Change is Inevitable…But is the Apparel Industry Ready For AI?

A shopper using AI technology to make a clothing purchase.

We live in a world where technology has completely integrated itself into our daily lives. There are nearly as many cellphones as there are people in America, virtual avatars are garnering massive audiences on social media, and self-driving cars are cruising our roads and highways. Within the world of apparel, AI technology is poised to significantly change how brands interact with and understand their shoppers. But despite the promising nature of this technology, few apparel brands have continued to dig their heels in the sand when it comes to change. 

The Current State of the Apparel Industry

The apparel industry (like many other industries) is imperfect. Sustainability and personalization woes have been persistent and brands are now becoming more aware of the shortcomings of the established systems we have in place.

To add some context to this situation, the apparel industry is one of the top 5 most polluting industries in the world with the majority of this environmental impact coming from shipping waste, packaging waste, and textile waste. While this may seem like a problem of overconsumption (which is partially true), the lack of comprehensive personalization within the shopper’s journey is a major contributing factor in the creation of these wastes.

Take sizing as an example, online shoppers facing a lengthy, complicated, and generalized sizing process are likely to either forgo the purchase entirely, simply guess their size, or purchase multiple sizes and return what doesn’t fit. This not only results in shopper dissatisfaction and reduced conversion rates but also encourages size sampling as shoppers feel the need to order multiple sizes to ensure they receive a proper-fitting product. As the overwhelming majority of apparel returns are not resold and simply tossed into landfills or incinerated, each of these acts has ramifications for either the brand, the environment, or in most cases both.  

The key point here is that these issues are interconnected. Sizing and personalization shortcomings lead to increased returns which result in waste creation, reduced conversion rates, sunk costs for brands, the list goes on and on. Without the help of AI, these are problems that will continue to persist and grow more daunting as the years go by.

Why the Apparel Industry is Afraid of Change

While AI within the apparel industry is hardly a new concept, the idea of this technology has split the industry between those who welcome this technology and those who reject it outright. There are a few reasons why some brands hear the term AI and instantly tone out:

A fashion industry executive wondering if AI technology is best for her brand
  • They are unsure of how to best use the technology or are convinced that more practical solutions are best. 
  • They are hesitant to rely on what is perceived to be an emerging technology for critical processes such as trend forecasting, design generation, and shopper interaction.
  • They believe that AI is incapable of exuding the personality of a brand (its ethos if you will) and relying on such technologies will only serve to dilute the brand experience.
  • This technology has traditionally been expensive creating a fiscal barrier to entry for smaller brands, as well as a tough sell to higher-ups.

Naturally with radical change comes radical resistance, but with AI slowly nestling its way into a comfortable spot within the apparel industry, it’s only a matter of time before detractors cave and allow technology to take its rightful place.

Why AI Technology is the solution  

Al already plays a pivotal role in all areas of apparel eCommerce. The design process, product sizing, supply chain optimization, targeted marketing, each of these essential areas is directly influenced and improved by AI. This versatility and scalability are why WAIR built its Fit Advisor platform wholly around machine learning and advanced 3D technology.

With Fit Advisor, brands remove all friction when it comes to the sizing experience. By entering basic information about their bodies, shoppers can receive personalized and accurate size recommendations, no measuring tape required! What sets WAIR apart from other sizing solutions is our unique sizing algorithm which is built atop the world’s largest and fastest-growing database of body scans taken from real people across the globe. Armed with this information, Fit Advisor is able to provide shoppers with unrivaled sizing accuracy in an easy-to-use package.  

At first glance, you may be wondering how this addresses all of the issues we mentioned previously but remember, these issues are all interconnected. When shoppers regain confidence in sizing, their conversion rates, keep rates, and AOV skyrocket while return rates plummet. This results in a massive net positive not only for apparel brands but also the environment through the reduction of waste generation, everybody wins!

Of course, sizing is only one of many applications of AI technology in the apparel industry. Through machine learning and body data collection, AI can provide much deeper insights into the body dimensions of shoppers creating opportunities for brands to:

WAIR's insights dashboard
  • Optimize the product design process around the bodies of their shoppers.
  • Realize efficiency gains in inventory and supply chain mgmt through shopper body data.
  • Engage in targeted marketing efforts based on body type

It’s easy to see how the applications of this technology go far beyond sizing. Apparel brands have the opportunity to leverage AI at each critical step of the buyer’s journey.

The future is now

While AI may not (yet) be at the stage where it will command every aspect of apparel eCommerce, the existing applications of the technology are too lucrative for brands to ignore. Brands looking to differentiate themselves amongst the competition have already adopted this tech to supplement essential activities and as we move forward this trend will only continue. Don’t get left in the digital dust, now is the time to adopt the technology that will singlehandedly shape the future of apparel eCommerce.

Are you ready to unlock the true potential of your brand with WAIR? Schedule a demo here, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook for all your fashion content needs!