Fashion Tech Review 2019

Blockchain

Blockchain, which is also referred to as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), has the potential to revolutionise supply chains.  By being secure by design, brands will be able to utilise Blockchain to record the factory-to-shelf journey and show authenticity of product and origin.  Some brands have already embraced traceability and Blockchain provides a good solution.

Using Blockchain to track diamonds has been achieved using Everledger.  In May 2019 Brilliant Earth brought ‘blockchain-enabled’ diamonds to market with the use of Everledger which allowed consumers to review the provenance.  This appears to be the first time a jeweller offered such a service at scale and highlighted the increasing need for luxury brands to be transparent with their supply chain and provide greater consumer assurance.  Founded in 2005 Brilliant Earth is a leading global retailer for responsibly sourced jewellery.

Provenance is a provider to Blockchain based solutions to brands, such as cult beauty, which would like to demonstrate their transparency and integrity on all its products.  The website now provides “Proof Points” on various claims that are made about the business so that shoppers can see the impact of what they are buying.  A supply chain recorded on the Blockchain enables customers to hold brands to account. From a legal perspective, Blockchain poses an interesting challenge. 

There are questions on how Blockchain based technologies will interact with data protection, as access to the entire chain of transactions can be open to the public.  There will also be questions on the ownership of the database that is stored on the Blockchain, which would be incredibly valuable to the brand, but also the developer.

Intelistyle

Intelistyle has used AI analysis in a number of pilot studies to develop styling for ecommerce.  Dolce & Gabbana were able to utilise this technology to enable some of their best stylists who made a significant number of sales to share their skills with other front line staff members.  D&G developed look books on a tablet in-store and as a result, other staff members were able to make better recommendations.  By working in collaboration with brands, The utilisation of AI requires significant input in order to be effective and will no doubt be used in conjunction with millions of photos on social media. This raises issues on the basis on which the photos have been obtained for use and the data mining that brands undertake in order to be able to advise on the latest trend.  Intelistyle will have been able to use various resources, including physical look books which are the property of the brands and as a result will have been able to avoid this issue.

Personal shopper messenger

Burberry announced in September 2019 that it was collaborating with Apple to provide a messaging app in which customers could book in-store appointments.  This move raises interesting questions about personal data protection and it will be interesting to see how Burberry and Apple use the data.  Understanding the needs of their most important clientele is certainly of benefit and customers would most likely consent to having their communications reviewed by the brand to help improve the service and their own shopping experience.  It also shows how the retail space is becoming an opportunity for data collection in the same way as online.

In store tracking

Retail Next have taken the collection of data in store to the next level with Aurora.  What they have developed is an in store piece of hardware that tracks the traffic and conversion of the consumer experience.  Imagine being able to receive the same data driven feedback that an online store has in a bricks and mortar establishment.  It uses video cameras, wifi and Bluetooth, the point-of-sale system and other data inputs to give brands a dashboard of information to enable them to track the consumer journey.  Counting the number of people entering the store and obtaining information at the point of sale have been around for years, but to actually be able to track a customer through the store is the next level.  This does raise issues around privacy and data protection.  Whilst it is easy for a consumer to consent to terms before signing up a personal shopper service, it may be harder to obtain consent to track an individual through a store, depending on the level of data that is captured.

Adidas Oxford Street

No stranger to bringing tech into the store, Adidas has launched an innovative new space in the heart of London.  The store is set to include a running lab, RFID mirror tech that detects the products that individuals are trying on and links to app in-store which includes a “bring to me function” of ordering footwear.  There are even QR codes on products so that buyers can scan them for release dates (which is added to the calendar on your phone).  The really creative can get involved in the production of their own designs on digital interactive floor named “The Base”.

Adidas are not the only brand utilising RFID and it is thought that use of RFID will take off in the retail space.  Farfetch – Browns East have implemented a RFID-enabled clothing rack that detects which products customers are browsing and automatically places them in a wishlist.  There is also an online mirror that allows customers to instantly request items in different sizes.  The key legal issues here will again be related to data protection.  It will be important for brands to ensure that the data they collect is limited to what is required to provide the services and also brought to the attention of the consumer.

The high street has been changing for a number of years, but with a number of exciting technologies becoming more mainstream the consumer experience in store has the potential of being more exciting and more tailored than before.  The trends of transparency and sustainability are likely to continue and consumers will rightly want to be sure of the supply chain for luxury goods.  It will be interesting to see if 2020 is the year in which the emerging trends from 2019 stick.  The more consumers interact with emerging technology and the more brands that seek to utilise it to gain a competitive advantage, the more they will also need to be aware of the legal ramifications.  The reputational damage of not complying with data protection laws is enough to take a brand from innovator to pariah in moments and brands will be aware that trust in them has never been more important when they know more and see more about their potential customers than ever before.

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