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Fashion is an art and technology is the canvas

Fashion and technology are increasingly a match made in heaven. In an earlier blog, we discussed how technology is a huge competitive differentiator. Now that London Fashion Week has drawn to a close, we reflect on how technology influences the fashion industry and, more specifically, what technology areas the industry must embrace to keep up with today’s ‘always on’ consumer.

1.               Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)  

Back in 2014, London Fashion Week offered a front-row view of the catwalk with a 360-degree live broadcast streamed via the internet, proving the fashion industry has been always been at the forefront of the AR and VR.

With the market for mixed reality predicted to reach £85 billion by 2020, it’s not surprising that high street brands like Topshop and Miss Selfridge are already utilising more disruptive ideas to engage their consumers.  

So how can fashion brands make this most of this technology to engage, excite and communicate with their core target audience?

At this years’ London Fashion Week, we saw augmented reality tipped on its head when Chinese mobile internet company, Meitu, offered anyone who downloaded their virtual beauty app exclusive access into London’s ‘most Instagrammed venue’. The pop-up beauty boutique, based at the Lights of Soho club, merged augmented and actual reality by giving consumers the opportunity to transform their virtual looks created within the app, into real-life experiences with free makeovers by industry experts.

It is no longer a case of whether fashion brands are utilising this technology, it’s how. Relevant, timely and shareable augmented and virtual reality adds value to the core proposition, and goes beyond providing a gimmick. Brands must therefore work with the right experts to develop unforgettable and immersive connections for their customers to set themselves apart from the competition.

2.              The Reign of Social Influencers

If we cast our minds back to the days when consumers took their fashion tips mainly from fashion magazines, we can see how far the industry has come. Digital natives are now paving the way, using technology as their main accessory. They are fortifying themselves as the core influencers who post, snap, YouTube, and tweet to millions of followers each day. These types of influencers were once considered ‘pretend journalists’, however, big brands are now implementing strategies to ensure these individuals are part of their business strategies.

Consumers are seeking authenticity from fashion brands. Elitism is being swapped for realism with approachable, friendly, and familiar faces communicating the brand with an honesty using attainable technology.

The swiftness of runway to retail, plus the consumer appeal of working with social media influencers both off and on catwalks, is a winning formula for brands. Mulberry England dressed vlogger Tanya Burr at the most recent London Fashion Week, with the ability to leverage her 3.1 million followers and loyal fan base.

So where do celebrities fit in to the ‘realism’ approach?

Consumers still seek escapism. 2016 was argued to be the worst year ever, so having a slice of what the elite are boasting can gratify this need. Tagging is the mechanism that will create value and won’t seem overly forced. Millie Mackintosh tagged her entire outfit from brands such as Charles Keith to Zena Presley at last week’s British Fashion Council party, achieving a reach of around 30,000 people.

Information technology, the internet and social media is the ultimate accessory for these social influencers. Fashion brands should seek to cement solid relationships with these individuals as their messages can be amplified through strategically sought out social influencers.

3.               Omni Channel Seamlessness

What does this even mean?  

The key principles of technology that must be applied to fashion include speed, transparency, and consumer centricity. ‘Omni channel seamlessness’ simply means consumers can access all available information to make informed decisions and purchase the right product quickly.

To meet these growing expectations, fashion brands need robust marketing and sales strategies that effectively integrate technology, bridging the gap between the online and offline world.

By highlighting relevant and personalised stories, fashion brands can start to close this gap. Utilising dynamic content can enable fashion brands to push forward timely and tailored ads which capitalise on the consumer’s shopping micro moments.

The fashion industry is renowned for having enthusiastic and knowledgeable employees. This element can get lost in the online world. Brands must continue to experiment with live chats and personalised product recommendations, which provides a service as good as the in-store experience. Social chatbots with ‘buy buttons’, shoppable videos and artificial intelligence will become a brand’s new best friend when looking to implement this into their strategies.

The key to success is ensuring these on and offline worlds are not considered separately. As cliché as it sounds, brands will flourish in 2017 if they see their online and offline as one world - a world where seamlessness is the key to success.

It’s not just fashion brands that can take note of these growing technologies but the wider retail ecosystem. Whether furniture, holidays, electronics or even grocery retail; expectations of a seamless, tech-integrated customer journey is increasingly desired. However, it must be timely and relevant to grasp the attention of consumers in an increasingly noisy marketplace.

Miuccia Prada once said that ‘fashion is instant language’. Whilst this remains true, a proportion of the key dialogue making up this language must be technology. Whether this be wearable tech, augmented reality, new forms of social media, or chat bots. To stay competitive and relevant, fashion brands must understand their consumers’ personal eccentricities and how they associate them with technology, keeping the consumer at the core of their strategy.

Sophie Beckley, Planner

To talk to Sophie about how technology can help your brand call 01902 714 957 or email