My passion for fashion has driven me to dedicate my life to helping women of all ages and sizes have access to fashion that not only fits but makes them feel confident. With over 15 years in the fashion industry, I have experienced all kinds of shopping trends. And l et’s face it, people shop differently today than ever before.
Many modern-day transactions start with a user downloading an app and providing information such as their measurements and preferences. Then, the app connects to their social media to gather more data on what they like. With a few swipes of their finger, they have a new outfit or subscription box that will show up on their doorstep in five to seven days.
In the process of building our fashion shopping app using artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies, I have learned that there is more than just tech needed to create a full solution. In addition to the tech, you must build a community. I believe this is the element that many fashion tech companies are forgetting.
And therein lies the problem. Fashion tech companies that focus only on tech, and not building community for their customers, are fighting an uphill battle. To succeed in today’s fashion industry, here are four ways to build community into the foundation of your tech.
1. Provide avenues for validation.
It is no longer a matter of fitting into your clothes. It is a matter of how you feel when you get the outfit. Buying fashion items is not like buying gas for your car. Most transactions will result in you buying something that other people will see. When clothes don’t fit, it’s easy to get emotional. You may be sad, or it might send you into a spiral of negative self-talk.
As a fashion tech company, you have to look past the transaction. Help your customers by providing a sense of community to validate their purchases. It could be as simple as showcasing positive posts on your social media, creating a private Facebook group for customers or creating a hashtag for them to use when they share their new outfits online.
At Xehar, we build community through our hashtag #AConfidentYou. Our customers know that when they share what they buy with this hashtag, we will be there to let them know how it looks. In doing so, we participate in the validation of their purchases.
2. Remember that AI only tells you so much.
When it comes to fashion subscription-box business models, AI is a big part of how companies like Stitch Fix determine what you will get. Algorithms choose items based on the data available. But who says what you like online gives companies the whole picture of what you like to wear? That’s why it’s important to go beyond AI and build community — both on- and offline — to have a better understanding of customer preferences.
Use social listening tools and hashtag searches to find customers who are sharing outfits online. Then, comment, like, share and follow those who are looking for feedback on outfits. In addition, don’t discredit offline events and meet-ups to connect with current (and potential) customers in real life. I have found great success in creating live events for our Xehar community, including my most recent meet-up in Israel.
3. Combine predictive analysis with an engaging UI/UX.
AI and machine learning (ML) specifically are good at predicting what you might like based on prior actions or on similar people’s actions. To my last point, AI/MI cannot determine exactly what users want but can help narrow down and present things they might like. You can use AI/ML to reduce the set of choices presented to the user, while prioritizing an intuitive and engaging UI/UX within your app to allow the user to select which products they like.
If you plan to use AI/ML in helping to determine what your customers want, there are a lot of helpful resources online about the history of machine learning and the types of AI that can be used for these applications.
4. Watch out for online trolls.
I have seen that cyberbullying is still a problem on social media. AI can’t factor in the emotional trauma of being harassed online. Work to build a community that is a safe space and a place of support for those who want to share their fashion choices. Here are five simple rules we follow to ensure our community is safe:
• Make sure that your posts are positive and be careful of not playing into stereotypes or using language that could be taken the wrong way.
• Cyberbullies can be fueled by any type of reply. Make sure your community members know not to reply or feed into the negativity.
• If you see members in a community bringing others down, consider blocking them immediately.
• Let your community know that you have a zero-tolerance stance on cyberbullying. Such reminders might deter would-be cyberbullies.
• Direct message people who appear to be the target of cyberbullying to let them know you see it, you don’t approve and you are there to support them.
In conclusion, it takes a village to have sustainable success as a fashion tech company. Try to think beyond what someone would wear based on what they like. Keep community in mind to really understand what makes your target market tick.