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Fashion industry will need to buck up
Nov '17
Courtesy: WGSN
Courtesy: WGSN
A recent WGSN report says that fashion brands are lagging behind in using artificial intelligence to its own advantage

Fashion companies are extremely uncertain about the future. A survey by WGSN has revealed that 75 per cent (of those surveyed) felt confident that their strategies would be viable for one year, less than a quarter felt confident in their strategy for 10 years and beyond. The survey also revealed they felt ill-equipped to deal with unplanned opportunities for expansion, with “lack of innovation” ranking as the number one threat to longevity.

The findings have been revealed in the WGSN Mindset report titled 'Future–proofing your brand'.

The survey also revealed there lie opportunities for innovation that are not being explored. Surprisingly, a substantial 71 per cent of those surveyed were not actively exploring artificial intelligence (AI), a technology that could reinvent the economy on a scale not seen since the Industrial Revolution.

The report went on to remark: "Despite the lack of planning for AI in the fashion industry as a whole, there is clearly interest in it amongst fashion retailers in particular. A recent survey by Drapers found that 82 per cent of UK fashion retailers wanted to invest in AI and 90 per cent were “excited” about the possibilities of AI, particularly when it comes to analysing buying and merchandising data. However, few had begun the journey to incorporate it into their business, citing cost and lack of know-how as the leading obstacles.

“It doesn’t surprise us that the fashion industry hasn’t quite caught on to the opportunity of AI, as it still seems unclear. We hear such mixed messages on a daily basis. As recently as May this year, an Information Technology & Innovation Report suggested that legislators needed ‘to take a deep breath and calm down’ before panicking that the robots would take over our jobs.”

A quick glance at the market indicated:

  • Only 29 per cent of fashion businesses are actively planning for the rise of AI;
  • Economists have reported that AI might disrupt the economy on a scale not seen since the Industrial Revolution;
  • Over 80 per cent of retail jobs are at risk from automation, according to a study by the Oxford University and Citi.

Here, WGSN offered its tips: (i) create man-machine co-working teams to optimise productivity; (ii) use empathy to listen to what your customers want, and AI to help deliver solutions; and, (iii)  tap into AI to streamline business processes and free up human resources to solve human problems.

In case of fostering innovation, the trends were:

  • 73 per cent of UK fashion consumers say it’s important for a brand to be authentic; 76 per cent say it’s important for brands to innovate
  • 54 per cent of fashion brands say “failure to innovate” is the biggest threat to the longevity of their company
  • 3,500 = number of US retail stores expected to close in 2017, including 13 iconic retailers from Macy’s to Payless

Here too, WGSN offered some tips: (i) look for incremental changes that fit within the larger purpose of your brand; (ii) don’t hide behind consumer data; ask what’s driving your consumer emotionally and use this as the basis for innovation; and (iii) adopt a “start-up” mentality by setting up smaller operating units closer to your customers.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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