How AI is paving the way
The digital tools that are becoming part of the customer experience in the fashion industry and range from apps to online channels to virtual reality, are not yet considered the substitute for in-person service in physical stores. Instead, they are what is enabling brands and retailers to enhance the experience itself.
The Covid-19 pandemic affirmed how critical technological innovation is for the success and continuous growth of brands, as it played a significant role in allowing brands to develop their websites, apps, and social media accounts to maintain their customer relationships; however, advanced technologies and digital channels are creating even newer engaging ways of intensifying said relations.
Around 80% of luxury sales are influenced by digital touchpoints, and even brands which do not sell core products such as clothing or leather goods online have found themselves developing their social media platforms to connect digitally with their customers.
A few examples of brands who have free dived into the exploration of emerging technologies include Gucci, who using augmented reality (AR) for virtual sneaker try-on, Burberry, for uses like providing shoppers with a digital representation of its bags for a more accurate representation of their shapes and sizes, and Stella McCartney, partnering with virtual accessories designer Samuel Jordan to create virtual collections and showcase them on Roblox. However, luxury brands aren’t the only ones involved with the Roblox, as names such as Vans, Nike, Forever21, Alo Yoga, PacSun and Puma have all established their presence.
The online gaming platform has proved to be absurdly popular among teens and is now averaging more than 50 million users daily. The daily active users peaked during the height of the pandemic, and even although growth rates slowed down since then, yearly increases seem to continue.
According to Charles Hambro, co-founder and chief executive of Geeiq, a gaming data and strategy company, Roblox is seen by many as any other social media platform, where users are there to socialize as much as play games and to do so in interactive spaces, which brings its own advantages.
Meanwhile, LVMH Japan, partnering with investment company SoftBank, announced in February their escalating efforts to allow customers in their stores to enter “virtual reality spaces”, where they can communicate in real time and see manufacturing processes.
L’Oréal as well marked its first venture capital investment in the Metaverse and Web3 space as BOLD (Business Opportunities for L’Oréal’s Capital), the brand’s venture capital fund, announced a minority investment in “Digital Village”, a “metaverse-as-a-service” platform and NFT marketplace for brands, creators, and communities, offering scalable technologies for the creation of digital identities and assets in virtual worlds. Digital Village was founded in 2021 by Evelyn Mora, former digital and sustainability consultant for leading brands and founder of the sustainability focused digital Helsinki Fashion Week. The company’s advisory board includes founders and top executives from PANGAIA, The Sandbox, and Wave.
Brands clearly see the value technology has in connecting with consumers beyond simply physical stores, and the emergence of involvement with virtual worlds and NFTs by significant actors of the fashion industry strongly emphasize the importance of online brand extension.