In recent years, technology has transformed the global fashion industry, speeding up personalisation and automation with algorithms that predict style trends.
The emergence of intelligent equipment like sewing technology in 3D, computer embroidery and laser cutting have made designs more fashionable.
Joseph Meleji, a fashion enthusiast at MJ Apparel Kenya says there are a lot of ways technology is changing the fashion industry. Designers now can use applications like Pinterest to source and re-design ideas and transform them into reality.
Merchandising has enhanced the marketing and selling of fashion products. Social media has become an invaluable tool that enhances sales.
“Using celebrities, influences, friends, friends of friends, and referrals among others are the best strategy to enhance your merchandising goal,” he says.
So, which technologies are making the biggest impact on the future of the Kenyan fashion industry?
“Mobile technology is getting more advanced every single day. From Insta shopping to smart wallets, mobile commerce is the ultimate tech tool. It has not only impacted our everyday lives, but it has become one of the fastest-growing sectors in e-commerce, mostly fueled by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Mr Meleji.
Armed with your smartphones, now not only can you shop online but also have easy payment experiences with digital wallet options.
Mobile commerce captures consumers’ attention through push notifications; these are the text-message style pop-ups that anyone who downloads an app can opt-in to receive.
With email open rates steadily declining, push notification is an appealing new marketing channel for fashion brands that attracts people.
Another way is through geo-fencing; this is when your phone knows exactly where you are so that apps can send you location-specific deals, invitations, and promotions.
For fashion brands, it is an outstanding tool to link the dots and combine personalised online and offline experiences.
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Lastly, through personalisation, retailers leverage customers who have downloaded their app, and capitalise on the social web, by linking up with customers’ Facebook accounts, to show them what products their friends have liked, or by keeping track of what products they browse and offering them special discounts.
“For fashion brands, there is no doubt that mobile is going to continue to play a critical role. This newer method of shopping makes buying on the go easy and simple with just the click of a button.”
Internet of things (IoT)
The IoT describes a network of objects - the ‘things’ - that are embedded with technology to allow the exchange and connection of data over the internet. This is one of the most exciting, emerging technological trends in the fashion market.
Technology mechanises our world by letting us interact with everyday objects through the internet.
Everyday fashion continues to improve to reflect the realities of our daily lives. From a great emphasis on comfort to using new and exciting fabrics, the fashion industry has had to keep up the pace in adapting to the demands of contemporary life.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI enables brands to improve the shopping experience of their customers, analyse data, increase sales, forecast trends, and provide inventory-related guidance.
Chatbots and touchscreens can be used in big stores to improve customer experience and customised product suggestions. It’s almost impossible to head to a fashion brand’s website and not find some form of AI chat technology that’s being used to help enhance the customer experience.
The technology behind AI includes algorithms that track customers' journeys to match them with the right product.
Combining the physical and online worlds of retail has been one of virtual reality's most exciting applications.
This is certainly true in the fashion industry: one widespread use of Virtual reality is enabling customers to virtually try on outfits.
This gives greater accuracy, thanks to customised measurement functionality, and also employs augmented reality technology.
It also means that customers might be more likely to buy products they feel that they’re tried on.
This kind of online shopping experience engages and retains the customers longer, as they love seeing the product on themselves before buying.
This, combined with the social media share factor, makes it even more appealing to customers.
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Since the advent of 3D printers, many brands, especially the big ones have been looking into the possibilities it holds for on-demand production. This will create new avenues for customization, sustainability, and creativity.
Many fashion brands are embracing 3D in their collections, from accessories to full looks.
Despite taking many hours to create, it results in less waste and proves far less labour-intensive than other types of manufacturing. Printing garments on demand reduces fabric waste by about 35 percent.
This minimal waste approach could provide valuable insights on how to reshape the current state of factories and align them with a more sustainable social and environmental focus.
According to CB Insights, other next high-tech fashion trends to watch include, wearables, virtual fashions, novel fabrics, and live stream shopping, and synthetic media among others.