Israeli innovators gathered at London’s Design Museum in Kensington last week to shed light on the latest retail technologies set to shape fashion businesses.
As the market becomes more saturated, fashion brands and retailers face increasing competition and heightened expectations from savvy consumers.
Kate Ancketill, CEO of retail consultancy GDR Creative Intelligence, identified several key challenges the retail sector faces for 2025, including commodification and servification, the integration of digital and physical experience, and sustainability.
Admitting that none of GDR’s clients have “ever been interested in sustainability”, she added: “It is a consumer-led revolution that has established over the past five years, to which retailers are now being forced to listen.”
What all three “challenges” have in common, she noted, is that the consumer lies at the heart of each.
Ariel Cohen, retail and ecommerce domain manager at Deloitte, agreed: “Customers are retailers’ best asset. They will do everything in their power to keep existing customers and to attain new ones.
“The customer journey is more complex than ever, though. Retailers need to partner with new tech firms to combine their knowledge and engage with customers in the best ways possible. Working together and leveraging their individual assets will ensure that retailers maintain fit for the future.”
With more than 15 Israel-based technology and retail start-ups exhibiting, Retail Innovation Now gave guests first-hand insight into the latest ideas coming out of the country, covering touchpoints such as customer engagement, in-store and online marketing, supply chain management and business intelligence. Here are some of Drapers’ top picks.
Conversational commerce platform Mmuze uses artificial intelligence (AI) to recreate the in-store shopping experience online, through a virtual personal shopping assistant. This enables customers to interact with a brand – via voice or text conversation – and tell them exactly what they are looking for, “a dark purple top under £10”, for example.
Whether they are searching for a specific dress or want advice on what to wear to a certain event, Mmuze “associates” answer every question that shoppers have, from price to style to material specifications. This prevents them from scrolling through hundreds of items online, making their experience more convenient and personal.
They also offer customers personalised suggestions based on their purchase history and the latest trends.
Designed to bolster the user experience, said Matthew Listro, vice-president of strategy and business development, Mmuze algorithms are trained to understand worldwide content from across the internet. This results in a more natural dialogue, as its “associates” adopt shoppers’ local dialect and language nuances – for example, “pants” versus “trousers” in the US and UK respectively – to personalise every customer’s journey and lead to more accurate product discovery.
Users can connect with retailers across any digital, mobile or voice-based platform, and can switch between voice and text in any one conversation.
GlobalData predicts that voice purchases will hit €45bn in the UK and US in 2022, and Adobe claims 90% of decision makers are investing in voice tech.
Customer engagement platform Preciate uses facial-recognition technology to help shop floor staff identify customers as they enter the store. It aims to help brands and retailers offer customers a unique, individualised experience through its tech-driven “loyalty programme”.
As an opt-in service, Preciate requires shoppers to enrol with a selfie, which can be taken via a mobile, laptop or in-store. The facial recognition algorithm then notifies staff as soon as shoppers enter the store and recognises them in real-time.
It also provides assistants with information, such as shoppers’ online and in-store purchase history, abandoned cart and browsed items, and style preferences – giving retailers a “360-degree omnichannel view of their customers”. This creates a deeper relationship between sales associates and customers, as they are able to recommend more appropriate items.
Enrolled customers can also pay using Preciate’s facial recognition installed at the till point, further bolstering the personalised experience.
Visual AI technology from computer software company Syte allows customers to search and shop for products by uploading an image to show what they are looking for, rather than textually describing it.
By uploading an image to a retailer’s website or app – be it from a brand campaign, random person on the street or magazine cutting – customers can browse and buy visually similar items that are currently in stock.
Syte’s “mega product tagging” system breaks an image down into its style details – from brand to size, style and material - to ensure every product is tagged accurately, in detail. This helps drive “style-accurate matches and create a frictionless customer shopping experience” it said.
The tech can also be integrated in store through smart mirrors and stylist app, to connect online and offline product discovery. This gives customers the chance to find similar products in store, as well as browsing style inspiration and shopping complete looks.
As well as expanding retailers’ product reach (by allowing them to recommend a vast selection of products) and boosting customer engagement, Syte seeks to “redefine the way retailers engage customers, and shoppers find the products they want”.
Measurement technologies enable MySizeID to advise customers on their best size for every single item that they are looking at.
Arguing that “customers shouldn’t rely on varying size carts”, MySize uses an algorithm to measure customers’ precise body fit using their smartphone sensors, without the need for a camera (instructions on how to take images of each body part are included).
It then creates a unique sizing ID for every single shopper based on their personal measurements.
Retailer clients can embed MySizeID in their website and app, to allow shoppers to easily figure out which size is best for them. In addition to facilitating shoppers’ online experience, to also helps to reduce size-related returns, reducing retailers’ cost and carbon footprint.