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How fashion brands are leveraging AI

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From product design to marketing and virtual try-ons, here’s how the fashion majors are adopting AI in their business

Top guns of the fashion industry are heads-down to keep up with the by-the-minute evolving world of artificial intelligence. “Fast-forward five years, and a fashion world without AI’s influence will be unimaginable. AI isn’t just in the game, it’s setting the rules of the game,” Sanjeev Mohanty, Managing Director (US & Canada) at Levi’s said.

Breaking a new barrier with a little push from AI, the fashion industry is now not merely following the trend but setting it. “With generative AI, we’re now not following trends, we’re forging them, crafting personalized experiences with unmatched precision,” Mohanty added.

AI and Personalisation

Thanks to AI, the personalisation of fashion is now a reality. “AI is turning personalization into the new norm,” said Mohanty.

Speaking about how Tata CLiQ uses AI in that regard, Gopal Asthana, chief executive said, “It (AI) is enabling the creation of visuals that are tailored to geographical parameters. We’re leveraging AI to create personalised product recommendations, offers, as also content.”

According to Himanshu Chakrawarti, chief executive officer of Snapdeal, generative AI is enhancing personalised consumer experiences. “At Snapdeal, we are using ML (machine learning) algorithms for real-time personalised recommendations, and it’s of course aiding visual merchandising for customised setups,” he explained.

AI and Consumer Connect

Connecting with consumers is of the essence in any business, and here’s where the decision-makers think AI is making its biggest impact. And, in the process, helping them bulge the bottom lines. “Use of AI is helping us understand consumers better and reduce wastage, thus improving our revenue and profits. Those who are adopting relevant applications are gaining an advantage over the others who are not,” explained Ganesh Subramanian, founder & chief executive officer of Stylumia.

“It (AI) is not just a tool; it’s the architect of change, reshaping design and how we connect with customers,” Mohanty of Levi’s said.

There has never been a better approach to personal connection than the familiar language, and this code too has been cracked by AI. A few words of Bengali fed into the system, and the AI started to write sentences; and in no time was a master of the language (as quoted by an AI researcher). “As we know language changes every 50 kilometres in India. For this, this technology has added voice assistance in regional languages, thus making voice search much easier,” said Chakrawarti of Snapdeal.

AI and marketing

In the pre-AI era, it was word of mouth, TV ads and highway hoardings without brands not really knowing if they were reaching the right audience. Enter AI and all that has changed. “With the help of AI-powered data, businesses can now precisely target shoppers in India’s tier 2 and 3 cities and thus maximize their market reach and impact,” Meghna Apparao, Director of Meta India, explained.

AI and Design

Data shows that 48% of all online purchases were returned last year for various reasons including fitting and size issues and last-minute change of heart. Leading fashion brands are pulling out all the stops in adopting AI to beat these reasons.

As Amar Nagaram, co-founder of VIRGIO puts it, “Generative AI has the power to unlock the full potential of the fashion design process, amplifying creativity and innovation. With its ability to analyse vast amounts of data and generate unique ideas, it presents a higher chance of success compared to solely human-led design processes.”

A step further, Nagaram exemplifies the power of collaboration between AI and humans, “Our latest date collection from VIRGIO was a collaboration between our fashion designers and Generative AI. It was a success,” he explained.

“From the point of ideation to reaching the consumer, it took us just 18 days which otherwise would have been less than the design cycle in a traditional model,” he added.

The other side of AI

There were murmurs of job losses due to AI when a top fashion conglomerate announced that model shoots would be done by AI-generated models. How would the fashion industry walk this thin line between ethics and business? “We are looking at AI tools in the lens of how it can improve the lives of the employees, and not as their replacement,” explained Gurukeerthi Gurunathan, co-founder & CTO, Caratlane. “As a basic principle, we are looking at AI to act as a force multiplier rather than a complete replacement of people. In the process, AI is utilised, but it does not get the final say in terms of the decisions that are made,” Gurunathan said.

In fact, AI benefits rather than harms an employee. “It’s essential to remember that the machine doesn’t replace us; it’s about us using the best of it to improve the quality of our lives,” Sandeep Kataria, Global CEO of footwear major BATA said.

“We are transforming audio messages from store managers into analytical and actionable data by aggregating main improvement areas for top management. This is boosting store performance,” he added.

Tangible benefits of AI

Speaking about some measurable benefits of AI at his company Caratlane’s Gurunathan said that it reduces costs and enhances profitability through various applications. “For instance, in our demand forecasting project, AI models analyse historical sales data alongside market trends and customer behaviour to predict future demand accurately. This enables us to optimise inventory levels, minimise stockouts, and reduce holding costs. This whole thing translates into profitability,” he said, adding that in lead generation, AI-powered prospect models can identify high-potential customers, enabling targeted marketing efforts that yield higher conversion rates while minimising acquisition costs.

“Overall, AI-driven insights and automation streamline operations, boost efficiency, and drive bottom-line growth,” he said.

Tata CLiQ too has reaped financial benefits. “Through AI image generation, we’ve achieved unparalleled visual quality while optimising costs and streamlining production time,” said CEO Asthana.

AI and Customers

Not just companies and employees, AI also helps customers in making better buying decisions through virtual mirrors, second opinions on accessories to accentuate their looks and so on.

Last year, multinational footwear retailer Bata launched a visual merchandising app powered by AI.

“Visual merchandising and retail deployments, if done right, can enhance consumer experience and improve store footfall and conversion. With so many technologies coming in, it’s important to provide a one-stop solution to field teams and store managers, which can solve all the marketing campaigns, retail deployment and visual merchandising requirements,” Abhinav Sharan, head of retail marketing and visual merchandising at Bata India, told media while talking about the AI-powered app.

According to insiders, the move maximized revenue per square foot and reduced bounce rates across stores in which it was implemented. It enabled the company to analyse customer moods and behaviours in real time. Furthermore, it helped in marketing campaigns and improved employee efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Other top brands in India like Metro Shoes and Liberty have similar experiences to share.

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