Luxury Fashion and AI: Burberry setting the trend
Luxury fashion companies like Burberry aim to be trendsetters but unlike conventional approaches, Burberry have pioneered the use of AI to improve their business as a whole. Swapping trench coats for trend predictions, let’s see how Burberry use Big Data to make big profits…
Burberry foresaw the threat of online retail back in 2006 and repositioned themselves accordingly - with a focus on increasing their use of technology and to be the pioneers of AI in the fashion market. The top dogs at Burberry cite three goals when justifying the use of AI:
Increasing the personalisation of an individual’s customer service and overall shopping experience
Detecting and preventing the manufacture and circulation of counterfeit Burberry goods
Anticipating and adapting to current fashion trends with their product line
Burberry set out to achieve Aim 1 by encouraging customers to (voluntarily) share data by signing up to customer loyalty programmes - with this information being used to provide personalised recommendations both in traditional and online commerce. However, this isn’t new: many companies email customers about personalised deals (much to the annoyance of some customers). However, Burberry take this a step further (to match the increased levels of customisation expected in such a high-end firm), by sharing data such as a customer’s purchase and social media history with retail assistants via a tablet: the assistant can accordingly promote certain products in line with the implications of this data (if you have a penchant for expensive trench coats and display your love of this on social media, but haven’t bought Burberry’s new trench coat, you can be sure that the assistant will highlight the new coat for you). Has this worked? Burberry reported a 50% increase in repeat purchases in 2015 thus clearly, an increased investment in customer personalisation is paying dividends. Burberry’s increased activity on social media platforms also comes in line with improving customisation levels, with Burberry being:
The first luxury fashion brand to create their own Apple Music channel
The first luxury fashion brand to use Snapchat - specifically the Snapcode feature for product barcodes
A pioneer of TV ads that star the customer themselves
Moreover, Burberry use Facebook chatbots that offer dynamic 1-on-1 interactions with potential customers - often being used to show the behind-the-scenes of a product line launch or highlighting new product collections. (see below)
In the future, Burberry aim to better improve customer experience by creating a more immersive e-commerce experience, where virtual shopping assistants can make “walking into our website like walking through our doors”, by using augmented reality to create a realistic virtual store. Moreover, Burberry aim to use the customer data they have to individualise products as well, by configuring products based on unique preference - through bespoke products configured specifically for clients (usually wealthy ones).
To tackle the problem of counterfeit goods, Burberry uses image recognition technology which can determine, from a photograph, whether or not a product is genuine by analysing minute details in weaving and texture (relative to a database of both fake and genuine products) - with a reported 98% accuracy, thereby halting the circulation of counterfeit goods which could compromise Burberry’s reputation for quality.
Thus, although technology and high-end fashion are an unlikely match, they serve to prevent the circulation of counterfeit goods but more importantly, to increase the uniqueness of each individual’s shopping experience with a brand (like Burberry). By using AI, Burberry can tailor every aspect of a client’s experience and product to their tastes, increasing their customer satisfaction and thus their willingness to spend more money on Burberry products. Thus, it remains to be seen whether other brands will buck the trend and whether AI will become an all-pervasive force in the world of luxury fashion (smart trench coats incoming…)
Thumbnail and image from Forbes and Medium