Amazon StyleSnap – The inevitable innovation in fashion shopping

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I was talking at a retail technology event in 2012 and was asked a question about the future of fashion retail.   I discussed the effect that the then recently launched Instagram app could have on how celebrities would advertise clothing directly engaging with the brands and consumers and how the traditional methods of marketing and engagement would change. Over the following years not only did celebrities on social media platforms such as Instagram became the go to model for the fashion brands but it opened the door to a whole new world of new social media celebrities that were quickly snapped up by the fashion brands to engage with the next generation of shoppers.

I was also asked how this would affect traditional TV advertising; I have always thought that the next evolution would be dynamic in media advertising.  Our TV watching habits have changed rather than our behaviours being scheduled by the TV companies.   Thanks to the huge improvements in internet connectivity and streaming services, as viewers we watch what we want, when we want to watch it. With the evolution of how we watch our favourite TV programmes I talked about how I could see TV companies capitalising on the change in viewer behaviours by allowing viewers to pause live tv in their homes.  The viewer could then point to an item of clothing or product that was on screen, touch or click on that item, identify where they could buy it and complete the purchase; they would then continue to watch their favourite show.

I am sure you will be thinking that this vision of the future hasn’t technically happened and I would agree with you.  However, the trouble with predicting the future technological landscape is that it is impossible to consider other technologies or behaviours that could change the direction of travel.

That said, Amazon has announced its latest venture into fashion retail and the functionality is scarily close to my original concept for the future of fashion retailing.  The latest development from the tech giant is a tool called StyleSnap which will be available for the Alexa app.

App users will take a photo of an item of clothing or style they like, this image could be captured from any media form (even TV) or a real life encounter with someone wearing the clothing you like.   Amazon then uses deep-learning technology to distinguish style, fit, colour and patterns.

Whilst there are similarities with Snapchat’s Visual Search and the showroom apps which focus on home furnishings, the StyleSnap tool is a significant innovation by the technology company that could impact the way in which we shop today.  Interestingly, Amazon struggles to achieve success in the women’s fashion sector but this development might just give them the edge.  As with any technology that allows you to take images of people, it may have some data protection challenges such as someone taking photos of you or your family members because they like the way they dress and want to find a similar fashion.  It will be interesting to see both the positive and negative ramifications of this development.

Author: James Pepper (MD Vista Retail Support)

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