How fashion teams can use AI to drive business growth

2018 seems to be the year of Artificial Intelligence in retail — everyone is buzzing about it. The whole industry fears AI will deeply transform their jobs but in order to embrace this inevitable change, we need to understand why AI is a tool, and not a threat. Several strong problems arise from fighting the wrong battles in AI. On the one hand, very well advertised discoveries such as chatbots and visual search make us think that AI can solve everything — which is not true, and never will be. On the other hand, prominent visionaries share a dreadful vision of the future of AI.

There’s a strong urgency to make AI more understandable to smooth the integration into fashion teams’ day-to-day work in an industry that will be quickly transformed.

The global AI in retail market size is expected to increase by 5 times by 2022 to reach 5 billion dollars (source : Research and Markets, November 2017). While the current AI adoption in retail is 20%, 75% of fashion retailers plan to invest in AI in 2018/2019 (source : McKinsey and BoF).

The change is inevitably coming and what teams need to realise is that Artificial Intelligence is not just a box to tick but truly a business driver impacting all business units.

Artificial Intelligence as a tool for teams, not a threat

According to McKinsey and Business of Fashion, “AI-driven innovation may further expand the income gap between high-performing firms and their competitors”.

The question is thus not if managers should integrate AI in their company, but how.

But today’s fashion teams have a lot on their plates and often no time to spend hours looking for the relevant solution fitting the right business needs. So who’s actually responsible for it?

To integrate AI in brands, we need to realize that true business value only comes from the adequation between AI and deep expertise of a sector — and this expertise lies within the hand of people, which should be at the centre of the solution.

In this process, innovation teams should act as guardian of the test & learn logic. On the other side, core teams such as merchandising, product and marketing teams need to spend some time to identify and express their needs to the innovation team and be adaptive to change. As the Harvard Business Review puts it “if managers aren’t ramping up experiments in the area of machine learning, they aren’t doing their job. Over the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t.

Specific problems call for tailored solutions.

Since a few years, AI technology has matured and few teams/startups in the world keep up with their promesses. The industry is starting to realise that specific problems call for tailored solutions. Several strong tech teams will arise and tackle different domains, while it’s unlikely that generic services like Google Deepmind will become experts at all specific fields.

The role of AI startups should aim at creating a packaged service in collaboration with clients. This is what we are creating at Heuritech: a solution to empower fashion teams to back their intuitions with data.

AI won’t transform the fashion industry But what AI can do, is augment a team’s capabilities to surf the wave of change, proactively, instead of lagging behind. AI will be a game-changer for companies internally, similar to what the internet was a decade ago. But AI is not a magical wand, it’s an accelerator.

Stay tuned to better grasp which AI solutions is the one that fits your business needs.


Heuritech empowers fashion teams to monitor in real time both products and trends through cutting-edge image recognition technology applied on millions of social media images every day. If you want to know more, get in touch at info@heuritech.com