AI: Fashion’s Saviour?Written by Jenora V
Firmly focused on Japan’s USD13 billion fashion industry, Newrope aims to integrate social media platforms with e-commerce, help retailers predict demand, and connect shoppers with custom-curated suggestions.
Japanese entrepreneur Satoshi Sakai aims to usher in a new age of AI-driven shopping with his fashion tech company Newrope, vastly improving both the customer and retailer experience as he does so. Equipped with cutting-edge image recognition software, his major proposition is to integrate online clothes shopping and social networking sites, connecting shoppers with similar products and retailers with consumers out there looking for just what they have on their books. He talked us through how it works.
“When bloggers or websites post an article, our AI recognises fashion images in that article,” Satoshi explains of how Newrope works. “It then displays similar items sold in our partners’ e-commerce sites next to those images.” Focusing on vertical penetration, he hopes to have fashion retail working in tandem with media sites, providing consumers with a more immersive experience that slides seamlessly from browsing to buying. “No other company in Japan has such a large database of fashion data,” he says. And, with the rising demand for software to optimise Japanese online fashion revenue, he sees Newrope as perfectly positioned to take advantage of its booming e-commerce market.
Specialising in software, Newrope has developed two different, complementary AI personas that operate on external fashion websites as well as #CBK, Newrope’s own online fashion retail platform. ‘Fashion Man’ analyses images, breaking down each outfit into separate garments before categorising them under relevant hashtags such as #DenimJacketBlue, #GrayPants or #WhiteSneakers. Their second persona, ‘Mika,’ then comes into play as an AI shop assistant, suggesting new items to shoppers that match the item they’re viewing. She collects vast amounts of data from fashion influencers and social media blogs, allowing her to make recommendations based on the latest trends. Working side by side, Satoshi says these two personas have the capability to revolutionise fashion e-commerce by providing a more intuitive shopping experience.
Newrope is tapping into what its founder sees as several different strands of opportunity. With tech-driven fashion platforms on the rise, Satoshi anticipates enormous potential for e-commerce optimisation. “Many apparel makers want to sell their products through their own e-commerce sites rather than a third-party marketplace because of profitability,” he explains. “So they’re very enthusiastic about trying new technologies to improve their e-commerce.” In addition, fashion e-commerce in Japan is a growing market, increasing by 10-13% annually.
Beyond the search and source elements that his two new AI personas can deliver on, Satoshi only sees the development of more and more personalised services from omni-channel retailing to integrating offline and online shopping and shopper recommendations based on past preferences. “Alongside our other projects, we’re developing an Image Search Function that will allow users to upload photos they’ve taken of fashion magazines or saved on Instagram to find and purchase similar items online,” he relates. Newrope is even creating software for store cameras and Smart Mirrors, allowing retailers to record their customers’ expressions and fashion choices to increase their responsiveness to consumer demand. “We’re working on creative AIs such as natural-language generation and image generation that will eventually write our product descriptions for e-commerce or design products,” he explains. “AI will make it possible to predict demand in the fashion industry.” And, if it all goes to plan, deliver an experience that only gets more satisfactory for the customer as it does so.