You might have heard that the world of retail is changing.
That’s the easy part. Figuring out how it is changing, and how to get ahead of that is the real challenge. I had the chance to talk to Neal Kaiser, executive director of Mi9, earlier this year about what’s ahead for apparel merchants in the upended retail world.
He shared a few of his thoughts in the brief video below, part of Signifyd’s ongoing video series, Signifyd Ideas. Have a listen and then we’ll talk some more.
Kaiser, who’s Mi9 provides retail analytics and services, went on to say that other verticals have concluded that they need to focus on experiences for customers and they know that artificial intelligence is a piece of how to get there. But it makes sense that apparel would be anxious to up its experience game, including how it stays in touch with customers and builds relationships.
Apparel choices are personal. Consumers want to deal with someone who knows them, knows their style and their shopping patterns. Clothes are something shoppers buy regularly. It’s not like buying a refrigerator or a couch or even a laptop or smartphone, which consumers might wait years to replace.
The vertical has also been under a lot of pressure. Traditional apparel sellers are suffering from changes ranging from the rise of disruptive online sellers, to the casual fashion trend at work, to millennials’ focus on buying experiences rather than things.
And, of course, as Kaiser pointed out, they have Amazon to contend with.
Amazon is moving into apparel
Amazon has been moving aggressively into apparel, launching its own brands and offering Prime Wardrobe, which will ship clothes to consumers before they buy, so they can try them on and return what they don’t want before buying what they keep.
No question, as Kaiser pointed out, artificial intelligence is one tool that apparel retailers and others are using to build better customer experiences. AI is being infused into the entire shopping experience, from hunting and browsing, both in-store and online, to order management, fulfillment and after-purchase support.
In fact, retailers are increasingly turning to AI to help them better manage returns, a fact of retail life that is a bigger challenge online than in stores and a bigger challenge for apparel retailers than for those in other verticals.
Better communication with customers can help slow returns by increasing the chances that a buyer knows exactly what he or she is getting when ordering online and by fostering a relationship built on trust — the sort where neither side is anxious to take advantage of the other.
Photo by Mike Cassidy
Contact Mike Cassidy at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.