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The digital developments you need to know about for 2017

From live video to the invasion of “dark social”, one-click commerce in stores and the advance of virtual reality – Drapers asked the experts which digital trends are set to shake up fashion retail in 2017.

Amy Cole, brand development EMEA at Instagram

amy cole head shot 2

“Video on mobile was one of the biggest trends of 2016, and I expect this to continue. At Instagram, we often say motion is the new filter. Video provides more creative ways to tell deeper and engaging stories. It allows you to really bring to life the craft and beauty of any design: you can actually see the sequins twinkle and the fabric move.

“Consumers also increasingly want experiences. That’s why ‘in-the-moment content’ has become so popular and why formats such as Instagram Stories and Live (coming to the UK this year) will present interesting opportunities for fashion brands. Live makes you feel like you’re right there, so you can experience the chaos backstage at a fashion show, in real time, or hear directly from the designer.

“Finally, it will be easier than ever before to turn this inspiration into purchase. We’re gathering insights from our Shopping on Instagram pilot, ahead of a global rollout. The fashion industry has always been the first to push boundaries with Instagram.”

  • Empathetic communications Brands will increasingly use WhatsApp groups to burrow into the “dark social”, and there will be an exponential increase in chatbots to facilitate direct brand-to-consumer service. There will be a movement towards empathetic and intimate communication in 2017.
  • Real-time and interactive virtual reality (VR) VR will become a space where consumers can navigate by pulling on real-time information (prices, availability etc) and communicate with others. Asos’s work with VR technologist Trillennium is a potential early frontrunner.
  • Shoppable content The capacity to buy directly from sources of inspiration, such as magazines and websites, is often far from seamless. As video booms in popularity, retail direct from the moving image – for example, wish listing and sharing – will rise in popularity.
  • Social media to store Courtesy of location-specific, time-limited filters and “gamefied” product hunts, the relationship between the physical store and social media will become tightly interwoven. It’s a bond that plays on the consumer appetite for fleeting moments.  

victoria buchanan future lab

“A lot of retailers and brands that began as online only are moving into the physical world in order to develop a deeper connection with consumers – exemplified by Reformation, Everlane and Amazon. They are realising that there does need to be a physical presence: people spend more in store than they do online.

“Within these new stores, the retailers are starting to mimic online shopping habits, for example, by introducing virtual shopping baskets and really quick payment processes. A lot of businesses are thinking about how they can make the shopping experience as frictionless as possible. The idea of one-click commerce is moving into the store.

“On the flipside, traditionally ecommerce has been quite a flat experience, and we’re seeing a lot of brands realising they can learn from the physical retail space and bring that into the digital world. You canmake your website a place for discovery and inspiration.”




Join fashion’s digital elite

Drapers Digital Festival will bring the fashion digital and ecommerce community together to learn, celebrate and innovate on 25 April in London.

In 2017 festival will be the world’s largest gathering of more than 500 fashion multichannel professionals consisting of talks, debates, live judging, awards, exhibition and exclusive fringe events.

Festival’s theme is “The new rules of personal fashion – personal approach to fashion ecommerce and all things digital”. The speaker line-up includes senior digital executives from Michael Kors, Levi’s, Mango,, Farfetch, John Lewis, La Redoute, Missguided, Shop Direct, Jack Wills and Uterqüe (Inditex).

Key data

  • 49% of shoppers say technology – including online, mobile and click-and-collect – has “made the shopping process faster”
  • More than 8 million people in the UK use digital technology to shop every day
  • In 2016, 68% of online retail traffic in the key trading period from Black Friday to Christmas came from mobile and tablets

(Source: global consultancy Salmon)


Matthew Drinkwater, head of fashion innovation at London College of Fashion

matthew drinkwater

What digital trends did you observe in 2016?

We’re really interested in this growing sense of beginning to blur the lines between digital and physical. We explored that in our use of augmented reality during London Fashion Week (the Martine Jarlgaard presentation was shown via Microsoft’s HoloLens virtual reality device) and in the Emma Shipley project (an app allowed users to virtually try on scarves from the collection).

What do you expect this year?

We’ll start to see a lot more use of augmented and virtual reality. VR has had a really big year in 2016. Some of the recent stats suggest that the PlayStation VR headset had been outselling the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. That massive uptake on a consumer level is going to push the industry to use it more. 

For us, the interesting question is: can we begin to explore those technologies as a platform for designer creation but also as consumer experience? What is it like for designers to step into VR and work collaboratively, maybe within a business, but maybe directly with a consumer?

Where can those advances be seen today?

You can see a hint of it in Google’s Tilt Brush, which allows you to draw in 3D. Microsoft has announced that it is beginning to build all of its creation tools in 3D. You can begin to see there’s a real pathway towards designers and creators building products in 3D.

What other developments are you looking at?

We want to look at the wearables market. I think consumers have felt a bit of resistance to that technology, and it’s difficult for designers to get hold of it. We have a couple of projects that will begin to look at whether wearable technology can be applied more easily for designers. We’ve been looking at printed electronics and the possibility of making it more simple for designers to embed technology into what they’re making.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Crazy talking about fashion and VR in 2017. It's way off. No wonder fashion retail is struggling.

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  • Agree with other comment. Those pushing VR have vested interests. Only AR has instant capability and even this requires infrastructure. Wearables will be niche at best.

    Oh.. and wonderful advertorial for Instagram!

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  • 8 months into year. VR killing it anyone?

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