02 Nov Why Amazon will disrupt the fashion industry
Jeff Bezos stated that Amazon aims to become an online retailer generating $200 bn annual sales. He also said that to do so they will have to “learn how to sell clothes and food”. Here it goes! Amazon has recently acquired Whole Foods Market and launched its own fashion label, Find. In this article, we will review all actions taken by Amazon on the fashion field and what does it mean for the industry.
FIND, AMAZON’S OWN FASHION BRAND
In one of our previous articles, we mentioned the arrival on the market of Amazon’s own fashion label, Find. This launch is part of Amazon’s expansion plan into fashion, however does Amazon plan to gain market shares by selling apparel at lower price than competitors? Not exactly: Find offers a 500-pieces womenswear collection with boots at £56, jeans at £26 or blazer at £40. Moreover, Amazon will keep selling other brands such as New Look, LK Bennett or Ted Baker, taking commision on sales. The core of its plan is to become a online fashion leading retailer through outstanding services. The company has ramped up hiring UK fashion retail experts with Frances Russell, former womenswear director at Marks & Spencer hired last year. Her former colleague Karne Peacock, former head of design for womenswear and accessories at Marks & Spencer has been with Amazon since January.
WEBSITE IMPROVEMENTS FOR A BETTER IMAGE
For a long time, Amazon hasn’t been the most attractive proposition for fashion. Indeed, the online fashion sites used to display a wide range of brands with very uninspiring model shots. In addition, a search for “black dress” still produce a baffling amount of 229,707 results on Amazon.co.uk. However as the online giant tend to gain market share in the fashion industry, they started to clean up the site with a more selective audit of brands as well as more appealing & engaging images. They reinvest money in Europe’s biggest photography studio in London Shoreditch in order to improve model shots.
TOP DELIVERY SERVICES AS GAME CHANGERS
According to a survey ran by Cowen & Co., Amazon’s next day Prime delivery service is a key argument for shoppers to buy fashion online – followed by convenience, customer service and reviews. As we know, Amazon also offers a same-day delivery service in selected areas, and competitors try to follow the pace to offer a point of difference in what is becoming an increasingly crowded market (i.e.: Asos just announced this month its new same-day delivery service across London). However Amazon plans to do much more than this to crack the market…
Amazon revealed in July, Amazon Prime Wardrobe (in beta in the US – not yet available in the UK). This new service is a dream came true for fashion addicts: customers will be able to buy any item that caught their eye (up to 15 items) and simply return what does not fit. They will fill the Amazon Prime box at no cost upfront, try on the clothes (within 7 days from reception) and schedule a free pick-up or drop of the resealable box to return whatever they don’t want.
In short, customers only pay for what they want. But this is even better than that. If they keep 3 to 4 items, they will get 10% off everything – if they keep 5 or more, 20% off. Finally Amazon Prime Wardrobe is free to Prime members (no additional costs involved). Speed and simplicity of this service will definitely be the game changers to convince shoppers to buy fashion from Amazon. The Ecommerce giant removes friction and troubles, making online fashion purchases not “a big deal”. We have seen in the past other boxed fashion delivery services or similar solutions from retailers such as Stitch Fix, Trunk Club or Zalando “Zet” program.
Finally, Amazon is working on a new type of home delivery developing a smart doorbell device, Amazon Key (video below), that would give drivers one-time access to a shopper’s home to drop off parcels. Imagine! Your Prime Wardrobe box directly dropped into your house when you are coming back from work, convenient isn’t it?
AMAZON’S AMBITION WITH ECHO LOOK
For a couple of years, Amazon has developed new AI devices that are now making their ways into our homes. Echo Look is one of them. Amazon Echo Look is a hand-free camera combined with Amazon Alexa vocal assistant. It will take full-length pictures of your outfit and then recommend you similar or matching clothing items from Amazon (of course). Echo Look is a voice-controlled personal stylist into your closet and the AI-based device is already available to buy online in the US, but is currently available through invitation only. Amazon has not revealed why it has chosen to restrict purchase to invitation only, neither has confirmed whether or not the Echo Look will make its way to the UK. However we suspect that decision will be very much based on its success in the US where they are currently testing the water. With this convenient style-check device, Amazon proves one more time its intention to disrupt the fashion industry.
AMAZON ACQUIRED BODYLABS
Amazon has acquired BodyLabs, a startup that creates true-to-life 3D body models to support various b2b software applications. It enbales to virtually try on clothes using photorealistic avatars. There were various speculation regarding the acquisition amount and it would be between $50M and $70M. BodyLabs is a New York-based company started in 2013 and they have raised more than $10M across two investment rounds (closing an $8M series A end of 2015).
BodyLabs SOMA Shape API can be used to accurately predict and measure the 3D shape of your customers using just a single image, it can then power “custom apparel” or be used by fashion Ecommerce retailers to offer sizing recommendations. Being able to offer custom fit could give Amazon a significant edge in the fashion industry, as improving sizing predictions could help drive clothes shopping across the website and shrink returns from clothes that don’t fit. The implementation of such a technology is perfectly in lign with Amazon Prime Wardrobe’s project as shoppers would keep most of the box as fit would be good most of the time. Finally, BodyLabs technology will support Amazon Echo Look as it may enable its Echo Show to virtually show off a fashion item shoppers are thinking of buying by having computer vision software digitally animating it on a photorealistic body model.
AMAZON & ITS PATENT FOR AN ON-DEMAND CLOTHING FACTORY
Revolutionising the way to sell apparel doesn’t stop to online content and services for Amazon… They might dirsrupt also the fashion supply chain. In april this year, Amazon was awarded a patent for an on-demand automated clothing factory to create custom-made garments. This project started in the US and the patent invloves textile printers, pattern cutters and assembly lines (once Amazon will have receive precise fit and specifications from customer’s order). Amazon will not only assemble individually customized garments but also do it without needing any human assistance. Today, many aspects of apparel manufacturing includes time-consuming processes and coordination of different suppliers and manufacturers, in different locations. Amazon is thinking about aggregating orders from various locations and coordinating apparel assembly processes on a large scale. What will it mean for customers? Amazon efficiency will mean quicker production and delivery to customers as well as apparel at a much reduced cost for shoppers (thanks to savings made in this new straight forward manufacturing process).
As a conclusion, Amazon took several and significant initiatives that will certainly mark its foray into fahsion industry. Being more than ever customers focused company, the services that Amazon offers or plans to offer are suggesting a new way to fashion consuming. We might be at the beginning of the era of “super convenience” where everything is made massively easy for customers (order, fitting, choice, etc.).