Fashion is taking a creative turn and while head stylists continue to lead design teams, Paris Fashion Week is no longer what inspires their creative direction; Artificial Intelligence (AI) is.
With social commerce on the rise, social planning, social navigation and social validation cannot be ignored. All of them have a huge impact on the buying behavior of consumers. This paradigm shift comes with its struggles, however, particularly for brands and retailers. It’s hard to predict which styles will be loved and which won’t until, too often, it’s too late. Retailers should plan and order styles before a new season. Manufacturers must be notified. Shipping must be done. And let’s not forget that marketing and promotions need to be in place as well. All of this takes time and resources, and brands that don’t get it right could lose an entire sales season. Not to mention they may struggle during next season if they don’t bounce back with a solid comeback.
Generation Z has set a new tone of expectation for the fashion industry.
The shift from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce was relatively easy compared to this “in-progress” wave of transformation. Brands were able to mimic what happened offline, online. Although the customer experience part has had a big impact, social commerce requires a higher level reform in both the customer experience aspect and the underlying strategy.
Your shopping experience, powered by the work of algorithms
By definition, social commerce is the purchase of goods and services through social media platforms. This has become a popular method because it is simple, attractive, and above all, it is powered by the work of social media algorithms.
An algorithm can perform tasks like reminding you what you were looking at and what’s still in your cart. AI, on the other hand, can learn to perform a task, suggest personalized recommendations, deliver a unique shopping experience to each and every person it encounters, and predict what clothes, shoes, and accessories you’ll be interested in seeing in the future. This is what makes an individual algorithm different from Artificial Intelligence.
AI is the combination of various algorithms working together to achieve a goal. It is coded to learn how to perform a task and the learning component is integral to the process.
AI and Retail
So how does this help retailers? Marketers can use AI to predict trends that will last versus those that are short-lived fads. It takes the guesswork out, helping marketers determine what they should be concerned about. This is extremely important in today’s world, as fashion sub-sectors such as fast fashion have become aggravating factors in a fast-moving trend cycle, which we have never seen move faster than in the 21st century.
AI also helps manufacturers and the entire fashion supply chain. Its ability to analyze trends, provide individual recommendations to each individual user, see what sticks and, based on all this, predict what the next season’s trends should be is a miracle. And best of all, the AI skill is aligned with the value-based attributes Gen Z is known to have.
Why artificial intelligence technology and Generation Z are a match made in heaven
It is widely known that the fashion industry, in its current form, contributes to 10% of global carbon emissions. Its footprint on our globe is large and fast fashion is only contributing to this growing problem. Although things need to move at a faster pace to handle the situation, Gen Zers are known for their uncanny ability to demand change and then make it happen. In other words, they are working to create change that benefits us and the planet
Gen Z is the most ethical demographic. They care about sustainability and activities like responsible investing are important to them. They are the demographic of the future, and they know it, which gives them a lot of power.
A great example of this is how high-end fashion retailers like Tiffany and Louis Vuitton have entered the metaverse to stay in tune with Gen Z tastes over the past year.
Where AI comes in is its ability to help shift the fashion industry towards a more sustainable model, while allowing Gen Z to continue to have a wide range of choices.
AI, the glue that will hold the fashion supply chain together
If we look at the fashion supply chain, it is fragmented and disjointed, and AI can bring each segment together by helping each participant understand how they can collectively contribute to, say, an upcoming season. If AI can predict what is likely to be popular in the winter of 2025, designers, manufacturers and retailers can work together to select materials and textiles, their colors and fabrics, and likely achieve styles that are as close to consumer expectations as possible. Expectations that AI predicts, of course, and that consumers didn’t know they had until the new styles were released.
What this does for the supply chain and the environment is to reduce dead stock. The waste that accumulates each season due to unwanted styles or discrepancies in communication between supply chain participants. Transparency can revolutionize the way the industry operates. Much is being brought to light about the problems facing the fashion industry, but AI and technology can play a big role in solving them, and quickly.
A win-win situation for retailers and consumers
Gen Z is also the first group of digital natives. Their dependence and trust in technology is greater than any other group. AI is multi-use and multi-audience. It provides as much benefit to retailers and the supply chain as it does to consumers. Consumers still have options and a wide range to choose from, but now they are personalized and tailored options inspired by none other than themselves and their closest group of friends.
Recent data indicates that 98% of the Gen Z demographic own a smartphone and on average use it for approximately 4 hours a day. The endless cycle of preferences and information shared with the fashion industry will only help reduce the problems caused by the lack of transparency and continuous guesswork.
Generation Z expects each wave of new fashion trends to be bolder, bigger and better. They represent ~40% of global customers and as they enter the workforce, their demands will only do so. The fashion industry needs to be prepared for the upcoming changes and can greatly benefit from the help of artificial intelligence. The industry must be ready to make investments in new technologies and throw out outdated processes and methodologies. Today, AI is no longer a fantasy or a myth of the future. It is a key player that can play a role in every aspect of the shopping experience, and the advancement of AI in this industry can empower retailers, manufacturers, the entire supply chain and their consumers.
Jamil Ahmad is the Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer of Fashinza, an AI-powered B2B marketplace and technology-enabled global supply chain platform for fashion brands, retailers and manufacturers. Under his leadership, Fashinza has expanded globally into six countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Arab Emirates and India.