Virtual Shopping and the AI Contribution: A 2023 Outlook

By Olga Dogadkina, co-founder and CEO, Emperia

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In a landscape driven by competition it’s pivotal for retailers within fashion and apparel to adapt and respond to changes in customer behavior, inflation, sustainability and more crucially, the rise of digitalization and increasing challenges associated with third-party data acquisition.

While in the past access to innovative technology seemed out of reach for many, or just one step too far ahead, more and more global brands are uncovering new strategies to incorporate the use of digital transformational tools into their operational practices, and there’s no signs to say that many more retailers won’t follow suit in 2023. Already, 75% of global business decision-makers believe interacting with customers in the metaverse will become commonplace.

In a market where consumers have more choice than ever, spending and budgets are following a downward trend and brand loyalty is increasingly more difficult to achieve, fashion retailers must focus on retention, acquisition of future, loyal customers and ensuring that customer satisfaction remains a high priority.

Artificial intelligence (AI) paired with data-retrieving technology is making its mark in the industry. Already proving just how powerful it is instore and online for many retailers, AI has the potential to completely transform brand operations, both customer-facing and internal. Looking at customer experience, AI is capable of creating a personalized shopping experience for customers. From eye-tracking software in stores used to create highly converting shop windows and walls, to loyalty scheme data analysis that uses algorithms and shopper behavior to identify areas of friction in the customer journey, AI is already putting retailers that utilize it at an advantage over competitors.

Up and coming AI technology will continue to support the personalization of customer journeys, enabling customers to see more accurate purchasing recommendations on virtual e-commerce websites, and chatbots that are able to provide instant help at user request. We’re also far more likely to see the near-elimination of supply chain and stock management issues this year as brands incorporate AI technology into their operations.

Other Web3 technologies emerging and already showing signs of mass adoption within fashion include augmented reality (AR) and virtual retail experiences.

Already this January, fashion and beauty retailers including Estée Lauder are one step ahead and have unveiled new tools that take advantage of AR and provide a more satisfying and inclusive customer experience. Estée Lauder’s ‘first-of-its-kind’ voice-enabled makeup assistant combines AR and AI to provide feedback on a user’s face and aims to help visually-impaired users with the application of the likes of foundation, mascara and bronzer. With the technology now fairly easily accessible, we’re likely to see many more brands adopting similar strategies focused on improving the user journey.

Beyond the customer experience, retailers are actively investing more into strategic brand loyalty schemes and means of creating more convenience for the customer. Further emphasizing the importance of being a data-driven retailer, AI is significantly changing the brand loyalty scene and fashion brands need to take note. By means of community building and providing additional exclusivity for shoppers, brands are experimenting, and we’re going to see a lot more of it with almost 72% of brands planning on revamping their existing programmes this year.

By putting customers at the center of the brand strategy and listening to the all-important data that they provide, we will see a real digital-focused, customer-centric wave move across fashion brands this year.

Olga Dogadkina, co-founder and CEO, Emperia

Bloomingdale’s virtual holiday store

Dior Beauty’s Atelier of Dreams Collection virtual store

Virtual store platforms that marry the reach and accessibility of e-commerce with the impact of in-person retail, while leveraging the unique traits of the virtual space, are fast becoming new ways of engaging customers, and creating that sense of exclusivity. Building unique spaces for loyal members to shop, interact with products and play games, are just some examples of these, as SKODA and Lacoste have both recently demonstrated. SKODA released SKODAVERSE within the metaverse earlier this year, whilst Lacoste revealed its interactive virtual shopping platform ready for the holiday shopping season at the end of 2022.

In a time of fast technological advancement, remaining innovative and adaptive to consumer change is vital, but as is ensuring the relevancy and utility of any new technologies and tools that are implemented. By putting customers at the center of the brand strategy and listening to the all-important data that they provide, we will see a real digital-focused, customer-centric wave move across fashion brands this year.

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