Fashion Innovation – Ajio is the latest entrant in Ambani’s Reliance Industries business conglomerate, one of the world’s giants in the oil and gas industry. Owned by India’s richest person in 2016, Mukesh Ambani, a business tycoon that also owns Reliance Jio – a telecom service provider – that is expected to launch its 4G services in India, later this year.
Fashion Innovation – Online Fashion Sales, $300 Billion By 2030
The launching of Ajio comes at a time when India’s online sales are booming, and the online fashion sales are expected to reach 80 billion U.S. dollars by 2020 – according to KPMG’s report for February 2016 – and 300 billion U.S. dollars by the end of 2030.
Even though the moment Ambani’s online fashion portal focuses on India’s online fashion buyers, by the end of 2020 the company wants to become a world leader in the online fashion sales.
Fashion Innovation – XG, Digital Currencies, 3D Body Scanners
As bold as it sounds, Ambani thinks that with the right strategy in place the company can differentiate itself from Amazon and Alibaba and become a leader in the online fashion market, via discounts, intelligent digital marketing and the use of emerging tech to create fashion innovation.
“We aim to reach 15.000 Indian pincodes in the next two months. Almost 60% of our merchandise is unique, and we are going to start with 200 brands that we have partnerships with”, said Sanjay Mehra, the CEO of Ajio.
The “pincodes” are the equivalent of postal codes in other countries, and the portal’s aim is to cater for all 40.000 Indian postcodes in less than two years after its launch.
Sanjay Mehra is confident that as soon as soon as the company mother rolls out its 4G service across India, Ajio is going to benefit from a massive traffic boost. However, Sanjay’s secret weapon is not the launch of the 4G but the adoption of emerging tech in helping the company stand out from the competition.
“Adopting and using new technologies is paramount, in particular when it comes to solving the size problem”, said Sanjay.
Last year alone, from all the potential online fashion buyers, almost 70 percent ended up buying from the “physical” after browsing online, and the size problem is the culprit as when it comes to buying fashion online, the buyer cannot try the outfits in a fitting room.
The “size problem” is the number one cause for loss of opportunity and massive expenses related to the return of the goods. However, Ambani is confident that he has the solution.
“By combining the e-commerce platform built by the Reliance Retail with the high-speed internet network built by Jio, and wearable tech, we are creating a new type of fashion e-commerce model, not only for India but the world”, said RIL director, Mukesh Ambani.
What Ambani is missing is a commercially viable technology that could solve the “size problem”. While there are many interesting ideas out there, from augmented reality to smart mirrors and from 360 cameras to virtual fitting rooms, the most accurate technology remains the 3D body scanner solution.
The buyer can 3D scan his/her body, then upload the data to the e-commerce portal and have the garments automatically matched and displayed, saving both, the buyer and retailer, time and money.
The technology works by scanning the wearer’s body in advance and have the biometrics uploaded to the e-commerce portal. Imagine the process as part of completion process, as apart from adding your name, address and payment method, only that this time you have to upload your “body metrics” too.
While the theoretical idea sounds perfect, in reality, the 3D body scanners are still expensive, and if Ambani’s intention is to send out body scanners to his customers, then his online fashion business might end before it has even started.
Another solution might be sending the 3D body scanner only when the buyer has reached a specific target (in sales) on the portal, a similar concept to the “free” fitness tracker idea promoted by the health insurance companies.
However, a more viable and cheaper alternative to the 3D body scanners comes from the Israeli company “Like AGlove“, where the buyer wears a pair of smart trousers for a couple of minutes, enough for the smart technology to get the wearer’s measurements, thanks to the constituent smart textiles and embedded sensors.
Fashion Innovation – The Generation Clash
It remains to be seen the type of technology Ambani is going to employ to resolve the “size problem”. Regardless, Ajio’s launch finds the global fashion industry in “delicate times”. The luxury goods market, in particular, needs a massive “transfusion” of innovation as it seems that the new generation of consumers no longer perceives and consume fashion as the previous generations, making the existing business models obsolete.
The notoriously tech-averse fashion industry must start embracing the fashion innovation in order to remain releant in the eyes of the new generations of consumers: late millennials, generation Z and most important, preparing for the future generation Alpha.
Fashion innovation starts with the acknowledgement that the digitisation changes everything at an accelerated rate, and the need of adapting to a new type of digital, decentralised, self-sustainable culture is paramount.
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If we look at the luxury fashion market at the end of 2015, the results are a jumble. Moncler, Hermès and Brunello Cucinelli (it must be all those t-shirts and sweaters that Mark Zuckerberg buys) came out with fairly good results. However, Tod’s, Neiman Marcus, and Salvatore Ferragamo’s sales dropped – in a continuous trend – since the beginning of the year.
For the first time, the online sales impacted the foot traffic in the physical stores – over the past holiday season – as the fashion industry is still trying to understand what digitisation means and does, in the long term.
The “Swiss Made” is another example of a struggling industry trying to understand this new type of consumer that sees more value in a smartwatch than in a handmade, full of heritage and craftsmanship, luxury watch.
Fashion Innovation – The Power Of Internet
The key to the problem is, in fact, the consumer. The fashion industry, at its core, is owned by the X generation, a generation that came across technology only now, at its dusk.
Then, we have the Millennials – also known as the Generation Y, and third, the generation Z or the children of generation Y (Millennials) if you like. The generation clash is evident and the pic below alone is the perfect example of the massive mentality gap.
However, in the 21st century, almost everything depends on the Internet and the fashion industry makes no exception to the rule. The new business models, with late millennials in charge and technology at their core, are the winners of the 21st century, with Net-A-Porter a true digital powerhouse, the incontestable leader in fashion innovation.
According to a comScore report, at the end of 2015, clothing and fashion accessories were the highest-selling categories online. So, how can the fashion industry adopt digital without much disruption? Let’s look at Valentino for a second.
The Italian fashion house has become the most active brands on social media, mostly on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. Valentino is using these digital platforms to create brand awareness and most important, drive sales.
Moreover, with $1.36 billion U.S. dollars in earnings in 2015, which counts to 48 percent increase when compared with 2014, the results speak for themselves.
The disruption is minimal; the luxury brands can continue with their “heritage and craftsmanship” journey while only changing direction – for the time being – from the glossy magazines to clever media marketing and influencers engagement.
Fashion Innovation – India The Home Of Generation Alpha
But what has India got to do with digitisation, generation Z and luxury fashion? Well, let’s look at some relevant figures: In the fiscal year of 2014-2015, India’s GDP grew by 7.3 percent following a 6.9 percent growth rate, in the previous year. With a growth of over 7 percent in the 1H FY 2015-2016, India is considered the world’s fastest-growing economy, even faster than China.
More important, conform to IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) report for 2015, India is going to retain its “fastest-growing economy in the world” status, at least for the next five years.
The Indian urbanisation rate is also one of the fastest in the world and India has a combined expenditure of about 22.5 billion U.S. dollars to create over 100 smart cities and improve another 500 cities in the next five years.
Internet penetration and the number of mobile users are also growing at unprecedented rates. India is going to cover all cities with over one million inhabitants, with Wi-Fi services.
It is also going to deliver rural broadband and 500.000 internet access points to 250.000 villages and by 2019 becoming a driving force in fashion innovation.
So why is it fashion innovation so important? Because urbanisation, Internet and fashion are intrinsically connected these days. More than that, as India is going to become the next economic superpower, the need of understanding the clash of generations (X, Y, Z and Alpha in particular) and the extra layer of complexity added by the cultural differences, has become paramount.