"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", said Arthur C. Clarke, author of many science fictions. Technology has an important role to play in transforming businesses in a big way. With the growing usage of smartphones and tablets, apparel retailers want to use technology to their advantage to stay ahead in the times of fierce competition.
For apparel retailers and in the fashion industry understanding consumer behaviour is a direct route to achieving higher revenues and better sales. Data analytics and sensors are a few methods used in the sector for making better decisions. Lately advances in the field of neuroscience can reveal a great deal about emotions that are at the very crux of human decision making. Essentially emotions trigger the way individuals engage with brands and products rather than cognitive thoughts.
Conventionally used techniques like surveys and focus groups do not measure emotional responses accurately and are prone to biases. They fail to capture honest, unfiltered, and spontaneous feelings. It would be so much simpler if just by reading the facial expressions, gestures, voices, heart rates, and sweat to identify the emotions of an individual. Enter affective computing, a technology that does just that through personal devices like laptops, phones, and tablets.
Affective computing can be defined as the study and development of systems and gadgets which recognize, process, integrate, and stimulate human affects. It is an amalgamation of three different disciplines namely psychology, cognitive science, and computer science. The affective computing technology aims at interpreting the emotional state of human beings and according to which it adapts its behaviour by providing an appropriate response.
By availing such a novel technology at their disposal, the apparel e-tailers can track human emotions and use such information to develop garments, sales, marketing, and service. The clothing e-commerce using affective computing can provide a shopping experience just like an individual will have in-store by using an interactive technology like this. There are immense possibilities for e-tailers in the fashion world. By reading emotions of consumers they can automatically adapt their merchandises in real time depending on the mood of the shopper. By measuring the emotional data gathered by audiences watching the streaming of a live fashion show, apparel e-tailers can send such responses to the buying and the collection department.
Emotions are vital to any individual and play a pivotal role in how an individual behaves with the world and people around us. By identifying the right emotions apparel e-tailers can understand perceptions and what the consumers like to wear, when, and which time of the year. There are many channels to distil a range of emotional states but affective computing uses the face, which communicates all kinds of emotions from joy, anger, frustration, and sadness, to measure responses.
Affective computing identifies gestures such as head movements and body movements; voices the tone, pitch, and loudness also speak volumes about an individual's emotional state, level of sweat on the skin expresses how active or calm a person is, monitoring heart rate from a video to know one's mood are all different points that the technology touches. There are currently wearable devices available that can measure and sense emotional states.
In a store it is easier for customer service assistants to identify colours prints, or styles an individual is drawn to and can help them shop better by providing knowledge about similar garments or accessories to go with it. While shopping online, this experience is missing. One need to fill up lengthy questionnaires expressing their likes, dislikes, tastes, and preferences. Affective computing can provide an interactive platform to e-tailers to provide shoppers with such a privilege even while shopping online.
Moreover, it could also be used for tracking a consumer's interest and in response display similar items of interest on the screen. Or while browsing if a shopper signals confusion then a customer service assistant can pop in to offer aid. A technology like affective computing has huge potential for interfacing between fashion companies and consumers while streaming live fashion shows online. Designers can gauge the responses of audiences to see which products are generating interests with affective computing. This can save them a lot of time by spending more time in creating products that have generated interests than those that have been appreciated less.
The technology will be deployed in different devices that sense motion. Intelligent accessories like earrings and bracelets will monitor such behaviour and with further advancement in this field, clothes embedded with gadgets will soon be introduced. This provides a scope for gathering responses even in brick and mortar stores. Cameras of the future will be emotionally aware capturing responses and behaviours through laptops, tablets, and phones.
Affective computing and sensor capturing devices can be very useful to apparel retailers and fashion houses to capture real time responses of consumers and understand their behaviour through emotionally aware technologies and adapt themselves to a full range of emotional experiences.