Fashion and the fourth industrial revolution
TI07 - January 20

Ana Roncha

Head of the Masters in Strategic Fashion Marketing at the London College of Fashion

ne of the greatest change drivers in the fashion industry is the growing technological innovation. The rippling effects of the 4th Industrial Revolution are undeniable. Through the automation of systems and technologies, we were able to create intelligent networks that control the entire value chain.

The growing pace of technological innovations and the implementation of disruptive tools have been changing the dynamic of the fashion industry.

However, one needs to face technology from a holistic standpoint, encompassing artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, NFC, RFID, AR, VR, projection mapping, 3D printing, etc, and realize the changes these technologies bring.

Technology unveils several possibilities to customize the shopping experience, improves the interaction with shopping assistants and accelerates the ability to offer a more personalized communication and service. Integrating social networks, stock management, product development, trend management and/or consumer relations management are consequences, but are also opportunities to adopt a digital-first culture, and above all, mobile first. By merging online and offline, one must have the notion that consumers do not interact with channels, but with brands instead.

Therefore, the brands’ digital strategy should be holistic, and embrace the organization as a whole, placing the consumer front and centre.

Technology should be used, firstly, to serve and guide the consumer’s options and help predict behaviours. To have a correct understanding of the “consumer journey” and of the several touch points helps to manage and comprehend the brand’s relevance in each of those points, and to create ways of interacting that facilitate the integration of multiple channels within an omnichannel structure.

The biggest opportunities, right now, lie in making the payment process as convenient as possible, using facial recognition, biometrics or self-service checkouts. Or technologies like block chain that streamline the flow of information and transparency among the several activities of the value chain, with a direct connection to the aforementioned sustainability issues, and the use of voice assistants and chatbots for a greater offer personalization. The prediction is that by 2020 roughly 85% of interactions with brands shall be conducted without any human interference.

In this context, business models that make good use of technological developments focus on agility and innovation, on technology as an added value. They integrate physical with digital and create ecosystems that lead to the blossoming of new abilities and functions.

This global market in constant change demands a culture of constant updating and the perception that a new mind-set is upon us – in consumers and in the way we conduct business, regardless of the segment or market category. In this reality, stronger brands are the ones able to provide benefits that go beyond functional attributes, reaching into the emotional side and creating a relationship with the consumer, by merging digital abilities with the still unparalleled human empathy.