The challenges facing FashTech startups
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Scene from New York Fashion Week. Photo Credit: Art Comments / Creative Commons

Scene from New York Fashion Week. Photo Credit: Art Comments / Creative Commons

The fashion industry is well established and extremely creative. However, there is still a great deal of scope for technology to play a part

Dreamstake

London and New York are two cities that are well placed to take a lead in the fashion technology space. Both have a vibrant fashion scene, sitting alongside some rapidly developing tech startups, and can draw upon amazing talent from both sectors.

Fashion technology or FashTech is a very broad sphere ranging from e-commerce and blogging through to wearable tech, sizing and image recognition. The fashion industry is well established and extremely creative. However, there is still a great deal of scope for technology to play a part. We have identified a few FashTech challenges that still need addressing;

User experience issues

Fashion users are particularly sensitive to both style and function. Products have to look good and work well, or they will not gain customer acceptance.  We saw this with Google Glass, where the appearance of the product has been a factor in its slow acceptance. No one wants to be seen as a Glasshole. There are also a whole range of privacy issues relating to such a product.

The iWatch is also going to face user experience issues. The limited display face will dictate that it has to be used in conjunction with your smartphone and the limited battery power will be a real deterrent to mass adoption. Will there be a battle between smart watches and other less complex wrist-based devices?

The mobile experience

E-commerce is still difficult using a smartphone. Many online fashion retailers use the affiliate model to avoid keeping stock and dealing with returns. This involves a complex purchasing process, where the consumer is taken through to e-boutiques to make the ultimate purchase. Without aggregated baskets this can be an extremely frustrating experience. Solution providers such as TwoTap and UB are on the case and trying to address this issue, but there is still some way to go before mobile fashion becomes a simple experience.

The tech is still lacking

There is still work to be done to make certain technologies fit for fashion consumers. A lot has been made of image recognition, with apps such as ASAP54 and others. Wouldn’t it be nice to snap that dress with your smartphone camera and buy the exact item with a few clicks? However, current image recognition is not up to the job and therefore can only suggest ‘find similar.’

Many such apps  do not know whether you have snapped a pullover or a pair of shoes. Similar issues relate to sizing and styling apps. The technology is getting better but it is debatable whether it adds enough value for universal acceptance.

Many fashion apps are developed by tech oriented teams that do not understand the fashion industry. These startup teams should make sure that they include at least one fashion insider.

Fashion is an enticing business. The sector is the fourth largest global market. However, it is extremely demanding. Many websites fall down purely on graphic design and usability. Purchasing fashion is an emotive decision. Brand is important.

Net-a-porter, Farfetch and Asos are showing that keeping it simple is the key to success. It will be fascinating to see how the new crop of wearables manage to balance human needs with the increasing power of technology.

This post was originally published on the Dreamstake blog. 

Featured Image Credit: Art Comments / Creative Commons

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