Ep 1: How retailers can get ready for the new age of commerce with Big Data and AI
Welcome to the first See Fashion Think Tank Podcast. In this series, we invite prominent thought leaders in retail and emerging technology to discuss their thoughts on the future of fashion commerce. For our first show, we were delighted to have Whitney Cathcart, founder of Cathcart Manufacturing Technologies.
Here are some of the key insights that we learnt from the show:
"We are not shopping less, we are just shopping differently."
The digital advancements that have taken place since the early 2000s has seen unprecedented change in shopping habits and completely transformed retail. There has been a significant shift from Bricks and Mortar to digital, however, Bricks and Mortar is not going to disappear. People like going into stores, being able to feel and touch before purchasing. Retailers shouldn’t worry about the end of the physical store but rather focus on the new purpose of the store in the customer’s purchase journey.
"E-commerce and the physical store are parts of one big shopping experience."
Retailers are still adopting a siloed organisational structure towards ecommerce and offline shopping. However, they are both part of one big shopping experience. No matter what channel you use to shop, you are still engaging with the same brand or retailer. When a customer shops with you, they don’t make a decision that they are going to engage with you online only or offline only. All they want is what they want, when they want it. Retailers need to focus on creating a frictionless experience between ecommerce, mobile and the physical stores that continuously adapts and meets to their customers' expectations - wherever they are in the customer journey.
"Retailers have the data to survive...they just don’t know what to do with it!"
Retailers have more information about their customers than they did 10 years ago. Unfortunately, they aren't looking beyond "What is my customer buying and how much of it did they buy?" Retailers need to start exploiting their data to identify customer habits so they can anticipate their needs in time. Key to this is hiring strong teams of data engineers, data scientists as well as technically-minded business leaders.
"AI will allow creatives to be more creative."
We are going to see massive innovations in AI and design, that will make the overall process a lot more efficient. AI will be able to automate mundane tasks such as analysing previous season styles and statistics, so that designers can focus on being more strategic and creative. Of course, AI will never do a better job than Tom Ford, Stella McCartney - we still need that creative spirit. However it can help reduce costs and manpower in the design stage. With this in mind, fashion designers should start studying technology, as it's going to play a bigger piece in what we produce and how we produce it.
"Immersive technologies will help retailers create new brand experiences."
To remain competitive, retailers need to create engaging brand experiences in-store. Immersive technology such as AR, VR and MR will be pivotal to this. In fact, it won't be long before we will start shopping with glasses that will allow us to shop, try and purchase items in our favourite stores in Paris from the comfort of our home.
Even today, we see more forward-thinking brands creating more exciting experiences with immersive technology, such as Glossier, Warby Parker and The Line. What's interesting is that these were previously digitally-native brands that saw the value of the physical store as part of the customer journey. Retailers need to catch up!
"Amazon will continue to grow...but there is room for other players!"
Amazon will continue to set the bar in delivery engaging customer experiences as they have the money and resources to test so many ideas that others cannot. However, they will not be the only game in town. There is room for other brands but they need to:
1) connect with their customers;
2) create interesting and frictionless shopping experiences; and
3) have a great product.
Listen to the full podcast below.
Background audio: Ben Sound - All That
Whitney Cathcart is the founder of Cathcart Manufacturing Technologies, a retail consulting firm focused on AI, AR/VR/MR, automated process, digital innovation and robotics. She has over 25 years experience in the apparel industry from sales to manufacturing, and has been using her vast experience to help retailers identify the technologies that will best solve their existing pain points. You can learn more here.
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