At the beginning of the 18th century, the world saw its first industrial revolution. Centered around steam, water and iron, it caused a monumental shift from rural to industrial and urban societies, and by 1870, the second industrial revolution saw the arrival of electricity and mass production. Another century later, the development of personal computing and mass electronics ushered in the third industrial revolution, also known as the “information era.” Alongside this, the internet came a knowledge economy that allowed us to deliver services remotely, outsource business processes, and dematerialize the entire concept of economic transactions through internet-based payment systems.
Now, just fifty years since we entered into the third industrial revolution, we are in the midst of a transition into a new era. Dubbed the “intelligence era,” technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, augmented reality (AR), and 5G are now the driving forces for innovation. These technologies are making what was previously considered only possible in science fiction, from catching Pokémon to driverless vehicles. These technologies have the ability to transform every industry, but although quickly gaining more mainstream recognition many have still failed to recognize the potential they hold in their sector.
The fashion industry generates an estimated $1.5 trillion a year, making it one of the biggest industries in the world. Despite this, the way in which fashion operates today hasn’t changed significantly in the past two decades. However, as consumers become more hyper-connected and adept at navigating the brave new digital world, in order to remain a powerhouse the fashion industry will need to keep up to satisfy their demands. In the “insta-age” of technology, social media is changing how fashion is consumed, and has trained customers to want instant access to the latest trends. “Fast fashion” seems to be losing its appeal, as the hype trend that originated in streetwear is being seen higher and higher up the fashion totem pole, as everyone from Gucci to Nike has begun to release “drops.”
Recognizing these trends and leveraging them with intelligence technology will be imperative to seeing success in the fashion industry moving forward, and Gurps Rai and Christopher Kelly, the respective CEO and CFO of the shoppable streaming platform droppTV, are doing just that. Utilizing artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision algorithms, the platform recognizes products in video content and tags them in real time, allowing the viewer to have a seamless and authentic shopping experience coming to be known as “shopatainment”. In a time when the line between entertainment and retail is becoming increasingly blurred, by employing these intelligence technologies Rai and Kelly have found a way to simultaneously keep viewers engaged in their content while also preventing them from feeling “sold to.”
The initial idea for the platform came to founder Rai when he realized the music video and fashion industry were missing out on large monetization opportunities by not adapting these emerging technologies. The company’s first consumer rollout phase has been focused on correcting this, allowing musicians to collaborate with fashion brands and create consumable content that has exclusivity, but with Kelly successfully leading them through their Series A funding round and Series B launching in September this year they plan to expand into broader markets, even planning to take on NFTs. Below are some of the other ways in which the fashion industry is leveraging intelligence technologies.
No longer just about Siri and Alexa, in recent years brands have begun using artificial intelligence to enhance their customers’ shopping experience, as well as analyze data, boost sales, forecast trends and gain inventory-related insights. Touchscreens are being used in brick-and-mortar locations with increasing frequency to improve on customer experience, and online AI chat technology is popping up across practically every website, helping customers with logistical questions while also providing customized product suggestions. Through AI algorithms, retailers can track customers’ journeys to match them with the right products.
Outside of customer service, artificial intelligence can also be utilized for trend forecasting and supply chain management, two avenues in fashion that can be risky. Real-time inventory tracking is a key way for those within the fashion industry to save time and make for efficient warehouse management operations, reducing overhead and having the potential to be some of the most profitable avenues for AI. Brands within the fashion industry can gain a significant competitive advantage by combining inventory tracking with artificial intelligence’s data prediction tools for trend forecasting.
While droppTV’s intelligence technology allows you to have a seamless shopping experience online, augmented reality has opened the doors wide for combining the physical and online world. One of the most exciting applications for the fashion industry is enabling customers to virtually try on products. Originally used for smaller accessories such as glasses, as augmented technology has evolved so has its ability to realistically project clothing items onto shoppers, making them more likely to purchase products because they are given a better idea of how they will look. This has a chance to revolutionize the online fashion sector, allowing it to achieve one of the few features that brick-and-mortar locations had the upper hand on.
As streaming capabilities have brought a whole new facet to video gaming, digital clothing is becoming a popular way for shoppers to show off their style in the online world. Louis Vuitton has designed “skins” for League of Legends characters, and in China Burberry collaborated with TiMi Studios to create new skins for Honor of Kings, one of the most popular games in China. Last spring, a blockchain security expert bought his wife a $9,500 virtual dress, and Instagram users who were content with free dog-face filters are now debating PayPal-ing for virtual Air Jordans that their Fortnite avatars can wear.
As mentioned previously, up until now the fashion industry has been using sales data from the prior year (LY) to determine how popular a particular style or trend was. Designers and retailers alike would base their designs and purchasing on how the previous year shook out, but with the advent of big data they now have the ability to make smarter evaluations based on new data sets. For example, by tracking Google searches companies can identify what potential customers are looking for at the current moment and make decisions based on that rather than what was popular the previous year, allowing them to more quickly identify and meet demand.
Big data also allows those within the fashion industry a more secure way to test unrealized markets. Factors such as advertising, brick-and-mortar merchandising and social media campaigns can be evaluated for effectiveness practically in real time, allowing for quicker pivots and effective investing in the best tools and resources. Return and refund data is another insight that can be used to greatly improve the fashion industry’s understanding of clothing performance. By tracking which items are most frequently returned due to defects or product quality, it can influence both manufacturing and purchasing decisions, and looking at sizing issues can help pinpoint fit models and consumer preferences better than ever before.
We live in a time where our real lives are becoming increasingly intertwined with the online world, and as a result the fashion industry must learn to embrace the latest technologies and push the limits. As seen in each intelligence technology, shopping is increasingly being seen as a source of entertainment and companies such as Rai’s droppTV who are picking up on this trend will inevitably gain an edge in the intelligence era. As Kelly put it: “For consumers, the power to purchase while being entertained is game-changing.”