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Essay: Technological developments in the fashion industry

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Retailing has been transformed by the development of new technologies. Nowadays, customers can buy clothes from all over the world and they no longer need to be close to shopping centers: “ We can now shop in the middle of the night or in a cab, quickly survey a brands entire inventory in a single scroll, and read other customers’ reviews about how an item of clothing fits” (Segran, 2015). As a matter of fact, all the developments in technology have also changed the way customer shop. Producers and consumers can interact with one another. Moreover, customers have become particularly valuable to brands as trendsetters, advocators and brands need to focus more on building customer loyalty as part of their marketing strategy. There has been a dramatic rise in online trading and small- scale selling, with sites like eBay and Etsy providing new forms of marketplace for a wide range of products. Companies have to think carefully how they can reinforce customer perceptions through product quality and service experiences both on- and offline, as digital sources of information play an important role in shaping purchase decisions. (dave cha)

As technology develops at a high speed, fashion brands have many new and exciting opportunities to innovate their retail marketing strategy and to interface with the connected consumer. The options are becoming widespread with perpetual development. The research in this chapter is mainly based on examples of already existing technologies as it is difficult to foresee what kind of technologies might exist in the future. Nevertheless, an attempt of a future vision is integrated. The technologies have been separated in four categories: mobile integration, physical store integration, online store integration and social media integration. A clear delimitation of the new technological developments is often impossible, due to the fact that some technologies match several categories.

Mobile integration

Mobile devices are important tools to blur the world between offline and online. The integration of an elaborated mobile strategy within the total retail marketing strategy is therefore necessary in order to reach the connected consumer nowadays. Additionally, mobile data traffic has surpassed that of desktop, and half of millennials spend more than three hours every day on their device. Consumers turn to their mobile phones for research, covering everything from inspiration to price comparison, spending an average of six hours per week on researching fashion on their phones. As mobile technologies develop, they have turned out to be a supercomputer in a mini size that people can carry around. Therefore, with the development of mobile technologies, new types of space such as social network can be created and mobile devices such as smartphones allows people to be in a different places at the same time(Harris 17).

Mobile shopping

Especially the mobile channel is increasingly becoming a priority. Connected consumers are equipped with mobile phones and/or tablets and able to purchase goods everywhere and whenever they want. This phenomenon and shift from e-commerce towards m-commerce can also be called “everywhere-commerce” (Burdett, et al., 2013) In order to explore their potential for connecting with consumers as they shop, fashion marketers embraced some of the more visual innovations in mobile app technology. With mobile-POS brands can expand their ability to reach their desired target market. They can actively help customers in their shopping journey and enrich the in-store experience through customized service. For example, beauty brand Sephora has implemented a mobile-POS solution. Via an application customers can scan and purchase products and read or write reviews, but also have the opportunity to check themselves out to avoid queuing. Nevertheless, the functionality of mobile-POS is still limited. (Tode, 2012). Speaking of mobile payment, today many apps allow customers to purchase goods in store using mobile devices, such as PayPal or Monetise`s Simply Tap, apps which make it possible for customers to save their payment and delivery details. Additionally, PayPal’s app allows customers to use a smartphone to `check in` to a shop with their name and profile image. As a result, the sales assistant just click on the customer`s image to take the payment. Another innovation in the mobile payment represents the Google Wallet`s payment system, using near field communication. “Near field communication also known as “NFC, “allows data to be passed from one device to another using peer-to-peer radio communication. The data can be transferred by touching or putting devises very close together”.(harris 159). Therefore, customers can shop online, transfer money, or tap their smartphone on an in-store device to pay, using mobile devices as a debit card, credit card, loyalty card, and gift card. Additionally, Apple Pay represents another form of contactless payment, used in-store with payment apps, using an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. (Harris 159)


Another example is the use of QR (quick response) codes. QR Codes consists of square dots arranged in a grid pattern that can be scanned and read by a mobile camera. Additionally, they can allow customers to access information with a wider mix of content such as videos and music downloads.

Customers at Hointer, a denim brand for men, added QR codes to their jeans. Visitors can simply scan the code, select the desired size and get it delivered to a fitting room. This process helps customers to speed up their shopping trip and saves them of wading through piles of clothes in order to find the right size. As mentioned in the examples, consumers can scan barcodes and QR codes via mobile devices. On the one hand, customers can then check competitive prices of the desired product via scan- and-buy applications. On the other hand, shoppers can make use of a brand’s application to augment reality.

Augmented reality

According to Oxford Dictionaries augmented reality is “a technology that superimposes a computer- generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.” For example, American Apparel’s consumers simply scan product signs with the brand’s own mobile application and can then decide between multiple options, such as viewing customer reviews, sharing products on social media, changing colors, watching product videos and purchasing (McQuarrie, 2013). Besides displaying additional product information that enriches the shopping experience on mobile devices, augmented reality can also be used without mobile. For instance, virtual fitting rooms and interactive mirrors, further explained in 3.3.4 Virtual fitting rooms and interactive mirror, are also extending the real world with a computer- generated image. Based on the content that is superimposed, brands can attract, inform and entertain their customers or gain brand awareness.

Location based services

When potential customers are within a wider radius of the store, location-based services allow mobile applications such as maps and cameras to work together with browsers, using information collected from mobile devices. For example, they can offer wireless Internet connection or make use of Geofence. Geofencing is a virtual perimeter on a geographic area that uses the global positioning system (GPS) or radio frequency identification (RFDI). It is set up to trigger a notification when a device enters or leaves the perimeter. With Geofencing brands can for example send out information about the location, events and special offers via short message service (SMS) or e-mail. Geofencing can be used as a location-based mobile marketing strategy as it can deliver highly targeted advertising. Additionally, marketers are able to gain customer data by tracing and monitoring where, when and how long they stayed at a specific location. This has led to many discussions about privacy-loss and the trend towards a “big-brother” state (Spiegel, 2013). Moreover, location-based services allow mobile applications such as maps or cameras to work together with browsers, using information collected from mobile devices, Wi-Fi, GPS networks, and Beacons. These work to determine the user`s approximated locations. As a matter of fact, fashion business can detect when the customers are in one of their stores, switching the app into store mode and give customers a more personalized and tailored shopping experience. Therefore, GPS apps use location systems and can deliver news about in-store events and provide interactive in-store guides. (harris, 157)

Physical store integration

Besides mobile opportunities, brands have multiple other technological developments available to engage with customers inside the store.

Interactive shop windows

Once the customer is in front of the store windows, there are several opportunities to engage and entertain him or her. Shop windows can contain interactive screens or can entirely transform into an interactive screen itself. The windows can include facial recognition software or/and sound transducers to turn the glass shop window into speakers. With mobile, brands can invite customers to go even further. As explained before, in-store interaction can also take place via social networking, social shopping, QR-code scanning and Geofencing. The following examples explain the different techniques.

Jonathan Trumbull

Jonathan Trumbull, independent designer menswear store in Norwich, United Kingdom, installed an interactive screen in the shop window, entitled “Face in the Snow”. The LED screen created an almost magical effect with falling snow and blizzard sound effects. The interactive window included facial recognition: shoppers simply stood outside the window, a picture was taken and then uploaded to www. faceinthesnow.co.uk where customers could share their photo on Facebook. By this Jonathan Trumbull was able to entertain their customers, harmonize technology and to gain brand awareness.


In 2013 Nike launched the Fuel Band campaign. The idea behind the concept was to visual the continuously track of movement and upload energy expenditure in form of fuel points. With the launch of the campaign, Nike designed an interactive shop window, which was displayed in London, United Kingdom. The colored balls fly up every time a person passes by. Nike’s interactive shop window engages with customers with the goal to visualize the campaign and to show movement. Due to the fact, that the window doesn’t enable any features such as social sharing or facial recognition, the window was exclusively created for gaining brand and campaign awareness and to be an early adapter in terms of technology and innovation.

Adidas Neo

In 2012 Adidas created an interactive window display, where passers-by could dress up an interactive mannequin in the Adidas Neo collection. Adidas integrated a mobile strategy: customers simply scan the QR Codes on their mobiles and can then drag and drop the products into a virtual shopping bag, share it with friends via Facebook and even purchase. The process of involving shopper`s friends in the online shopping experience is called social shopping. Adidas Neo is an excellent example for an interactive shop window, as consumers have the possibility to even purchase good after shop closing time. As consumer connectivity is leading towards 24/7 and the trend of everywhere commerce can be determined, Adidas Neo successfully meets the demands of its customers, e.g. enabling convenient purchase funnels around-the-clock. The company extends the offline world into the online world of shopping through integrating a mobile strategy using QR codes.

Digital signage

Once the customer is inside the shop, brands have a great range of digital and interactive technologies to enhance the store experience. Most common is the use electronic displays to show products, campaign shoots, information or even catwalk shows. This can be described as the digital signage. Even though interactivity is not enabled in those cases, electronic displays can contribute to the in-store experience by creating a more innovative, exclusive or even luxury feeling, as it can be seen in the example of Burberry on the picture below.

Virtual fitting rooms and interactive mirrors

Besides interactive touchscreens, virtual fitting rooms and interactive mirrors can be found in some stores. These technologies help customers to shop smarter (Assistive Consumer Technology). The idea of virtual fitting rooms came as the retailers were looking for ways of connecting customers in-store. Kinect, a motion-sensing device actually used in gaming technologies, is used to enhance fitting room experience. At the beginning virtual fitting rooms have been tested in some physical stores. Via facial recognition costumers’ bodies can be scanned and showed on the displays. Consumers can then easily drag and drop the different items on their bodies and virtually try them on as it can be seen in the pictures of Diesel and TOPSHOP. Therefore, the system is connected to the retailer`s inventory database, which can recommend additional products based on the customers’ preferences and actions, such as how many times they have tried an item on and whether they have shared a screen grab of that item on social networks. (harris 178)

Magic mirrors

Another innovation in the fashion retail shows the magic mirrors. In 2014 Rebecca Minkoff collaborated with eBay to improve the shopping experience in her New York store. Therefore, she provides a truly omnichannel example, blurring the experience between online an in-store. As a matter of fact, the brand’s sales have reportedly shot up more than 200 percent each year since the installation of smart dressing rooms in their New York flagship. Digital mirrors in the rooms allow customers to request items, view inspirational content, even change lighting conditions. Stylists in store not only deliver requested items and offer advice, but also complete purchases on the floor using a tablet device. Hereby, the customer’s fitting room visits, along with purchase history and preferences can be shared with staff for a highly personalized shopping experience


A more futuristic approach is the use of mannequin holograms. Lingerie brand Empreinte in Paris displayed a holographic mannequin wearing the French underwear in their shop. The hologram appeared after 9 pm every night between May 23rd and May 26th, 2012, animating the shop window before disappearing in a shower of stars. Holographic mannequins, walking around the stores, almost seem to be real and can surely contribute to an impressive in-store experience. In order to reduce costs, people have been replaced by technology across all industries, therefore it could be conceivable to have holographic sales associate in the future.

3D scanning

Today, the online shopping website collect a lot of data to find out customers preferences and show them customized content which they would like. 2018 has brought new inventions ahead. In October 2017 Amazon bought New York- based startup Body Laps, who created a software that captures the body s shape and motion in 3D. Meanwhile Amazon came with the idea of creating a way for customers to virtually try on clothes and shop for styles that are better fitted to their body shape. The e-commerce giant is reportedly inviting customers (volunteers) to its New York office in order to keep a tab on their body shape and size over a 20-week period via 3D scanning. These volunteers will visit twice a month in order to allow Amazon a better understanding of the changing human body, Digital Trends reported. In turn, Amazon will give them gift cards worth up to USD 250. Additionally, the retailer, Amazon is making moves to grow its apparel empire. In the past year, it has accelerated the growth of its private-label brands and introduced Prime Wardrobe, a try-before-you-buy and return service. Moreover, according to a report by Morgan Stanley, the company is now expected to become the leading US apparel retailer landing in second place after Walmart, which had 8.7% of the market share in 2017, compared to Amazon’s 7.9%. (Keyes, 2018) Another important aspect of the ability to virtually try on clothes is to curb the number of customer returns, which is an expensive byproduct of selling clothing online.

Online store integration

As already mentioned, consumers nowadays have the choice to buy almost everything online or in the store. Brands who have both an online and an offline store are using ‘multi-channel retail’. Consumers have a different attitude towards different channels in a multichannel setting (Konus et al. 2008). Konus et al. (2008) also showed that store-focused consumers are more loyal in general than multichannel enthusiasts, but multichannel consumers have higher purchase volumes. An opportunity to combine as well online as offline experiences is omnichannel retail. Omnichannel retail integrates the diverse online and offline channels. A description of omnichannel retail is given by Rigby (2011): ‘An integrated sales experience that melds the advantages of physical stores with the information-rich experience of online shopping’ (p.2). Consumers can for example buy something online and pick it up in the store or vice versa (Verhoef, Kannan & Inman, 2015). Speaking of omnichannel retail, the relationship between online and offline is more complex. During a single purchasing journey, a customer may switch between digital and bricks-and-mortar multiple times. Under such circumstances, the retailers need to understand and leverage the interconnectivity between the two. That means not only encouraging in-store customers to meet the brand online, but also driving online customers into stores. Burberry Group Plc, the London-based maker of $1,600 trench coats, was the first luxury company to introduce a click-and- collect service in 2012. Offering services like click-and-collect or “buy online pick up in-store” (BOPIS) shows also several advantages. Firstly, these services mitigate shipping and fulfilment costs that could otherwise impact bottom line. More importantly is that they are driving additional sales. According to the survey “ChargeItSpot”… Up to 75% of shoppers who collect in store end up buying additional items, according to surveys. Another important fact for the customers is that purchasing online and picking up in-store allows them to forego checkout lines, eliminate delivery wait times and save money on shipping costs. Another variation of this is “reserve online, try-on in-store”. Considering the fashion brand Nordstorm, is a good example that illustrates this service. The customer reserves items via Nordstrom’s app and when the items are ready to be tried on at their nearest store, they are notified via text. Once the customer arrives in store, they’re again notified of where to find a dedicated dressing room containing their items. An initial pilot in six stores proved a huge success for Nordstrom: 80% of shoppers who tried the service used it multiple times. For this reason, this service and has now been expanded to 43 stores across the US. Furthermore, Farfetch.com, an Internet portal through which in excess of 300 luxury fashion shops sell online, has also introduced a service that allows shoppers to place an order for apparel and accessories with one of its retailers and collect it from another potentially thousands of miles away. As Stephanie Horton, chief marketing officer of London-based Farfetch, mentioned: “The consumer is pushing everyone to be more agile and come up with more convenient ways to shop,”

Social media integration

Nowadays, social media usage is continuing to grow at record paces, with 75% of all internet users. Moreover, according to a research(Karr, 2015), 46% of shoppers rely on social media when making a purchase. Nowadays, fashion shoppers have a voracious appetite for content and insights to stimulate ideas, solve their problems and meet their needs. Another significant fact is that reading fashion and lifestyle blogs, watching videos and following celebrity endorsers have all become important parts of the shopping journey. Therefore, social media channels bring huge opportunities for the fashion retailers to target consumers in unique and personalized ways, becoming an important tool in the consideration phase of a customer’s buying journey. The following examples will emphasize the importance of integration of social media within the fashion retail.

For instance, ASOS, the fashion online retailer, solicits user generated content and leverages it to create engaging experiences for customers (for example its #AsSeenOnMe). Another example shows Burberry shares video content for their latest collections and J. Crew creates a rich experience in in their blog with a behind-the-scenes look at how clothing is made, plus consumers “test driving” new products and sharing their thoughts.

On the other hand, connecting social media experiences to brick-and-mortar locations offers a great way to further engage social followers, being seen as an extension of the physical location. According to the social media company Ignite, “Adding social experiences in-store, such as photo booths, video tutorials at the point of purchase, Influencer recommended product placement/signage, UGC in-store, etc. are valuable opportunities to add validity to your brand and products.”

Fashion company Marc Jacobs was a good example for adapting this experience, when they opened a pop-up store in Manhattan during New York’s Fashion Week to show off their new line of Daisy fragrances. So, customers who came into a store location were rewarded with free gifts, such as jewelry, perfume, and accessories if they have encouraged the product, sending a tweet or posting on Instagram. The campaign resulted in over 13,500 Tweets and 4,300 photos on Instagram. Another important point is that consumers who include social media as part of their shopping process tend to spend more money on purchases. Statistics show that 81% of females frequently purchase items seen on social media, whilst 85% of people are influenced by celebrity endorsements when making a buying decision. For example, the fashion


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