Jess Erdman, February 2022
Fashion tech had a breakout year in 2021, with many fashion retailers embracing new technology to alleviate the pains of unstable supply chains, rising customer demands, and a competitive online shopping landscape.
The future of retail in 2022 will include experimental and practical applications of fashion tech that have developed over the past few years: blockchain, augmented reality, fashion artificial intelligence.
The retail industry is entering 2022, continuing to ride the wave of excitement for fashion tech from 2021. But, what technology developments should we keep an eye on? And what developments can we leave in 2021?
While we don’t have a crystal ball at YesPlz AI, we do have years of experience looking at past fashion tech and technology trends. You can look at our previous analysis of pandemic fashion trends here.
Read on and find our fashion tech predictions for 2022:
Did we miss a prediction? Do you disagree? Let us know.
Before digging into 2022, let’s take a quick look back at our 2021 predictions for the future of retail and see how our predictions performed.
Read our 2021 fashion tech predictions in full here.
Prediction 1: A return to authenticity and community
We predicted that fashion ecommerce brands would try to engage with customers through clear and authentic communication. During the pandemic, customers were bombarded by emails, newsletters, and messaging from fashion brands. And, as a result, customers wanted clear, value-driven communication that made its point in a concise and understandable way.
In 2021, customers not only demanded clear communication but began to question brand values: was the brand sustainable? Did the brand deliver on its promises? How value-driven was the brand itself?
We also saw customers move towards sustainable, ethical consumption as secondhand platforms began to rise in popularity.
Secondhand fashion platform Depop was acquired by Etsy in 2021, signaling a long-term move towards sustainable consumption.
Prediction 2: Rethinking the search and discovery experience
We predicted that fashion ecommerce brands would experiment with new search and discovery tools to keep over-stimulated customers' attention. Tools such as visual search, powered by fashion artificial intelligence, made the customer purchasing journey seamless.
In 2021, brands such as Levis began to experiment more with visual search, blending the visual with semantic search to meet customer needs.
And, more use cases for visual search emerged for retailers, making retailers even more likely to implement visual search. Two problems emerged for retailers in 2021: 1) current search navigation was disappointing for newly sophisticated customers; 2) product tagging was time-consuming.
Through visual search tools such as YesPlz AI's Style Filter, retailers could quickly tag product attributes using fashion AI--and provide an exciting customer search experience.
Trend 1: User behavior will permanently shift from offline to (mainly) online, requiring advanced tools to replicate in-store customer experience.
In 2020 and 2021, shoppers became more sophisticated and comfortable navigating online shopping. As a result, shoppers have high demands and low attention spans for bad search and navigation experiences.
In 2022, shoppers will shift their shopping patterns online.
How do we know? During user interviews, one theme kept emerging: shoppers are purchasing online 100% of the time, after COVID.
However, there's still one core component missing from online shopping: a helpful sales associate to guide shoppers.
This year, we expect that sophisticated search and recommendation tools will step up to take over the role of friendly sales associate, guiding customers towards the products they want and suggesting alternatives.
Customers want product search and filters that reflect their style preferences. Search and recommendation tools are becoming more advanced, with greater understanding of what matters most to customers: fit, style, and fashion.
The YesPlz AI Style Filter and Recommendation System allows customers to filter by fit and style, taking on the role of a digital sales associate, even suggesting similar products based on product attributes.
Trend 2: Fashion AI technology will become more powerful and sophisticated than ever.
Fashion AI is here to stay--and it's only getting better and more accurate each year. AI technology can now perform what humans can do, but more effectively.
Image tagging is a tedious but highly skilled task that requires not only accuracy but a well-trained sense of fashion. A few years ago, it would have been impossible to think that fashion AI could not only tag product attributes effectively, but could even do so with an understanding of fashion.
Fast-forward to 2022, and AI image tagging is more powerful and more accurate than ever before. While retailers may have experienced mishaps during the early years of image tagging, we predict that in 2022, AI image tagging will be ready to make its debut as the center of attention in fashion tech tools.
Occasion tagging is front and center as a real-world application of fashion AI technology.
Occasion tagging is one of the most requested filters from shoppers, but not many retailers offer it. Why? Because a human needs to manually tag each product, making sure that product is accurately classified into the appropriate mood occasion.
Enter fashion AI, which understands not only the difference between a “t-shirt dress” versus “beach dress”--but can categorize the t-shirt dress as a “casual” occasion product and a beach dress as a “vacation” occasion. This is revolutionary for the future of retail.
Of course, fashion AI is still in the process of learning every style, but can automate hours of daily work.
Trend 3: Fashion ecommerce brands will race to implement personalization technology to support changes in shopper behavior.
We predict that technology will be applied in every part of the customer journey:
1) Product Discovery: Fashion retailers will use visual search to help shoppers explore products.
2) Consideration: AI-powered product recommendations will guide shoppers to purchase products that make sense, based on browsing history, fashion, and product category. Virtual fitting rooms can also support customers looking to try-on clothing.
3) Check-out: Through personalization, retailers can remember customer preferences and apply them for future site visits.
Through technology, retailers can support changing customer behavior, providing them with a sophisticated and seamless shopping experience.
Personalization in Action: Targeting Based on User Behavior
We learned during our user interviews that shoppers are triggered to visit a website when they receive an email with a photo of a product they like. But, how can brands determine which photos would trigger a click to visit the website?
Through fashion AI, hundreds of photos are quickly scanned in minutes. Then, a relevant product image is selected that’s unique for each individual, resulting in effective personalization.
We’re excited to see how retail tech will continue to evolve in 2022, from areas such as hyper-personalization to virtual clothing.
How technology will bring a digital salesperson to your favorite ecommerce brand:
1-AI-powered search: While a human sales associate can filter for some product attributes, AI-powered search can filter through thousands of product attributes and images in seconds.
In addition, AI-powered search tools can automatically tag images with corresponding product attributes, saving customers from confusing fashion taxonomies.
2-Data-driven hyper-personalization: Although personalization has existed for years, it's becoming more powerful in 2022. With new technology developments, customers can receive lightning-fast product recommendations, see relevant products, and receive dynamic re-targeting.
3-Visual search: Through fashion visual search, users can search using unique visual interfaces, such as a virtual mannequin, and filter by their preferred product attributes and fit.
4-Virtual try-on: One of the most frustrating parts of shopping online is the question of fit. Virtual fitting room startups such as Drapr are bridging the gap, and improving the online shopping experience.
We mentioned above that one of the biggest problems in online shopping is the lack of a friendly sales associate who always has amazing product suggestions and finds the perfect product. In 2022, we're hopeful that the combination of the above technologies can emerge to fill the sales-associate gap.
In 2022, we'll look to see how effectively retailers can integrate these new technologies into the everyday ecommerce experience.
Fashion technology doesn't only need to be reactive, solving for previous problems. It can also provide an exciting peek into the future of retail, as a digital-only world emerges. Here’s what we’re watching for in 2022:
1- Digital clothing continues to evolve and become more sophisticated.
Digital clothing began to take the world by storm in 2021,with digital-only clothing emerging as an option for virtual characters in the metaverse and for real-life humans on social media. With consumers concerned about sustainability, digital clothing can be a viable alternative for showing off the latest micro-trends without a negative environmental impact.
But, as the founder of Dress-X, Natalia Modenova, noted: “The AI is not there to entirely automate the process.” We’re looking forward to seeing the combination of fashion AI and digital clothing to make work processes faster and more scalable.
2- Digital experiences in the metaverse are entirely uncharted territory.
If 2021 was the year we were introduced to the metaverse, 2022 will be the year that we see brands explore and experiment in the metaverse.
More marketplaces will appear to support users in the metaverse, such as NFT marketplaces specifically for digital fashion. As users shift to permanent online behavior, offline activities such as fashion week are moving to the metaverse.
For example, metaverse platform Decentraland will host its first-ever metaverse fashion week in March 2022. There is no script to follow for Metaverse (how should our avatars dress for a virtual fashion show?), making it even more thrilling to follow.
The impactful changes of 2021 will shape 2022
2021 was an unforgettable year for fashion tech, and it was unprecedented to see brands experiment with such new technology. And now, we can get excited for 2022, which will include a combination of practical and experimental technology, from fashion AI to blockchain.
We suggest you follow our LinkedIn page to keep an eye on the fashion tech technology developments in 2022. We’ll see you there!
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