Boutique fashion doesn’t traditionally go hand-in-hand with technology – until now. In 2018, boutique fashion retailers are showcasing innovation as the main focus for every aspect of their brand. From forward-thinking product development to incredible customer experience. Technological advances are now allowing for rapid prototyping, faster turnarounds and impressive consumer personalisation.
Disruptors of the fast fashion retail world, companies such as H&M, Zara and ASOS have consistently achieved impressive annual sales over the last 5 years. Their tip? Reduce the length of the sales cycle to provide consumers with affordable “fashion-forward” brands they can’t resist.
The new age boutique fashion shopper
The new age boutique fashion shopper craves more shopping channels each with unique experiences, better rewards for their brand loyalty, and where possible the option to personalise their item, so it’s inherently unique to them.
The modern consumer appreciates sustainability, eco-friendly and tech-enabled fashion brands that provide instant gratification. Engaging with this new luxury consumer is an opportunity for retailers to move toward deeper connection, a connection focused on experiences, quality, and the feelings that luxury products bring to their purchasers.
In this run down, we take a look at what high-end boutique brands are trialling to entice buyers to part with their cash and retain their loyalty:
4 boutique fashion technology trends designers & eCommerce managers need to be aware of
1: Internet of things (IoT)
A big opportunity to explore innovation within the fashion industry is through IoT. IoT connects our world by letting us interact with everyday objects via internet connected materials.
For fashion, this is massive. A recent study noted that 70% of fashion designers and decision makers globally are ready to adopt the Internet of Things to improve customer experiences.
In the not so distant future, clothing will have digital capabilities that allow communication between the retailers and customers, an example is NADI X. These yoga pants come with built-in sensors that direct users into ideal alignment by vibrating as they move through the various yoga poses.
Credit: Kickstarter + NADI X
2: Artificial intelligence (AI) & Big Data
For the last 12 months all we’ve kept hearing about is Big Data. It seems to be one of the only buzzwords ‘doing the rounds’ that’s actually stuck, and as you may have guessed, it means “Big Wins” for forward-thinking boutique fashion brands.
Since late 2016, retailers have started jumping on the digitalisation bandwagon and are actively using AI machines to their sales and production advantage. How? Let’s take a look at Social Media.
Right now, social media is the ruler of the web in terms of attention, and, as a result the social sites we all browse daily are providing us with the platform to mend and shape trends – sometimes without intention. But what most customers don’t realise is that they are allowing fashion brands access to a goldmine of data used for predicting trends at scale and significantly reducing the gap between whats being produced and sold.
In comparison to what was traditionally a manual process of gathering data, nowadays, retailers are now training AI to collect, organise and sort data into categories, that can then be used to predict and understand customer needs and desires – and deliver on it.
Finally, to see an example of AI in action, see the latest app backed by Kim Kardashian “Screenshop”.
Screenshop uses AI image recognition to make fashion easier. Users simply take a photo or screenshot of a look they’re into and launch it in the app to find similar products at any price.
3: Embracing alternative materials
Advances in creating new sustainable materials are having a large impact on the luxury garments and boutique fashion markets. In 2017, we saw a growing trend in using technology to create new types of fabrics, take Stella McCartney’s silk, this vegan-friendly silk was inspired by spiderwebs and spider DNA. The material is made from 100% man-made spider silk, and is currently on display at The Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition:
Another example of companies embracing alternative materials is the successful collaboration between Adidas x Parley where consumers are given the option to buy products made from ocean-recycled plastics. This has been a massive hit for Adidas and has really helped keep their fans engaged with the brand, showcasing their sustainable credentials.
Boutique and luxury brands have also been shadowing innovative sportswear designers by producing tech-heavy, functionality-focused fabrics. Last year saw Ralph Lauren rolling out a new uniform for the US Winter Olympic and Paralympic teams that featured a unique heating system, boasting 11 hours of heat, powered by printed carbon and silver inks. The Jackets were 100% produced in the USA by Butler Technologies, DuPont and Ralph Lauren.
4: Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality (VR)
And finally, after the first wave of mobile technology completely transformed the fashion industry, it’s clear the new wave of possibilities for retail is just around the corner with many brands and merchants experimenting with AR/VR throughout 2018. Nowadays, mobile customers expect effortless browsing and the ability purchase with simply one click, if they want to. However, there have been occasions where brands have suffered public backlash from customers who received items that didn’t match their online appeal or simply failed to meet expectations.
Boutique fashion brands are increasingly tuned into to reaching consumers via smartphones, as 2/3 of luxury purchases are now “digitally influenced,” according to Boston Consulting Group.
This retail failure is where VR platforms could change the game and help plug the gap between flat imagery and virtual tactility.
When we blend high-end boutique product with mixed reality experiences, we can introduce a new layer of UX that can ultimately assist in the sales process of high-ticket items through creating virtual impressionism. We’re not quite there with pushing this technology out to the masses but in time this will likely replace the need to visit your favourite high-street store through deployment of “virtual changing rooms”, “magic mirrors” and apps that allow users to envisage entire wardrobes of product on themselves, in holographic VR.
To lure the millennial crowd, Zara is now using AR displays in 120 stores worldwide from April this year. The AR app allows customers to hold their mobile phones in front of a sensor on the window display and showcase models within the stores or designated shop windows. Through a single click, the shoppers can instantly buy the selective looks.
Here’s an example of Sephora’s Augmented Reality App, Virtual Artist from as early as 2016:
The master of trench coats and tartan turned to Apple’s new ARKit function for the tool, which went live back in late 2017. The augmented-reality feature interacts with the user’s iPhone camera feeds to digitally redecorate their home surroundings with Burberry-inspired drawings by the artist Danny Sangra.
If you’re a forward-thinking fashion retailer or in-house marketer seeking a successful tech-adoption, it’s clear that you’ll need to design an effective marketing strategy and collaborate as closely as possible with online platforms like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Instagram to respond to ever-changing consumer demands.