3 Powerful Technologies to Drive Sustainability in the Fashion Industry
Sustainability has remained a top retail trend for some time. Within the last decade, eco-friendliness has transformed from a could-have strategy to attract younger consumers to a must-have approach that dictates how we manufacture, distribute, and return goods.
Retailers traditionally think of sustainability as recycling packages, reselling services, and rental business models. Even though all these tactics are helpful and make a huge impact, they solve only a small part of the issue. To truly deliver sustainability in the fashion industry, businesses must think deeper. Businesses must investigate how they manufacture goods and what technologies they use to deliver value.
The Current State of Sustainability in the Fashion Industry
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way consumers shop for clothes. Most obviously, people are not doing a lot of emotional shopping while at home. The fashion industry saw a record 20% drop in revenue in the last 2 years. At the same time, however, people are tired of sweatpants and need to refresh their wardrobes, so the industry will start to recover, but slowly.
Fashion e-commerce is on the rise. The online fashion market has grown dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic.
Finally, social shopping is dominating fashion and represents a massive 10% of overall sales.
The state of sustainability in fashion is poor. Fast fashion, quickly changing trends, and overall massive consumption result in tremendous wastes and emissions that are negatively impacting the environment.
The latest data shows that around 2-8% of the global carbon emissions are emitted by the apparel industry. It makes fashion one of the top 5 polluting industries! Combine that with the prediction by the Global Fashion Agenda that clothing consumption will rise by 63% by 2030, and that 3 out of 5 items end up in landfills in only 1 year. Looks a lot like an environmental catastrophe, right?
Customers know this and they are concerned. Your business needs to respond to these concerns. The technologies listed below will help your organization not only be seen as sustainable but be sustainable. Plus, they will help to boost revenue and efficiency, making sustainability profitable.
Technologies that Drive Sustainability
AR or Augmented Reality
How does it help?
What is the number one reason customers hate shopping for clothes online? Probably, it’s an inability to be sure that the product fits by just viewing a picture and description. Size grids, reviews, detailed info, and photos of dressed models are helpful, but it’s not enough. As a result, customers order multiple items, return some of them or put them to some use and then throw them away.
Valuable insight: An estimated 70% of fashion returns are due to poor fit or style, according to McKinsey.
The solution is to implement Augmented Reality or AR. AR helps to dramatically reduce returns and, as a result, the levels of emission and waste. Businesses get an effective tool that attracts, engages, and converts customers.
How does it work?
With the help of a camera, special software collects, analyzes, and processes data about the device’s location and where the object should appear. As a result, the customer sees virtual items on their screen. Here are a few examples of how brands are using AR to drive sustainability:
- Try-on solution. Customers can “wear” clothes using a smartphone camera to see how they look at different angles.
- 3D scanning solution. The brand offers a 360° scan of your body to suggest what size and type of cloth fit you best.
- 3D visualization solution. The customer places an item in front of them to see every detail.
How to implement?
If you think that the adoption of AR is rocket science, it’s not. All you need is an idea and a reliable Solution Partner.
Almost everyone has a smartphone, and about a third of them support AR out-of-the-box, with no install required. Build a native app using React Native, implement support of ARKit (if you build an iPhone app) or ARCore (if you build an Android app) SDKs, and create compatible content. The same formula will be applicable for 3D scanning functionally or try-on solutions.
Note that ARkit and ARCore also support desktops. They can show a 3D model of a product or display it on a virtual model. This functionality should be discussed and developed beforehand because it could require extra effort.
Inventory Management System
How does it help?
The next complex challenge is having a more significant effect on the environment. Many fashion retailers struggle to manage inventory levels, demand forecasts, and delivery processes. Without a clear understanding of demand, a business cannot plan the distribution correctly, which results in large quantities of unsold cloth being wasted. It also increases the number of deliveries, which drives up emissions.
One solution to this complex challenge is the implementation of an Inventory Management System (IMS).
How does it work?
IMS gives businesses accurate stock levels in the given location or a channel and within the given timeframe. Based on a correct stock, historical data, and other relevant factors, the software helps to forecast the demand and generate accurate reports. Finally, the Inventory Management System ensures order accuracy, so the right product will go to the right hands.
To make all of this possible, the Inventory Management System should be seamlessly integrated with the eCommerce platform, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, and other software that business uses. Then, within a secure data flow, IMS manages stock levels in both the online and offline parts of the business and transmits them across the ecosystem. Finally, by analyzing data received from the ecosystem, the IMS generates reports and forecasts.
How to implement?
There are 2 ways to approach Inventory Management System implementation. First, the Inventory Management System could be implemented as a part of the ERP or POS solution that the business uses. Both systems are complex but can offer additional functionality that will drive additional efficiency.
Second, you can implement IMS as a separate system. In this case, you can choose between different out-of-the-box solutions or build a custom one. Even though a pre-built solution seems like an ideal option, consider TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), ROI (Return of Investment), and overall efficiency. The built-in functionally is designed to fit every business and will not cover your organization’s specific requirements or processes. This could negatively impact performance and therefore revenue.
Artificial Intelligence or AI
How does it help?
AI or Machine Learning (ML) technologies are a dark horse of sustainability in the fashion industry. The number of ways AI can help to reduce environmental issues is almost infinite. The more we learn about Machine Learning and Big Data, the more scenarios we can create for Artificial Intelligence. Let’s review some of the more evident cases:
- ML helps customers decide what to buy. With this technology implemented in fashion eCommerce, the customer buys more precisely because AI suggests what items are in stock, trendy, and best fit.
- AI sales prediction prevents stockpiling. With seamless integration of Artificial Intelligence into IMS and eCommerce platforms, a business can work from a more precise forecast and analysis to reduce the amount of waste.
- ML reduces emissions by making precise delivery plans. Algorithms can predict the most efficient way to deliver goods to reduce the amount of gasoline used by delivery trucks.
How does it work?
The implementation of AI could benefit every part of your business. The crucial consideration is endless and seamless data flow needed to ensure that ML algorithms have enough input to process. The software architecture should be robust and scalable.
Sustainability cannot be ignored. Eventually, all businesses will be forced to implement some practices to become more environmentally friendly. Begin to incorporate sustainability into your business strategy now. Consider fundamental changes as they are the most impactful. The benefits of the technologies listed above are that they can deliver value beyond sustainability. They also increase the efficiency, profitability, and overall performance of a business.
Decide to change and trust the rest to Maven. Contact us, and gain valuable insights to become a leader in sustainability in the fashion industry.