Thursday, December 07, 2017

New Technology and the Fashion Industry

Throughout the last few years’ new technology has had a direct approach on how the Fashion Industry operates. Companies have had to adjust strategies to meet the demand of a new type of consumer. Someone who wants products fast and with a minimum amount of effort required. Due to the rise of Fast fashion, many customers want to be able to see what is trending, be able to purchase these styles and then prepare for the upcoming season.  “New” technology has changed the fashion industry for the better (in consumer’s eyes) as there are many options available to consumers from different backgrounds (geographical, economical). New technology is not only limited to the customer shopping experience, but how the clothes are made as well.  
Consumers are more aware of ethical issues, due to the transparency of the internet. Consumers are able to do their research about brands before purchasing, and there is a much needed emphasises on ethical manufacturing. An example is the Zara controversy where customers found notes in clothing, describing terrible work conditions. Consumers have a wide array of choices when it comes to retailers so companies have to protect their public image more than ever, or consumers will move on quickly.
In a world where technology is the spine of society, fashion has become more accessible and community based than ever. According to Vice President of Garrison Essentials Anthony Iammarino, “We've effectively democratized the way in which style (and trends) are consumed (and influenced).  Instagram, snapchat etc.  These new communication channels have changed the game for brands and consumers.  Brands have a direct, immediate channel to their audience.  Consumers have a channel to impart change, feedback and a chance to be a part of the process”.  This community presence has also created a big market for online reselling. Platforms such as Grailed and Depop have given consumers the opportunity to find both high end and mass marketed products for much under retail pricing. These companies make buying products simple as buyers can quickly communicate with sellers all around the world, with rating systems and anti fraud systems in place for a smooth experience.
In terms of social media, many consumers are influenced by what they see on popular platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. Consumers look towards social media influencers for outfit inspirations and in deciding which brands are worth purchasing. It is important for brands to have an impactful online presence to support their brick and mortar presence.  A great example of a company who embraced social media early is English fashion house Burberry. They have implemented a See now, buy now model which abandons the traditional roll out methods of big fashion houses, which would give consumers pre collections, fashion shows showcasing future collections etc. The see now, buy now model unveils these Luxury collections and makes them available to consumers right away, by using social media. There is also an option to purchase items seen on a runway show while it is going on. 
The heavy presence of social media is also a way for new fashion companies to make an impact on the fashion scene. This new approach on business gives new Fashion start-up companies a different and cost effective way to promote themselves. Traditionally, a company would have to come up with an entire line of products then head directly into Brick and Mortar, whereas the internet has given modern companies the option to take a “Lean business approach”. This style describes a business model that shows potential consumers your product with room to pivot based on their responses. 
The influence of “New” technology has also changed consumer shopping habits. It has become very convenience based as consumers do not want to leave their house in order to shop. Fashion companies need to have a strong e commerce presence complete with the right website layout, return policies and garment presentation to make this experience seamless for their customers. These Consumers have become savvier shoppers and have been able to discover new brands through the internet and how to navigate through sale periods. A great example of a company making convenience of its shoppers a priority is online shopping assistant stitch fix. The company uses online algorithms to define individual customer needs and preferences something that was impossible previously at traditional bricks and mortar retail. This technology essentially gives shoppers an online personal stylist, who will not pressure them to buy and, showcases different brands right to their front door. Another website is Shoptagr, which notifies customers when specific items they are looking at go on sale. 
  Social media powerhouses such as Instagram and Facebook are also using algorithms to track consumer shopping habits, as ads will appear on a consumers feed based on what they have been looking at online. When asked which company is using new technology to their advantage, Anthony responds “Of course, you can't mention tech or fashion today without mentioning that big grizzly bear Amazon.  Anything Amazon (which I consider every bit a tech company as a retailer) does as a company is something we need to watch and is influencing decision making every day in apparel and commerce in general. Beyond that, from a pure play technology standpoint the rise of AI will be interesting to the future of our industry.  The use of robots for logistics, shipping etc.  Will be compelling to see how it all unfolds.  Rest assured, I am watching closely. 
Other than the online shopping experience, new technology is also going to change the Brick and Mortar shopping experience as well. An example is the digital change room and interactive mirrors showcased at the Rebecca Minkoff and EBay popup event.  This technology will allow customers to be more self sufficient in physical stores, as they can see how specific outfits would look like through hologram technology as well as order their sizes which will be brought to them.

New technology is also affecting the manufacturing process of garments, as new technology such as 3D printing is starting to be involved. Many machines have become automatic and soon the workforce will not require human workers.

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