Over the last decade, online retail has transformed the way we buy fashion forever. With the industry becoming more and more competitive, brands must seek ways to innovate in order to remain successful in this ever-growing niche.
Today’s technologies are moving the internet far beyond a simple shop window for online retailers. From wearable technology to mobile apps, the fashion industry is being disrupted by retailers and tech companies alike. But who are the real companies and solutions leading this movement, and which ones have staying power?
Image recognition technology
Already a winner of numerous industry awards, Snap Fashion notched up over 250,000 users in its first year alone and thanks to image recognition technology, is taking the fashion industry by storm.
One of the first fashion-focused visual search engines in Britain, Snap Fashion is an app that allows users to take a picture on their phone of an item of clothing they like, from magazines or real-life images. Snap Fashion’s image recognition technology then uses computer algorithms to scan hundreds of retailers from their database in order to deliver the results of similar or exact items automatically.
The app uses computer vision technology to find relevant items of clothing, with results being based on the cut, colour and texture of the ‘snapped’ garment. The algorithm then trawls through the stores of major retailers and refines results by category, including, dresses, tops, accessories and shoes.
The Snap Fashion website also allows shoppers to search online by using only a URL link, rather than entering descriptive text. For example, a link to a picture of a pink floral dress would return search results for a similar looking product from their portfolio of over 170 brands.
Fashion, from a technical perspective is very difficult to maintain 100% success rates through image recognition. However, this type of software can in fact open up product discovery opportunities, allowing emerging designers to be listed alongside household names and giving customers a platform to discover new brands.
Universal shopping carts
Think of The Edit as Tinder for the fashion obsessed. The interface lets users swipe through a catalogue of high-street and luxury brands whilst ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’ clothes, accessories and footwear. Users are then able to browse and purchase items from the brands they love, all from their mobile phone.
Launched in February of this year at London Fashion Week in an innovative collaboration with Charli Cohen, the app is already seeing rapid growth in its user base. Not only does it allow users to shop from any online store, in a first for the UK market, there is a universal shopping basket to make browsing and buying beautiful clothes simple, seamless and secure. This allows customers to add any product, from any store, to the same shopping cart and proceed to purchase - all in one transaction.
The idea behind the universal shopping cart is to eliminate the arduous process of shopping from multiple stores and having to enter your details at dozens of different sites. However, the ability to ensure that each item in question is available in the right size and colour at any given point, all while making transactions easy and secure, is a tall order.
If universal shopping cart solutions can be mastered, they'll become a shopper's go-to destination, and in theory, increase both conversion and the customer experience.
Luxury retail site Farfetch serves as an e-commerce platform for independent boutiques which lack the resource to host their own online presence, allowing consumers to purchase products from multiple designers directly from the boutique, and have them shipped to their door.
The site has recently created a new, independent business called Farfetch Black & White, through which it will offer a white-label version of its e-commerce platform to both retailers and designers.
The company, which is currently valued at $1 billion, will allow brands to offer inventory from their own stores through the independently-run Farfetch Black & White business, which will power brands’ websites. Traditionally, brands are only able to offer a small range of products on the Farfetch website, but that will not be the case with Farfetch Black & White, which will give global consumers access to a brands’ full array of products.
The company will also allow brands to localise their websites for global consumers by offering nine different languages. Some companies are limited by technology - a problem Farfetch hopes to solve with this new solution.
E-commerce presents an obvious opportunity for luxury brands to improve their customer experience, but not all brands have the technological capability. Farfetch’s solution now allows brands to either create a boutique on the main Farfetch site or use the company’s technology to power their own e-commerce sites. This will enable smaller brands to capitalise on its omnichannel capabilities, such as click-and-collect and in-store returns.
Personalised recommendation service
Another key disruptor is London-based fashion start-up Dressipi, which offers a personal style guide, fashion tips and advice based on a users’ ‘fashion fingerprint’. Users are asked to input their vital statistics and answer questions about their tastes.
Dressipi’s personalisation technology then narrows down a portfolio of products to provide results based purely on that individual’s fashion preferences.
Buying clothes is much more than getting the right size, as consumers want to feel confident it will suit their body shape and compliment their existing wardrobe - a problem that Dressipi has successfully overcome with a personalised recommendation service.
The site is already used by a number of major clothing retailers, hinting that personalisation could play a huge part in the future of e-commerce.
In an industry where choice is becoming endless, the brands who thrive will be those that can use a combination of customer insight and sophisticated algorithms in order to truly deliver products consumers like and want to purchase.
As consumers become more and more savvy, they want a shopping experience that is built around their individual needs and they are no longer interested in being marketed with generic recommendations.
Because of this, personalisation in e-commerce is key, and not only helps increase conversion in the short term, but also increases customer satisfaction, allowing brands to build better customer relationships.
Fashion industry re-invention
With the Internet revolutionising the way we shop, customers are increasingly avoiding the hassle of the high street, opting instead for the comfort of online shopping.
But the reality is that it’s becoming increasingly hard to make it ‘big’ in online fashion. As a highly emotive and seasonal industry, fashion is a very dynamic space and far more complex than was first appreciated. Consumer’s needs are constantly changing and it is no longer just about selling clothes.
The fashion industry is on the verge of reinvention, with technology completely transforming the way we shop online. The above are just some of the industry-shaking companies that have the power to merge digital and physical worlds to create seamless, personalised, and shopping environments that increase sales and brand metrics.
They are truly leading the way in changing how people consume fashion, arguably for the better.