AI in Fashion Supply Chain: The world of fashion has changed drastically since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. The first blow to the industry was the shutting down of the world’s largest textile producing and exporting country in the world, China.
As COVID-19 spread afar, non-essential businesses were closed down globally. Shopping streets were deserted, and malls and retail stores were completely locked down, leaving fashion retailers out of regular business for months. This was followed by peak-period type online sales as people resorted to E-commerce during the quarantine.
In this rollercoaster of a supply chain, some fashion retail brands soared, while others felt the heat. Businesses have now come to realize that omnichannel is a dire need for survival in the market and that they must level up their online selling to stand out.
According to Nosto, there has been a 21% year-on-year increase in E-commerce sales in fashion, apparel, and accessories in the past month globally as lockdown measures continue. Online fashion sales dropped 30% during the initial stages of the outbreak, but quickly recovered in April, increasing 40%.
Regardless of the various ups and downs that fashion retailers have seen over the past few months, they must continue to offer excellent customer service and quality products to their buyers. Customers are highly concerned about product quality, fit, and appearance of apparel, accessories, and other products, which is pushing fashion retailers to replicate the key features of in-store shopping, the ability to see products close up, and find the best fit.
The future of fashion retail industry is on the horizon, and it will be driven by these rising market trends and consumer demands.
Consumer Expectations from Online Fashion Retailers
A Real-Store Experience
Majority of consumers browse for fashion products on their mobile devices, accounting for 65.4% of traffic to online fashion retailers and 57.1% of sales. Your online storefront is your best salesman in the fashion retail marketplace. Your online store or mobile app must be appealing to the customer’s eye, easy to browse, and offer a wide variety of products across all categories, including apparel, bags, accessories, footwear, gadgets, and more.
Personalized Shopping Offers
Customers are looking for not just a wide collection of clothing and accessories to choose from, but also customized offers that best suit their interests, search history, and budgets. When the shopping experience is highly personalized, customers indicated that they were 110% more likely to add additional items to their carts and 40% more likely to spend more than they had planned.
Excellent Product Quality
Often, consumer expectations and products delivered are quite different from each other. If the online display images of a dress do not match the actual item, or there is a color difference or some issues with the fitting, it will disappoint the customer, hampering your brand image, and causing unnecessary returns and negative feedback. Top-quality products are every consumer’s priority and businesses must ensure that their online catalog images match the product exactly.
Timely Status Updates
Real-time visibility of order status is becoming increasingly essential in the fashion supply chain.
Right from the point of purchase, till the point of last-mile delivery, the customer wants to be notified of their order’s real-time status updates. What is the expected date and time of delivery, where is the order being shipped from, who is handling the package? If a product is not available online presently, when will it be available again?
Fast and Free Shipping
Every online buyer’s biggest question today is – When will my package arrive? 43% of consumers consider last-mile delivery costs when browsing products online. Consumers expect free shipping and express deliveries of their packages, and would rather purchase offline if the order seems to arrive too late. This is the era of one-day delivery and same-day delivery shipping, and fashion retailers must speed up their garment supply chain to fulfill the demands of the time-poor customer.
AI in Fashion Supply Chain
Technology advancements in AI and data science can optimize the fashion supply chain in a number of ways, right from order management to last-mile fulfillment.
By implementing interactive and user-friendly mobile interfaces, fashion retailers can improve browsing and shopping experience for their customers remarkably. The use of fast and efficient online payment mechanisms enables hassle-free checkouts from the website.
- Smart analytics: Locus Smart analytics offers valuable insights from historical information such as previous purchases, browsing data, and wishlisted items. This allows retailers to bring personalized product options, discount offers, and seasonal deals to their customers.
- Fleet tracking solutions: With the help of supply chain tracking solutions, customers can keep a track of their packages at every step, right from order placement to shipment, transit, and delivery.
- Route Planning: Intelligent route optimisation software helps in planning day-to-day deliveries in advance, assigning tasks accurately to riders, and ensuring fast and timely delivery of packages, ensuring an overall happy buying experience.
Digitization is a must-have for retailers today, as COVID-19 has changed the normal ways of shopping fashion products. It is high time for fashion retailers to bring their A-game in online selling and omni-channel expansion strategies.