Rethinking Retail AI

The Future of Automation in Fashion

TAGS: AI CX Merchandising Online Shopping Retail

Drapers & Attraqt take an in-depth look at the technological developments taking hold in fashion retail.

Artificial intelligence is redefining the retail industry at a rapid rate. It has become a leading tool for retailers when it comes to personalising the shopping experience, and 47% of digitally mature organisations now claim to have a solidly defined AI strategy in place, according to industry analysis by Adobe and Deloitte. But when it comes to fashion retailing, is AI really the ultimate key to customer happiness and satisfaction, particularly when we consider that fashion itself is a creative art? A recent report conducted by Attraqt and Drapers takes a closer look at the AI-led automation trend in fashion ecommerce to unravel the reasons why human capital is still key to its future success. Here are the top 5:



 A Creative Edge: AI-driven algorithms must be curated by merchandisers in order to capture nuances around style 


Machines aren't people

This may sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked in the world of ecommerce, where AI-driven automated systems are frequently being used to handle everything from category page merchandising and on-site search to product recommendations in order to save time and maximise efficiencies. But can a machine really adequately predict what you want to buy in the moment on its own? Just think of those times when you’ve visited a fashion website and have been recommended items that you wouldn’t dream of buying. Sometimes the algorithms may recommend products that they think you would like based on patterns and your past behaviour. They can forget that you are picky when it comes to what you want to wear - just because 10 other people like a certain pair of denim shorts doesn’t mean you want to wear them at the weekend, especially when it’s going to rain. This is why machines need to be guided by merchandisers. By collectively combining human observation and creativity with data-driven algorithms, retailers can recommend products to shoppers that will resonate with their interests and 'in-the-moment' wishes. But machines can't do this alone.


“By collectively combining data with human observations and creativity, retailers can provide relevant experiences .”


People are the trendsetters

When we shop for fashion, we are influenced by a myriad of different channels. We follow fashion blogs from our favourite bloggers, seek inspiration from Instagram influencers and check out a variety of online magazines and street-style columns for up-to-the-minute inspiration. These globalised, constantly accessible style sources have given us endless choice, and allow us to tailor the way we look and shop for fashion in highly individualised ways. Our demands and product wish lists are therefore constantly morphing, and there is a real danger that brands could miss out on sales or become irrelevant to shoppers if they can’t adapt fast enough to these shape-shifting, human-driven trends. While algorithms can analyse trends and shopping patterns very efficiently to detect over-arching patterns, they cannot detect nuances in trend demands on an ad hoc, immediate basis. This is where the astute judgement of a merchandiser is needed to highlight trends that will be impactful. After all, its people that decide and curate trends, not robots.


Creativity and control brings true results

This leaves fashion retail in an interesting and exciting position. Automated technologies are certainly proving their worth in the industry when it comes to driving key business efficiencies. Machines can excel at processing vast volumes of behavioural data while automating repetitive and mundane tasks like filling the online product shelves. People on the other hand are better placed at making the strategic creative decisions that foster customer trust, interest and loyalty. The future success of ecommerce fashion brands lies in the delicate balance between these two fundamental processes. Without a human touch, automated AI systems fail at the minute detail, but without automation, the essential but mundane retail tasks just don’t get done fast enough. 

This is why the best brands of today are opting for a fresh approach that combines the best of both worlds; using AI-driven automated systems that can be altered at the touch of a button based on the smart creative insights of merchandisers and decision-makers.

Discover brands who are using Attraqt's innovative technology to do this today. Access the full Attraqt X Drapers report via the link below.  


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