The Future Of Retail Is Tech

Facing an increasingly voracious demand for unique and personalized customer experiences, retailers are turning to tech to satisfy their ever-fickle consumers. AR and AI are just two of the many ways retailers can completely overhaul and personalize their customer experiences and enhance their value propositions. Zeekit provides the technology and mastery of fashion retailing best practices to impact the industry in ways far beyond current methodology.

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The world of retail is changing. We’ve seen more brick-and-mortar stores close in the past year than ever before. Consumers have more information, more options, and more power than any time in history. And with that power comes demand for better shopping experiences across all channels. Shoppers, especially millennials, value authenticity, personalization, customer service, and the overall experience over any particular brand-based loyalty. Luckily for the industry, new technologies have developed in recent years to improve efficiency, advance customer service, and personalize the overall customer experience. We will see more and more brands implementing such technologies in the near future to stay ahead of the competition and in the hearts of their customers.

One of the major technologies that retailers should jump to integrate is Augmented Reality. Beyond Pokémon Go or Snapchat, AR is being used to improve customer experiences in-store, at home, and everywhere in between -- opening up a world of endless possibilities for shoppers, free of the restraints of time, accessibility, and physical location. The retailing time cycle has been expanded to be truly 24/7!

 A Sephora shopper can now use an AR mirror to virtually try-on makeup looks 

A Sephora shopper can now use an AR mirror to virtually try-on makeup looks 

Beauty titans like Sephora, L’Oreal, and Charlotte Tilbury are using AR to let shoppers preview their faces fully made up without having to spend the time actually putting any makeup on. And it’s not just beauty companies who have integrated AR into their experience offerings -- we’ve seen many fashion retailers jump on the AR bandwagon. Recently, Chanel partnered up with luxury retailer Farfetch to bring a new AR experience to brick-and-mortar Chanel locations. Stores like Topshop, H&M, and Neiman Marcus have rolled out projects with AR mirrors on the floor and in dressing rooms to show shoppers how they would look in different colors of the product they are trying on. Gap has also recently launched the Dressing Room by Gap app, in which shoppers can input their sizing information and virtually try on clothing using an avatar.

 Gap shoppers can try-on clothing using avatars on an app

Gap shoppers can try-on clothing using avatars on an app

Zeekit technology takes this experience one unmatched step further, by offering shoppers virtual try-on using their actual bodies, not just an impersonal avatar. This way, shoppers can essentially try on an entire website’s worth of clothing in seconds without ever leaving their phones and the entire inventory at a store without having to wait on the dressing room line. The scope of accessibility is endless!  

 Zeekit AR and computer vision technology used for accurate virtual dress-up

Zeekit AR and computer vision technology used for accurate virtual dress-up

Another tech realm offering amazing capabilities in terms of personalization is artificial intelligence -- AI -- and machine learning. As we know, shoppers today have little patience for irrelevant products or information; they crave personalized experiences, even online. AI and machine learning solve this problem by utilizing rich data in all stages of the retail process -- from research and production to marketing and customer service -- to customize and individualize the experience for shoppers. 

Specifically, retailers can harness big data about their shoppers, such as their previous purchases, web visit patterns, search behaviors, abandoned shopping baskets, and demographics, to predict their future interests and improve their total shopping experience --- from the marketing campaigns they are targeted with to the products featured in their search results. 
 

 North Face shoppers can answer a series of questions to find the perfect gift on the brand's site

North Face shoppers can answer a series of questions to find the perfect gift on the brand's site

For example, brands like The North Face are using AI-powered concierge service to help shoppers find the perfect gift through a series of questions. Ultimately, as more people use this service, more data will be collected about consumer insights, preferences, and patterns, exponentially improving the results offered. AI-powered chatbots are becoming an increasingly accepted way to connect with the customer, offer relevant recommendations, and even automate purchasing. Brands from Burberry to Tommy Hilfiger have integrated bots into their web experiences. With its launch of the Amazon Echo, Amazon has taken the chatbot to the next level. Using the device, shopping can ask questions, receive information, and even make purchases through voice command. 

 Burberry's AI-powered chatbots used on their site and social media platforms 

Burberry's AI-powered chatbots used on their site and social media platforms 

For the past year, Zeekit has been working intensively to develop its own implementation of AI and machine learning, called StylerAI. Zeekit engineers have developed algorithms to measure all patterns of behavior in the app, as well as personal preferences and surrounding details -- all to offer each shopper the most personal and relevant experience. For example, the AI software measures elements such as body dimensions, height, favorite brands, search terms, most tried-on products, purchases, fit preferences, and color preferences, in order to improve search results, product suggestions, and size suggestions.    

 Using Zeekit's StylerAI software, shoppers products that are more relevant to their individual interests 

Using Zeekit's StylerAI software, shoppers products that are more relevant to their individual interests 

Regarding tech developments related to retail, this is all just the tip of the iceberg. From blockchain and mobile payment to voice commerce and visual search -- there are so many exciting advances with significant implications for the shopping experience. We will undoubtedly see more and more retailers testing out new integrations in the coming years and are excited to be forging our own unique mark in this dramatically transformational time.