We have all been there - just squeezed out of our own clothes into the new ones in the fitting room, only to realise that a different size or colour would be better. If there is no trusty friend by one’s side, this usually means: taking off the new clothes, squeezing back into one’s own clothes, giving up the fitting room, scrambling back to the shelf, searching, hopefully finding the desired clothes, back to the fitting rooms, hopefully finding a free one, squeezing out of one’s clothes, back into the new ones…
Phew, quite cumbersome, isn’t it? This is what Chinese internet giant Alibaba thought too, which is why the company is testing a new concept store using artificial intelligence to anticipate visitors’ every wish.
Even entering Alibaba’s Fashion AI op-up store, which is right next to Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s fashion faculty, seems high tech as one has to check in via mobile Taobao ID code. Alternatively, shoppers can also opt for a face scan for a more personalised experience.
Once inside, Alibaba’s Fashion AI Store does not seem so different from a regular shop: There are clothing items galore, neatly displayed on hangers. However, here clothing racks are RFID enabled and use gyro-sensors and Bluetooth low-energy chips. This means that articles selected by shoppers automatically show up in the Smart Mirror.
Via the mirrors, shoppers can look at different size and colour options but also receive personalised mix-and-match options to complete the look. They do not have to search for the suggested items but simply follow the Smart Mirror’s directions to the right location in the store.
Shoppers who like to try before they buy can do so of course and do not even have to lug the selected items around with them while browsing. They just add them to their virtual shopping cart from where they will be delivered to the fitting room directly.
The way this works is that before entering the fitting room, the sales staff scans one’s Taobao ID code once again to connect the personal account with the Smart Mirror in the fitting room. Here, shoppers can look through the selected items once again to have those brought to the fitting room that they want to try - if desired, even in different sizes and colours.
This virtual selection also helps staff maintain track of inventory, keep the store neat as they select and deliver the items from the racks to the fitting rooms directly and keep back what will not be bought at this point. Real time analytics help staff to move faster and thus provide customers with a more efficient and stress-free shopping experience. In addition, they keep track of inventory and of in-demand items that may have to be reordered.
However, customers also become more transparent and their data may be saved for future use. “This is a major step. This is would be the equivalent of consumers having their own personal stylists,” comments Alibaba Group vice president Zhang Zhuoran, the prototype of the future of fashion shopping. “FashionAI embodies our thinking of what the future of fashion retail could look like and an exploration of using technologies to better understand and cater to consumers’ fashion needs.”
Those who would like to see for themselves if artificial intelligence can replace one’s best friend - or according to Zhang Zuoran, one’s personal stylist - while clothes shopping can do so until tomorrow at Alibaba’s Fashion AI Concept Store in Hong Kong.
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