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So here’s the thing ... it’s already been adopted by ASOS in the U.K. and I’ve not heard or seen there’s been much benefit. There’s other tech available that’s more accurate. For example Wear Happyness has proven it can reduce online returns by as much as 70% for womenswear. We plan to soft launch in the US later this year. Wear Happyness also considers body shapes, however we recognise more than 4,000 female forms. Interestingly we see a future of smarter physical stores which, based on early tests, we’re confident we can double clothing turnover in half the space.
I bought a 3D body scanner 11 years ago now, for a lot more than $1,400, to research the clothing opportunity. We worked with several other businesses who did the same. We have lots of insight that we are now acting upon with our new business. Suffice to say body scanning is not part of our roadmap, although our single scanner remains in use. Thankfully we did our research for far less than $14M....
Curation is only as good as the algorithms. It will work better in some product categories than others. In fashion, we know (from our U.K. research) 30-60% of the average wardrobe is never worn and/or doesn’t look great on the purchaser. Think about this when you adopt an algorithm that recommends clothes based on previous purchases. Oh dear!
My view is AI offers big wins when adopted to improve supply chains. More so than at point of curation. I also believe that too many consultants are hoodwinking retailers that all the data is relevant. It really isn’t. This skill is knowing what matters.
“Data is the science. However the art has always been interpretation.”
Personally, I prefer to use the term "machine learning." I predict it will be overused and disappoint many. Mainly because it will be cheap to action once the initial infrastructure cost is covered. Fashion retail already averages sending out an email every two days (180 per annum!) to signed up customers. Is that a good thing?
Target needs to use its physical (store) strength to compete. So many retailers are trying to compete with Amazon and maintain margins by reducing their overheads and killing in-store service. All this does is make a store visit far less attractive. Why go to store if there’s no help? Might as well shop online. Turning stores into click and collect depots is not the answer either. The problem is too many are trying to reverse engineer online digital into stores. If you want digital to work properly, it needs to be designed to start in-store.
The trouble is marketers and a lack of understanding as to exactly what personalisation is ... and what it can achieve. There is also a problem with data. There's too much of it and much of what is used is flawed. The key principle of success with "personalisation" is accuracy. That's a level of detail alien to traditional marketers and counter productive for large consultancies and data vendors to acknowledge.
I'm afraid this will end in tears -- for so many reasons. Though I applaud GAP trying, I just hope they've not invested too much time and money (and belief that this will succeed). Gimmicks get the PR but when they let down shoppers, the longer term effects are damaging. Beacons by example. Over promised, under delivered. Shoppers switched off. Literally. Early adopters may forgive, however the majority tend to remember.
It's normally external forces that convince retailers to innovate. Reactive as opposed to proactive. Using a construction analogy, it's easier to build a new structure than an extension. Therein lies the added challenge for traditional, established retailers. They're building extensions all the time. With limited funding and a marketplace that's getting more and more competitive. Plus their key resources are too busy trying to integrate the basics as well as getting caught up in (often traumatic and expensive) transitions. Charles Dimov nicely summarises where to focus.
For me, retailers need to be easier to approach, open to ideas from outside their organisation and agile to test.
Will it boost sales? It depends. Is the customer experience improved? Presumably their test stores have proved that to be the case.
Looking ahead, the real opportunity is less to do with merchandising in-store, it's the ability to direct shoppers to garments they'll look great wearing. Tech is available to do so.
The more important question is, what are the solutions to drive conversion rates via mobile? The next two years will be very exciting in terms of change and retail technology that genuinely improves customer experience. 5G will be another milestone that unlocks more clever tech.
RFID will save on labour costs (stock audits, delivery checks, etc), limit out-of-stocks and reduce theft. That's a great start! For me, the exciting part is that it will act as an enabler for other great retail tech.
I do have a few concerns. Tracking that continues after purchase is likely to upset some shoppers and could be a great tool for burglars. Also, whether or not the system is tamper proof. For example, if someone wanted to mess with the numbers, couldn't they just plant (hide) a few tags in-store? That said, I'd like to believe this has been considered and mitigated — albeit I'm less certain given how beacon tech was rushed to market.
I definitely think RFID offers advantages and early adopters will benefit from other tech that will multiply the effect. Retailers need to recognise that RFID alone won't be the end game. It's the start of the race for how the data is best utilised.
Retail app adoption is low because the benefit threshold is lacking ... in both perception and design (from those I've seen).
Endeavour is required to make the consumer WANT to download the app. It also needs to be "sold" to the consumer so they optimise use of features and benefits. Currently the selling process is no more than scattering bait on a pond.
My criticism of mobile apps to date is that they've been designed for online use and subsequent attempts to re-engineer and work in-store simply doesn't work (or create the necessary level of benefit). It's really important for fashion retailers where more than 80% of clothes are still purchased in physical stores.