For the truly fashion obsessed consumer, clothes they can communicate with could be in their future.
Connected clothing, or the “Internet of Clothing,” got buzz in April when packaging and labeling company Avery Dennison announced a partnership with smart-products platform Evrythng. Through the partnership, 10 billion of pieces of clothing will have a unique web ID assigning it a personal profile in the cloud. This profile can connect brands and customers to more information about a specific item, including reviews, lifestyle content, product details and social shares.
“An expensive handbag is an exclusive item and a status symbol,” said Lauren Nutt Bello, partner at digital agency Ready Set Rocket. “If the brand can show their customer that in a personal way, that makes this valuable.”
The answer to why customers would want their clothing to be connected is still blurry. For Evrythng’s connected products, the benefit is on the weight of retailers’ shoulders: they need to offer enough valuable information to engage customers — and that content needs to be continuously updated, a far from simple task.
“Brands would have to build out new teams to deliver new products, new content for connected consumers, and be continually investing in new content and experiences,” said Nutt Bello. “Already, there’s an overloading amount of data that brands don’t know how to make sense of, and some luxury companies are brands that don’t even have full e-commerce stores.”
Luxury brands are slow to come around to new technologies, but if smart clothing and accessories take hold, here’s what it would look like for both luxury retailers and customers.
Decoding what connected clothing would look like in luxury
If a retailer knows what specific items a customer has purchased it can provide better targeted recommendations, show them how other customers styled the items, revisit them with new ways to wear a product, and serve videos that show how that exact item made it from manufacture to the consumer.
The use cases can also be more utilitarian. David Cooperstein, CMO of programmatic platform PebblePost, said that he sees the Internet of Clothing within the luxury fashion industry in the form of purses that are equipped not only with charging packs but, a WiFi hotspot, or authenticate a purchase and prevent knockoffs from being passed on as the real thing. It could also use the chip to track an expensive bag in case it gets stolen.
“It could give valuable luxury items the ability to be tracked, like a Find My iPhone,” said Cooperstein. “Except it would be Find My Birkin. It might not necessarily enhance the product itself, but what the product can offer the consumer.”
How a smart handbag could benefit customers
Awear Solutions, a smart-product platform that has raised $1 million in funding in two years, is working with fashion brands to embed a smart-chip into products that can track, anonymously and without collecting personal user data, when and where an item is being worn or carried . Awear will then make sense of the data and report it back to the brands. If a customer buys an item made with an Awear chip inside of it, downloads the Awear app, and opts in to share data with the company.
The problem with Awear’s system, of course, is that a bulk of its data rides on customers’ willingness to download an app and then allow what’s essentially a tracking device to keep tabs on them from inside their bags or collars. So, the company created an incentive system: the app has a series of levels that consumers can unlock based on where and how often they use products. Unlocking certain levels could mean the customer gets invitations to exclusive events or chances to shop new products before the rest of the public. Awear calls it a “fashion frequent flyer” program.
“It rewards you for essentially being a brand ambassador,” said founder Liron Slonimsky. “That builds brand loyalty, which is what these companies want.”
Such gimmicks might appear gauche to luxury customers if the program isn’t executed correctly, however.
“The brand has to consider who is going to opt in to this type of thing. It’s going to be a small subset of consumers, but they’re going to be passionate,” said Nutt Bello. “The brand will have to be forward thinking, so I think most will wait until it grows on a massive scale.”