Artificial Intelligence could solve the UK’s growing returns problem by delivering custom-fit products and tactile experiences, chief growth officer and senior partner at trend intelligence company The Future Laboratory Tom Savigar has argued.
The Future Laboratory’s new report, Retail Futures, created in partnership with QVC UK, was released on 18 October and focuses on three key areas of virtual retail, convenience through technology and the community role bricks and mortar stores will play in the future of retail.
AI personal measurement services, and autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) techniques could be the solution to a growing UK returns problem affecting company’s margins and the environment, said Savigar.
“To counteract the economy and waste issues, what if we started to think about the importance of measurement in a different way?”
Fit services such as My Size ID and Zozosuit are already leading the way, using AI technology to capture a 3D measurement of customers from their smartphones, said Savigar.
These measurements are then translated into custom-made garments to the customer’s exact size.
This process eliminates waste and provides a platform that understands the customer, “their biometrics and even their mental state”, he said.
With 51% of retailers saying their margins are impacted by returns, according to the report, Savigar argued that AI could stop the “try and never buy approach”.
“As a consumer I start to get into a very interesting closed loop system between me and a manufacturing company and with my product versus just a product that I see on the catwalk,” he said.
Savigar stressed the significance of AI being able to “make the online experience a lot more like in store with the assumed tacticity”, reducing returns and increasing customer satisfaction.
According to the report, a third of customers make a regular habit of visiting stores to feel products before buying them online. New haptic technology uses ASMR techniques to allow customers to have a full-multi sensory experience online.
Innovations such as Clothcap, which uses a model avatar to demonstrate how fabric moves on the body are the first signs of “that behavioural change and the acceptance of saying I can imagine that cotton.”
“That’s what we’re going to be tuning our brains to understand,” said Savigar.
The Future Laboratory believes that these developments will redefine the purpose of bricks and mortar shops, which Savigar said will instead “become community hubs that create a sense of belonging and identity”, but reduce the growing return numbers in the UK.