5 Reasons AI is Always in Style

Smart algorithms and even smarter technology are making fashion that much more cutting-edge.

Imagine walking into your favorite clothing store, ready to buy a new outfit. Rather than combing the shelves, digging through the clearance section, or checking the tags on a mannequin or two, you walk up to a computer — and that computer immediately recognizes you and knows what you’re looking for.

Using data from your previous purchases, available inventory, and current trends, an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm puts together several outfit options in seconds. You swipe through on the screen, pick a look, and click to buy. It’s simple, seamless, and the results are completely stylish.

While that shopping experience may seem futuristic, companies like Alibaba are making it a reality. For Singles Day, the company introduced FashionAI, a new retail app, at several retailers. The FashionAI system scans clothes that people take into a dressing room. Using the store’s inventory and data collected from designers and stylists, the app suggests complementary pieces.

Alibaba isn’t alone. The amount invested in AI technology has tripled since 2013, with early adopters seeing significant profit margins. That said, what’s in-market today is just the beginning. Retailers around the globe are ramping up, looking for, and activating new ways to integrate AI into their customer experience delivery. Here are some innovations we’ve noticed.

1. Using AI to boost cross-channel sales

As more and more shoppers shift from “brick” to “click,” many are missing out on the opportunity to see, feel, and try on clothing before buying — while retailers miss out on the opportunity to connect in person with customers. Many new and emerging AI-powered apps are bringing the physical and digital together, providing a better retail experience both in store and online.

Conversational commerce is a prime example. Using AI-powered chatbots, voice-based assistants, and interactive messengers, online and mobile shoppers can chat with an automated personal shopper. Not only does this mimic the in-store associate experience, it removes friction from e-commerce — there’s no searching and no lengthy scrolling and browsing. Instead, the latest chatbots encourage customers to speak as they normally would, with AI technology helping connect them to the right items.

“Brands like Louis Vuitton, Everlane, Burberry, and Nike are using Facebook Messenger,” says Michael Klein, director of industry strategy for retail at Adobe. “This messenger uses AI and other voice to text or chatbots to give customers a guided shopping experience.”

2. Using AI to develop products customers want

The journey to purchase isn’t the only time AI can play a fashionable role. Before apparel hit stores, AI can help analyze customer tastes, popular inventory items, and trends, conveying this real-time information to designers and developers. From here, teams can create collections based on what they know customers want, improving sell-throughs and maximizing success.

It’s something Amazon is already doing. A group of Amazon researchers recently developed a program that determines whether a piece of clothing is “stylish” by analyzing images of the current apparel trends. This AI-driven feedback is then shared with designers and used to develop new clothing lines that sync with customer demands and popular styles.

3. Using AI to improve communication and efficiency

Beyond just bringing in-store experiences online, AI can also drive productivity and more positive experiences to brick-and-mortar retailers. Voice-activated Theatro lets associates at large retailers call on an AI-powered virtual assistant.

This powerful virtual assistant can instantly pull store-related information, enabling team members to work faster and smarter. From employee group chats, to checking inventory, to better locating in-store items, Theatro operates like a “live” assistant, tackling menial but critical tasks that streamline workflows and improve customer satisfaction.

4. Using AI to forecast and optimize search advertising performance

Theatro isn’t the only artificial intelligence optimization impacting retailers. Search advertising is complex with millions, if not billions, of decisions to be made in a typical campaign — too much data for humans to manage manually and, at the same time, make the best possible decisions to most efficiently meet their goals.

AI, though, can forecast and optimize performance by making granular trade-off decisions on budget allocation, and search keyword bid amounts to drive the best possible performance for the advertiser.

“With model accuracy reports, a retailer can compare AI-powered performance forecasts to what was actually delivered in a live campaign,” says Pete Kluge, group manager of product marketing for Adobe Advertising Cloud. “Marketers can then compare the forecast for revenue, clicks, or cost to actual performance, and see how accurate the forecast was — and, on average, we see 90 to 95 percent accuracy.”

This gives advertisers confidence that AI is making the right decisions to most efficiently meet their performance goals “What AI means for the advertiser is greater performance,” Pete says. “Ultimately, it will help advertisers drive the best possible performance, learn from massive amounts of data, and make complex decisions in a constantly evolving marketplace.”

5. Using AI to connect customers’ IRL and online experiences

Today’s customers are constantly switching between online and offline, and brands are using AI to reach customers wherever they are. During Kendrick Lamar’s Los Angeles tour, concertgoers received exclusive access to purchase his sneakers through the SNKRS app, which was geofenced to only the people in the arena. It was an exciting, on-brand customer experience that generated significant buzz and rewarded concertgoers for their loyalty.

Starbucks is also tapping into AI, utilizing digital touchpoints to create enhanced experiences in real life (IRL). Their digital flywheel program, a cloud-based AI engine, analyzes data captured by the Starbucks mobile ordering and payment app. The AI engine can recommend food and drinks to customers based on order history and other factors like weather, weekend versus weekday, and location.

A future of enhanced experiences

Though primarily “cutting edge” today, AI is only going to become more mainstream in our daily experiences, and that’s when both people and brands will begin to see the most relevant and meaningful experiences.

“It’s all going to become second nature, and we’re not even going to feel it or know it,” Michael says. “The magic of the best technology is receiving a great experience and not knowing whether it’s through a human being or artificial intelligence.”

The possibilities for integrating AI into commerce and retail experiences continues to grow, evolve, and scale, keeping pace with both technologies and customer demand for increased personalization. The benefits of AI are in its ability to understand consumers and improve worker productivity and efficiency, leaving space for more retailers to be creative — which, ultimately for the retailer, will help boost sales.

Discover how retailers are using cutting-edge technology to drive customer experiences in the Brick and Click collection__.