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AI and your clothing business: What to know before you press go

By Jess Dickenson, Managing Director, Precis Digital

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in fashion – so how can you tailor the technology to underpin success in your clothing business? 

AI’s rapid advancement is captivating industries the world over. It’s no wonder forecasts suggest the global AI sector will be worth almost $1tn by 2030. However, because of its power to drive growth, organisations have a tendency to rush into AI implementation, or focus on the wrong things. That results in disappointing outcomes and missed opportunities.

The good news is that a well-structured, outcome-oriented approach can help any enterprise cut its coat according to its cloth, ensuring a smooth transition to AI-driven operations.

Let’s take a closer look at four key aspects to consider before you introduce AI into your business:

1. Lay a data foundation to avoid delays

The quality, structure and completeness of data is fundamental to an effective AI solution. It is from this data that AI learns, adapts and generates results. When businesses have data silos in place or incomplete data, there is a risk that outputs will be unreliable. Even Generative AI – the likes of ChatGPT – thrive when working with pre-analysed and synthesised data. If you desire better outputs in content and creative generation, it’s important to invest in the underlying data set.

For fashion retailers this means investing resources in organising and standardising product, customer and sales data. It is also critical to ensure connections between different data points, such as marketing data and broader business metrics. These interconnections enable AI models to glean deeper insights and uncover hidden patterns that drive informed decision-making; for example, new creative iterations based on past performance.

2. Use AI for better outcomes, not for hype

AI is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Just like the adoption of any other technology, it should deliver outcomes that are high value to the customer or to your business. Take Apple’s approach. Its recently announced AI-powered features seamlessly integrate into its products, enhancing the user experience without requiring complex interactions based on chat prompts. 

Retailers should adopt a similar mindset. Take the time to understand your goals and set clear objectives. Are you aiming to create value for the business or value for the customer? The below should provide some food for thought.

Creating value for the business:

  • Automation – AI can streamline inventory management, optimise pricing strategies and automate customer service interactions. This will free up valuable human resources for more complex tasks.
  • Creative – Generative AI can foster innovation and creativity by helping to design new collections, create marketing visuals and generate product descriptions.
  • Content – AI-powered tools can drive engagement and sales by analysing customer data to generate personalised recommendations, curate content and optimise email marketing campaigns.

Creating value for customers:

  • Experiences – AI can power virtual try-on features, enabling customers to visualise how garments will look once worn without physically trying them on. It can also facilitate smarter recommendations based on individual preferences and purchase history.
  • Convenience – Chatbots provide instant customer support, answer questions and guide shoppers through the purchase journey. This is the best way to enhance convenience and satisfaction.
  • Personalisation – AI-driven algorithms tailor product suggestions, promotions and marketing messages to each customer, enabling you to create more personalised and relevant shopping experience.

3. Trusting the process is key to AI adoption

Successful AI adoption requires a company culture where all users can embrace and trust the technology. It’s vital to foster an environment for your workforce that is receptive to AI’s potential.

Dismissing or discounting AI-driven insights because it wasn’t the outcome you wanted negates the goal of implementing AI in the first place. Instead, you should establish robust validation processes through continual testing, so that AI-powered decision-making becomes the norm.

4. Should you build or buy your AI solution?

While developing in-house AI solutions may seem appealing it can often be costly and labour intensive. You also run the risk of perpetuating internal biases. Leveraging AI features from your existing tech stack and partnering with third-party AI providers can often be a more efficient and effective strategy.

External experts offer access to broader data sets and more sophisticated algorithms, allowing businesses to benefit from wider industry learning. The true power of AI lies not in its complexity, but in its ability to simplify processes, enhance experiences and deliver meaningful results. When wielded with intent, it can transform businesses and reshape industries.

By prioritising robust data foundations, adopting an outcome-oriented approach, and understanding the diverse applications of AI, fashion retailers can unlock a new era of growth, efficiency, and customer-centricity.

Jess Dickenson, Managing Director, Precis Digital

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