions.
Even more importantly, its self-learning capabilities mean AI becomes increasingly powerful over time, as it builds up data knowledge to make better decisions for retailers like OTTO. The solution adapts quickly and flexibly to circumstances in the continually changing fashion market, making it possible for OTTO et al, to achieve superior results to their competitors by being more responsive.
Modern multichannel fashion retail is a constant balancing act between people, technology and process. AI brings these factors together harmoniously, to create a technology-led model that is constructed around a very emotive end point: winning the hearts (and wallets) of fashion consumers.
For a round up of retail AI innovation visit our AI in Leadership page – where you can read the latest articles from The Daily AI.