In recent months, the increase in technology has affected various sectors, and fashion is no exception. The shop closure during Spring 2020 and the impossibility of holding live events challenged both consumers and retailers' habits. The last edition of the fashion week was probably a look at how these events could evolve in the future. Although there will be a return to live fashion shows in September, accompanied by online ones, it is not certain that in the future brands will not choose to turn towards online-only presentations.
The months of lockdown were challenging for brands that had to rethink their customer experience, focusing on digital. According to some statistics in the past few months, 3 out of 10 British people bought clothes online at least once. However, it is not always just a matter of needs or wishes regarding only the clothes and accessories in question. Shopping is for some a real experience that takes into account every interaction with the brand. Covid-19 has undoubtedly changed consumer behaviour and has pushed the improvement of the experience offered by many brands. Generally, the primary digital shoppers are young ones, but the emergency health situation has prompted people of all ages to dive into online shopping. Currently, 80% of fashion labels work with Instagram influencers, and many brands use the product tagging on shopping centric features on this social media. Influencer marketing generates $9b annually, however now users are looking for a simple, engaging technological method to get an incentive to buy. Instagram algorithms show us products and photos similar to what we watch the most as if it were a shopper person ready always to recommend what we like most.
Although the past months have represented a difficult time for all brands, this uncertainty period has pushed on technological innovation applied to fashion. The majority of social media users have increased their online activity. Thus some platforms started to rethink their marketing potential. The success of social commerce raised incredibly during the lockdown, as Facebook saw a considerable use of its 'marketplace' and 'shop' section where people can buy things from other users, and in the second case directly from brands. Currently, 80% of fashion businesses work with influencers, and many of them use the product tagging on shopping centric features on this social media. Despite influencer marketing generating around £9b annually, users are looking for an immersive shopping experience. The use of the Instagram shop section spiked during these months, as the platform started populating with small businesses selling masks with any pattern. Overall, Facebook and Instagram essential purchasing with no frills, but other social media is considering its potential to provide a real shopping experience.
The real high-tech platform is now Snapchat, who is focusing on augmented reality and social commerce. Snapchat is not born to promote brands. However, it wants to increase its shoppability in the immediate future. The new feature is called 'shoefies', and it allows users to virtually try shoes thanks to unique lenses that will access the smartphone camera. If this project is successful, many brands will increase their advertising spending on this social media platform, as customers will directly purchase their products on Snapchat. This proposal looks tempting and potentially prosperous because the main Snapchatters are Generation Z and millennials, so anyone born between 1981 and 2012. They are generally tech-savvy people interested in augmented reality and hoping in a smarter shopping experience.
Apart from social media, artificial intelligence helps brands assign understandable and exhaustive product descriptions, increasing their probability of sales. Taxonomy, the classification of a particular object, is the base of online sales. Farfetch, one of the significant e-commerce, is for now, partially based on hand-operated categorisation. Indeed, thousands of products are described and photographed manually, and then the taxonomic classification of the product is enriched by visual systems created by Farfetch data scientists. This lengthy process could take a significant turn because online shopping is becoming normality for many people.
The Yes, a personalised shopping app leader in the taxonomy sector, makes product nomenclature automatic as computer vision can select appropriate attributes for each object. Now high-end brands do not use standardised taxonomy, and in fact, the virtual comparison of luxury products can be more difficult. However, they are now rethinking their taxonomy process, and in particular, they want to challenge the digital shopping experience pushing on artificial intelligence more than ever. Ralph Lauren knows how prone young customers are to post dozens of photos and videos on social media. The brand decided to partner with Snap to start the first collection of branded virtual clothing for Bitmoji. Snapchat users can dress up their avatar with 12 garments suitable for every situation. The blending of real-world and digital realities meet in the purchase of this collection, available both in-store and online. When buying these clothes, customers can also have the 3D Bitmoji Lenses identifying other users whose avatars wear the Ralph Laurent collection. This excellent opportunity for Snapchat to commercialise its technology by creating partnerships with fashion brands always looking for similar innovations.
Gucci will soon rock the mainstream virtual shopping with its new technology called Gucci Live, a personalised video experience. This technology will soon be available in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and expand worldwide. The video service allows customers to connect to the Gucci staff via smartphone or computer. The sales associate appears on the shopper's screen wearing the traditional uniform consisting of a black suit, white shirt, bow-tie and red gloves. Every detail of the video is exceptionally realistic, representing the in-store experience best while offering a fantastic e-shopping. The IT experts in Gucci's headquarter in Florence created this remote clienteling. Gucci has absolutely no ambition to replace in-store shopping with this innovation. Indeed, the goal is to bring the excellence of Gucci shopping assistance also in the virtual world, to help clients when they are unable to go to the store personally. Furthermore, many of the brand's customers are Asian millennials who represent the core audience of the current and future luxury market. These curious shoppers are intensely intrigued by the combination of artificial intelligence and fashion. For this reason, after the launch of Gucci Live in EMEA, the brand will launch the video consultation service in Asia, and it aims at raising the online sales.
Valentino instead presented his collection with a collaboration with British photographer Nick Knight. PierPaolo Piccioli, the Italian Maison's creative director, based in Rome, has chosen to present his collection with a digitally immersive experience created by the incredibly talented Nick Knight. The result is a 4-minute video, available on the brand's Youtube account, showcasing the gorgeous dresses worn by models floating against a black background. Plays of lights, dance accompanied by the music of indistinct sounds and voices. The gloomy atmosphere illuminated only by the light reflected on the clothes focuses the observer's attention on them. This video entitled 'Of Grace and Light' shows better than any other project the potential of hybrid fashion, a physical-digital combination that many call phygital. In these three cases, the observer lives a virtual journey showing all the fashion and technology bond's potential. The variety of significantly different and exciting presentations of the shows between June and July 2020 gave an exhaustive idea of how brands can find a substitute for the live shows. However, we look forward to the next technological innovations, hoping that the traditional lively fashion weeks will be an option for the brands. The beauty of fashion lies in its flexible and resilient approach, always transporting the observer into an immersive experience both online and offline.