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5 Technologies Transforming Retail in 2018(BoF)

The article first appeared on Business of Fashion.

2017 was the worst year on record for brick-and-mortar retail. By December, more than 6,985 stores closed across the US, according to retail think-tank Fung Global Retail & Technology. That’s up more than 200 percent from a year ago, according to the firm’s findings. It also beats the previous all-time high of 6,163 store closings that took place during the 2008 financial crisis, according to estimates by Credit Suisse.

The reality is that many stores are closing for the same reason they’ve always closed — they simply don’t meet the needs and demands of customers. But at a time when consumers are empowered with choice and market conditions are increasingly volatile, new technologies can help brands and retailers drive valuable business efficiencies, and improve the overall customer experience and value proposition.

“The biggest upside to technology in fashion will be the ability to offer consistency, and being able to personalise the customer’s shopping patterns,” said Robert Burke, chief executive of retail consultancy firm Robert Burke Associates. Indeed, fashion companies that effectively deploy the right technologies will be able to enhance their competitive advantage by personalising products and shopping experiences, and refining logistical processes that nibble away at budgets.

However, fashion has been slow to harness many of these opportunities. “We’re only scratching the surface right now of technologies like virtual reality or artificial intelligence,” said Doug Stephens, a retail industry futurist and author of “Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World.” “But directionally, we can already envision a point where the margin of error for consumer shopping for clothing — both online and offline — will be almost nil.”

Here, BoF spotlights the five important technology innovations that can help brands and retailers boost their businesses.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has become one of the biggest technological developments in business in recent years, with its ability to help turn large and diverse data sets into enriched information that can help improve speed, cost and flexibility across the value chain.

Rapid advances in machine learning processing have already pushed artificial intelligence (AI) into the mainstream, and by 2020, the market for machine-learning applications is estimated to reach £30 billion ($39.5 billion at current exchange), according to the International Data Corporation. “It is, by far, the most important technology that is already here, growing and will change the fashion industry,” Javier Seara, partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group, told BoF.

In fashion, AI has the ability to help brands and retailers with predictive forecasting, capacity planning and merchandising. This means that consumers can enjoy the benefits of better product availability and faster, more accurate deliveries. According to 2017 findings by McKinsey & Company, an AI-based approach could reduce forecasting errors by up to 50 percent, while overall inventory reductions of 20 to 50 percent are feasible.

In addition to supply chain benefits, AI can also help create a smoother browsing experience and improve customer retention through personalisation. Online platforms like Amazon, Alibaba, and Zalando use AI enhancements to help generate precise product search results and display virtual storefronts tailored to individual shoppers, based on their unique characteristics and preferences.

“Retailers can leverage data to provide a more seamless and personal experience for customers, which increases conversion, repeat purchase and loyalty,” said Karen McCormick, chief investment officer at VC firm Beringea, whose portfolio includes personal styling service Thread, which uses AI and machine-learning to help men buy clothes.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality’s roots go back to 1992 to a US Air Force-funded project, called Virtual Fixtures. The technology, which offers a real-time view of one's immediate surroundings altered or enhanced by computer generated information, was designed to help surgeons operate remotely, while enhancing their accuracy, by seamlessly blending in real-world information such as the location of major arteries. It improved performance by up to 70 per cent.

Augmented reality (AR) has evolved a lot since then, but often, it is still treated as a novelty rather than to solve real problems in fashion. For example, when Burberry launched an augmented reality feature, the tool was designed to interact with user’s cameras feeds to digitally redecorate their surroundings with Burberry-inspired drawings by artist Danny Sangra. The capabilities of AR are so much more, and could be a significant sales tool for the retail industry.

Unlike virtual reality (VR), AR has lower barriers to adoption. Unlike the latter, it does not require dedicated hardware as it is built to work with smartphones and tablets — devices that are already available to most consumers in the developed world. “AR capabilities are now available on over 300 million phones worldwide and it will be up to 1 billion by the end of 2018, especially as Google’s AR software, ARCore, comes online,” said Ari Bloom, chief executive of San Francisco start-up Avametric.

Unsurprisingly, beauty brands have been early to AR. L'Oréal is among the many cosmetics companies offering AR-focused apps, allowing for convenience and eliminating the mess of testing physical products in stores. It’s a move that is working: More than 20 million users have downloaded L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius app, whose AR function lets people test combinations of beauty products on their phones. Beauty app Meitu helped drive sales for Charlotte Tilbury: 13 percent of users who tried the lipstick through the app in 2017 clicked the "buy" button.

Read more on Business of Fashion.


2018 年 5 大科技改变零售业(BoF)

原文首发于 Business of Fashion.

2017 年是实体零售业最糟心的一年。根据零售智库 Fung Global Retail&Technology 的数据,到 12 月为止,全美有超过 6,985 家店铺关闭。根据该公司的调查结果,这比一年前上涨了 200%。根据瑞士信 贷(Credit Suisse)的估计,这也打破了 2008 年金融危机期间发生的 6,163 次停业的历史最高纪录。 现实情况是,许多商店关门的原因都是同一个 - 他们根本无法满足客户的需求。但在消费者选择权力和 市场条件日益波动的时代,新科技可以帮助品牌和零售商提高宝贵的业务效率,改善整体客户体验和价值 主张。

零售咨询公司 Robert Burke Associates 的首席执行官罗伯特 伯克(Robert Burke)表示:“科技在时 尚方面最大的优势是能够提供一致性,并能够个性化客户的购物模式。事实上,有效配置正确科技的时装 公司将能够通过个性化产品和购物体验来提升自身的竞争优势,同时精减蚕食预算的后勤流程。 但是,时尚在利用这些机会方面进展缓慢。零售业未来学家,“再造零售业:后数字世界中的销售未来” 一书的作者道格 斯蒂芬斯(Doug Stephens)表示:“我们现在只是停留于虚拟现实或人工智能等科技 的表面。 我们已经可以预见,消费者购买服装(不论是线上还是线下)的误差幅度几乎为零。“

在这里,BoF 重点介绍了五项重要的科技创新,可以帮助品牌和零售商推动业务发展。


人工智能已经成为近年来最大的商业科技发展之一,它有能力帮助将大量不同的数据集变成丰富的信息, 从而帮助提高整个价值链的速度、成本和灵活性。根据国际数据公司(International Data Corporation)的报告,机器学习处理的快速发展已经将人工智 能(AI)推向了主流,到 2020 年,机器学习应用的市场估计将达到 300 亿英镑(目前的交换额为 395 亿美元) 。波士顿咨询集团(Boston Consulting Group)的合伙人兼董事总经理哈维尔 西拉(Javier Seara)告诉 BoF:“到目前为止,这是目前存在并正在发展的最重要的科技,将改变时尚产业。”在时尚方面,人工智能有能力帮助品牌和零售商进行预见性预测,产能规划和销售。这意味着消费者可以 享受更好的产品可用性和更快、更准确的配送。根据麦肯锡公司(McKinsey&Company)2017 年的调 查结果,基于人工智能的方法可以将预测误差减少 50%,而总体库存减少 20%至 50%是可行的。 除了供应链优势之外,人工智能还可以通过个性化来帮助创建更流畅的浏览体验并提高客户留存率。亚 马逊、阿里巴巴、京东和 Zalando 等在线平台使用 AI 增强功能,根据其独特的特性和偏好,帮助生成精 确的产品搜索结果,并为购物者量身定制虚拟店面。VC 公司 Beringea 的首席投资官凯伦 麦考密克(Karen McCormick)表示:“零售商可以利用数据为客 户提供更加无缝和个性化的体验,从而提高转化率、重复购买和忠诚度。” 该公司的投资组合包括个人 造型服务 Thread,运用 AI 和机器学习帮助男人买衣服。 增强现实 增强现实的根源可以追溯到 1992 年由美国空军资助的一个名为 Virtual Fixtures 的项目。该技术能够实 时查看周围环境的变化,并通过计算机生成的信息加以改善,旨在帮助外科医生远程操作,同时通过无缝 融入现实世界中的信息,如主要动脉位置。它将性能提高了 70%。 增强现实(AR)从那时起已经发生了很多变化,但通常情况下,它仍然被视为一种新鲜事物,而不是解 决时尚中的实际问题。例如,当 Burberry 推出增强现实功能时,该工具被设计为与用户的相机馈送进行交互,可以把艺术家丹尼 桑格拉(Danny Sangra)的画作叠在现实场景中,并对周围环境进行数字化重新

AR 能做的还有很多,可能成为零售行业的重要销售工具。与虚拟现实(VR)不同,AR 采用的障碍较低。与后者不同的是,它不需要专用硬件,因为它可以与智能 手机和平板电脑一起工作,这些设备已经在发达国家的大多数消费者中使用。旧金山初创公司 Avametric 的首席执行官阿里•布鲁姆(Ari Bloom)表示:“全球现有超过 3 亿部手机都有 AR 功能,到 2018 年底 将达到 10 亿部,尤其是当谷歌的 AR 软件 ARCore 上线。不出所料,美容品牌早已经用到了 AR。欧莱雅是许多提供 AR 为主的应用软件的化妆品公司之一,为方 便起见,并减少了在商店里测试实体产品的麻烦。这是一个很成功的举措:超过 2000 万用户下载了欧莱 雅的 Makeup Genius 应用程序,其 AR 功能让人们可以在手机上测试美容产品的组合。美图软件美图秀 秀帮助推动了 Charlotte Tilbury 的销售:在 2017 年通过应用程序尝试口红的用户中,有 13%点击了 “购买”按钮。 更多精彩尽在 Business of Fashion.

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