Artificial Intelligence: The way Forward
As apparel brands strive to remain lean and agile and constantly meet consumer preferences to be at the top of their game, artificial intelligence (AI) gains traction in the apparel industry. Meera Warrier reports.
A report on the growing use of artificial intelligence in the apparel industry
The apparel industry, by its very nature, is a dynamic and labour-intensive one. Increased demand for high-quality apparel and the everevolving designs have placed a high premium on companies remaining nimble. And that level of agility has prompted the use of automated tools in apparel production now. A recent IDC research has forecast that the AI market will be worth more than US$47 million in 2020 vis-à-vis a US$8 million industry in 2016.
In the era of information technology, when artificial intelligence is taking over every bastion including engineering, healthcare, the service sector and such, the apparel industry is not far behind. The manufacturers as also the consumers are waking up to the benefits of incorporating AI into the processes for the greater benefit of all the parties involved. AI is now deeply embedded into manufacturing, especially in the supply chain management space. Data analysis, automation, finance, and logistics are witnessing the widespread implementation of AI and more divisions in manufacturing are looking to adopt AI to disrupt retail.
Speaking about the trend, Subrata Siddhanta, Executive President - Retail Business, Nucleus Vision says, “The industry has seen a trend shift in the last few years with the invasion of e-commerce and m-commerce and their personalised shopping experience. AI has enabled e-retailers to offer their users a customised shopping experience by being able to track their buying habits, preferences, and preferred choices. Studies prove that AI-powered customised shopping has helped users navigate through the millions of choices with ease. Reticular Activating System (RAS), a phenomenon that throws light on a brain’s attention drifting towards things that matter to it the most, plays a major role in this and an AI-powered engine enables this navigation.”
“Brick-and-mortar stores do not have access to intelligent customer insights to help them customise their shopper’s experience. More than 90 per cent of the retail business is from physical offline stores, and lack of a personalised experience is contributing to churn from brick-and-mortar to the e-commerce space. Nucleus Vision with its Proprietary ION sensor technology strives to bring this intelligence to the retail industry by offering anonymous and secure intelligence with the user’s consent to offer a personalised shopping experience. Nucleus Vision’s IoT solution provides insights into customer behaviour that was not previously possible, such as the ability to track customer visits, to aisles browsed and paths taken in-store, favourite products and brands, and predict future customer behaviour in-store. This helps create a personalised customer experience that leads to greater customer satisfaction,” Siddhanta added.
WHAT ARE PLAYERS DOING CURRENTLY?
Inventory management and mapping trends are two areas where most players have deployed the AI tool to maximise output for their businesses. Speaking about the inclusion of AI into the industry, Varuna Anand, Founder & Designer, The Splendor of Kashmir shared, “A confluence of fashion, luxury and technology is the inevitable truth for the future. The Splendor of Kashmir has been an early mover to leverage technology as a growth driver amongst the home-grown luxury handicraft brands, promoting the art of shawlmaking from Kashmir. The Splendor of Kashmir is a data-driven company and decisions regarding colour selection for seasons, woven/embroidered, types of shawls, their motifs/patterns are based on the ever-evolving consumer preferences. The
STUDIES PROVE THAT AIPOWERED CUSTOMISED SHOPPING HAS HELPED USERS NAVIGATE THROUGH THE MILLIONS OF CHOICES WITH EASE.
company understands that consumer behaviour and products are showcased after analysis of consumer preferences and buying behaviour over multiple seasons. Sales are currently being driven by creating digital experiences that bridge online and offline worlds. Understanding consumer behaviour is the key to our targeting and positioning strategies, and we are working on personalising the customer experience at scale using artificial intelligence by understanding customer-specific needs.”
Ashima Sharma, Fashion Designer and Founder of Ashima S Couture said, “AI is a very effective tool for generating sales in the apparel industry. The fashion industry these days is thriving digitally and most customers are in love with the online approach, hence artificial intelligence has come into action. Manufacturing is also benefitting from AI as it helps to determine the demandemand and supply requirements.” SharmaSharm continues, “AI helps the designerdesigne to keep a track of what’s being loved by customerscus in certain areas, and it also helps in providing ana understanding about whatwha doesn’t sell much. WWe all are familiar with uusing fashion websites webs and the
WITH AI, IT BECOMES EASIER TO PREDICT THE REPETITION CYCLE OF WHAT’S MORE LIKELY TO TREND IN THE FUTURE DEPENDING ON PREVIOUS STATISTICS.
mystery that helps us find what we need is indeed artificial intelligence. Like for instance, if you search for an off-shoulder dress, then AI starts showing you similar products in the ‘you may also like’ section. Trends are a very important aspect in keeping up with the latest fashion, and with AI, it becomes easier to predict the repetition cycle of what’s more likely to trend in the future depending on previous statistics. The results are great in terms of sales and production estimation.”
With AI and IoT, Nucleus Vision is looking to bridge the gap between the online and the offline space. Speaking about this, Siddhanta says, “With this seamless integration, the brick-and-mortar stores will be able to offer personalised shopping, track user preferences, and customise offerings to its users. Installing ION Sensors, implementing Machine Learning and Deep Learning to understand buying patterns, integrating interoperable loyalty programmes, and embedding an online-offline interface are the major steps that the retail industry is witnessing.”
RESULTS TELL THE STORY
Speaking about the impact he sees of the widespread implementation of AI in the retail industry, Siddhanta says, “According to a recently conducted study, more than three quarters (76 per cent) of the retailers emphasise on the use of AI and its rakes, not just in the store but also behind the scenes. AI, robotics, and IoT have significantly improved the way modern retail transacts when compared to five years ago. More than 46 per cent of the retailers showcased an increase in revenue, reduced time intervals in supply chain management and increased customer satisfaction.”
FUTURE OF AI
The biggest challenge that the effectiveness of AI will face is the huge dependence on human input into it. The tool can only be as successful as the data inputted. Similarly, data safety, privacy and control, in today’s time and age, are key buzzwords that make or break a brand if not handled delicately.
Critics of AI, or of any kind of technological development, have long rued the impact of it on employment opportunities. The apparel industry is a huge employer of talent, and fears of human intervention reducing are rife. The industry will have to come together sooner or later to allay these fears and lay down the new order.
The biggest challenge, as of today, however continues to remain the high cost of deploying AI into the company processes. The cost of the tool itself, training the team to use it effectively, continual upkeep and maintenance are all costs that any enterprise would have to factor into its already burgeoning top line.
“The future of AI is an ever-growing field. AI is evolving new technologies lately which are surely going to help the apparel industry in the future. AI can be estimated to become even stronger in terms of trend forecast in the near future which would be of great help to the designers,” opines Sharma.
“Seamless integration of AI, IoT, and a secure means of transferring information–blockchain–is the future of retail in India. Blockchain will be the means of transferring data with the highest levels of security from the user to the retailer and vice versa. With the power of information, retail in the future will integrate and innovate ways to expedite supply chain timelines, adopt automation, integrate platforms, create a customer-centric approach and create unified shopping for increasing liquidity.
Nucleus Vision relies on AI to segregate users into segments based on Recency, Frequency, and Monetary. AI aids the proprietary technology in facilitating cross-functional promotions, and monetising customer information solely for their benefit,” concludes Siddhanta.
With more and more companies adopting AI into their processes, it seems like there are a lot of good things in store for the apparel industry.