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Digital Technologies Transforming the Fashion Industry


Regular contributor, Dakota Murphey, explores some of the many digital technologies reshaping our industry. Dakota has more than a decade of experience in business growth, working independently as a business consultant for many years.

Digitisation is affecting a host of industries, and fashion is no exception. It’s a way of making everything from designing and marketing to retail and ecommerce easier, more accessible and more cost-effective.

We use the internet on a daily basis, so it’s no surprise that businesses are being forced to adapt and incorporate digital technologies into their business models and strategies. So, how is the fashion industry in particular accommodating digitisaliation?

In-store tech

Few fashion retailers have plans to completely abandon their brick and mortar stores to move online, since feel and the tactile factor plays such a strong role in fashion and the customer experience. But, there’s no denying that customers want digital tools more and more with every passing year.

Clever designers have found ways to integrate tech into the in-house experience to boost sales, such as digital walls that enable customers to ask for assistance, and connected mirrors that allow you to request different sizes of items as you’re trying on clothes to save you time and effort searching for alternatives. Self-checkout tech is also a common feature of retail stores, enabling customers to pay for items on their phones and walk out without needing to deal with queues and till operatives.

The rise of video

Online videos have surpassed photos in terms of how internet users consume media, and it’s a trend that fashion businesses need to pay attention to if they’re to garner interest from customers. The fashion industry has historically invested primarily in artistic films and behind the scenes footage. However, impactful storytelling is the new way to connect to users and, more importantly, convert those viewers into paying customers.

Stories are the most effective way to convey a message and engage with internet users, and through creative video content, fashion brands are starting to realise that they can reach a wider audience and increase sales when they speak to their viewers in a way that resonates.

Social media marketing

Social media is a part of our daily lives now, so whether you’re on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, there’s a good chance you’ll have noticed the opportunity to browse and buy through an app. Social media marketing is becoming increasingly relevant to fashion, providing a way to target customers directly and influence audiences through a well-curated social media profile.

Being able to buy directly through a link means that if a customer sees an influencer wearing an item or a post they like the look of, they don’t need to go hunting for the item. Shopping on the socials is the modern way to boost conversions and is quickly becoming the future of fashion. Customers have come to expect a personalised experience and social media is just one of the ways that businesses can provide that.

AI-led personalisation

Artificial Intelligence, or AI as it’s more commonly known, has changed so many sectors and now the fashion industry is starting to see the advantages of the powers of AI. Google has already tested out user-led AI designs with their innovative Project Muze. This was an experiment launched in 2016 with fashion platform Zalando, where a neural network was trained to identify colours, textures and style preferences to create designs based on user interests.

And now, Amazon is following in Google’s footsteps with its Amazon Style in-store shopping experience which uses tech to deliver a seamless shopping experience. Customers can scan QR codes for sizing and colours, along with additional product details, add items to fitting rooms or send them directly to the pick-up counter, and take advantage of machine learning for personalised recommendations.

3D printing makes everyone a designer

3D printing is a highly creative and innovative form of technology that enables anyone to become a one-person design and manufacturing studio. It’s a multi-billion-pound industry that is guaranteed to completely transform the fashion industry in the years ahead, and there are already designers experimenting with what it can do.

The ubiquity of computers has democratised information, media and accessibility to industries that were once only available to a select few. Today, with the click of a mouse and a bit of creative ideation, 3D printing could make tangible designs a reality for everyone. For small-scale designers, it’s the opportunity to prototype or even engage in full-scale production without the need for the middleman.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is one of the largest tech-enabled opportunities facing businesses today, particularly when it comes to retail and fashion brands. This technology makes it possible to interact with everyday objects and it is already disrupting the industry when it comes to fashion. Retail decision makers are already preparing to enhance customer experiences through the adoption of the Internet of Things, and with its help, brands will be able to create wearable tech apparel with digital capabilities which will increase communication between customers and retailers.

The future of fashion

Digital is an increasingly important sales channel, and it enables businesses to adapt quickly and ensure that each step of the chain is more effective, quicker and cheaper. From logistics and sales fulfilment to real acquisition, customer experience and marketing, digital tools enable businesses to work smarter and build a more resilient business model.

As technology improves, we’re going to see an increasingly closer relationship develop between digital tools and fashion, both in terms of its production but also wearable items that are more convenient for the customer.

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like our PLM Project Pack, or our Annual Publications, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.