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Smartphones and fashion: The evolution of mobile

Nuzhat Naweed, head of mobile product at Zalando, takes a look at how mobile has transformed the fashion industry.

Fashion, by its very nature, is at the forefront of change.

To be successful, brands and businesses have to be forward-thinking, constantly keeping an eye on the next big thing – from red carpet trends and Instagram influencers to consumer browsing and purchase behaviour. With the industry having its strongest performance for years, there is one clear point where all of these influences comes together: mobile.

This technology has rocketed in popularity over the last few years. In fact, according to GlobalWebIndex, mobile phones account for 50% of time spent on devices for 16-24 year olds worldwide and, by the end of 2021, 90% of mobile data traffic is set to be from smartphones.

So, what’s next for the evolution of the fashion industry in the mobile space?

Making the internal, external

For many people, there is a universal truth to fashion. It is an outward expression of their inner selves, a reflection of their personality transmitted to the world. It is this personal relationship with fashion that the industry attempts to mimic and bolster. Brands and businesses will become more perceptive when it comes to personal style, offering a more personalised service than ever before by laser focusing on the individual.

But what of the mobile focus you may ask? Well, the end result of this personalisation drive is clear: fashion brands will turn your phone into your fashion assistant. In other words, a personal shopper in your pocket. Mobile fashion apps will connect with customers on an intimate level, becoming the first point of call when it comes to shopping.

Mobile devices are the perfect delivery model for this type of hyper-personalised service. They have become intertwined with our everyday lives, involved in almost every aspect from communication to directions and, importantly, our web browsing history. This allows them a comprehensive view into an individual’s preferences and behaviours. By analysing this data, mobile-based personal assistants have an unparalleled ability to make insightful recommendations.

Alongside this, improving data networks, such as the proliferation of 4G across Europe, has meant that information is available faster than ever before. This trend of instant gratification is already being used by by fashion brands. Just look how Burberry and Tom Ford have made their collections available immediately after being displayed on the catwalk. This time between exhibition and delivery will only decrease as businesses attempt to give the customer what they want, faster. This is another opportunity for fashion apps to bloom, enabling real time access to runway content and collections.

The reliance on mobile is supported further by the emotional connection in fashion. It is a medium in which people attempt to reflect their internal selves outwardly, meaning a brand or trend is lent emotional gravitas. When you consider the fact that 90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously, you can see the value in creating an ongoing personal connection with a consumer. And the most effective way to achieve this? Through the mobile device that is an inseparable part of their daily lives.

Processing payments

One of the trickiest parts of online shopping has long been payments. In a physical location, it was the essence of simplicity, but the online world, and specifically mobile, has struggled to replicate this. Not for much longer though.

Mobile shopping is a huge area of potential profit. Just look at the UK, smartphone penetration among the 16-24 age-range is at 88%, with the 25-34 segment lagging only slightly behind at 84%. Alongside this, a third of internet users view their smartphone as the most important device for going online, up from the 22% of two years ago, and a figure that is only going to rise. On top of this, analysts predict a 210% increase in US mobile payments over the coming years. So, what are brands and businesses doing to accommodate this?

Well, to put it simply, everything they can. There is a huge desire from brands and businesses to make payments as frictionless as possible. You only need to look at services like PayPal, Apple Pay and Android Pay to see the emphasis technology behemoths are putting on this service, something that will be a huge boon for mobile shopping. Soon, the process of buying on your phone will be reduced to a tap or two.

Where to next?

When it comes to clothes, many people share a common dream. They boot up a device, select or are recommended an outfit and then can see what it would look like on them, immediately. In other words, the Clueless wardrobe.

There have been attempts to make this a reality, with some users constructing avatars that are 92% accurate to their own body shape, which is undoubtedly impressive. Still, the future of this sort of fashion is machine learning, but the technology we have today isn’t quite there yet. Despite this, there are huge strides being made to provide the ultimate shopping experience.

Smartphones are again set to play a vital and central role in this evolution. Consider apps that are able deduce items from photographs, search for them online, before matching them up to your own style profile. They would make use of the data the app already has, even recommending items in a similar style or giving size recommendations. Most likely though, this will happen over time, with these sort of systems arriving through a series of small steps. We will see machine learning used sparingly at first, with minor improvements adding up over time until we receive the shopping experience we all desire.

Smartphones have become an extension of ourselves, a tool we use to interact with and understand the world. Brands and businesses are aware of this and will strive to connect with people through their devices, providing an intimate and personal experience unavailable elsewhere. Where is the future of fashion? In your pocket.