The Fashion Tech Industry Needs More Than Artificial Intelligence(Forbes)


The article first appeared on the Forbes.

In one form or another, you have likely heard about artificial intelligence (AI). Whether it is a Tesla driving for you, a robot winning Jeopardy, a chatbot, an algorithm or Siri telling you the weather forecast for the day, AI is becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives.

Some say that AI will change the world for the better, while others see the technology as a threat to millions of human jobs. Any way you spin it, AI is here to stay and will surely disrupt industries that adopt its applications. Before you get too excited about integrating AI into your fashion business, though, there are some things you should consider.

A recent trend that I have seen is companies coming out with different versions of the same AI fashion tech. They build an algorithm that pulls data, whether from pictures on social media or preferences based on past shopping, then match styles to make better suggestions to end users. On a surface level, this sounds exciting, but AI on its own is not enough. Just because AI is a proven tool to match style and preferences, it does not make your company a successful fashion company.

Hypothetically, it sounds great to have AI match a jacket to a potential customer based on what that person likes on Instagram. But an AI system that matches outfits based on a digital footprint is not enough to be a game changer because there is no way to ensure that the match is a good one. Sure, the user might like the jacket. But how do you know if that person can afford it? The reality is that you don’t know.

The AI technology that is trying to create the matches does not understand how to convert a person to buy the matched product. This is why AI alone is not enough to disrupt the fashion industry. Successful fashion tech companies must not only identify matching products but also get the right product, at the right price, at the right time.

Let’s take a look at the recent history of fashion to see the trends that have been and are being adopted:

• In 2014 to 2015, subscription-based models became all the rage. Though some larger companies have made and maintained traction, most of the companies offering boxes of fashion delivered to your door have faded away.

• In 2016 to 2017, many fashion brands started to jump on offering curvy lines. This included small boutique companies all the way to Walmart, which just bought a plus-size company.

• In 2018, the trend is in developing AI fashion tech to match products to customers using data analytics and machine learning. The problem is that most of these companies are all tech with no fashion or true product connection. This is why the most current AI fad won’t work in the long run -- that is, unless these companies look at their offerings in a more holistic way.

These 10 necessary elements, aside from AI, if you want your fashion tech company to survive.

1. A strong team: Ensure your team understands the technology that you are implementing. You need people to make sure that the algorithm is constantly learning as it gathers data and makes decisions.

2. Savvy and creative team members: Your team members should have a deep understanding of fashion design and trends to ensure that your technology is accounting for data that might not be public yet.

3. Listening tools: Use tools to gather data but also to listen to your customers. This means actually talking with them, or interacting with them outside of your data mining.

Read the full article on the Forbes.

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