Last week Amazon announced the launch of the newest iteration of their home assistant - Echo Look. As initial reactions to the announcement rolled in, it’s becoming evident that Echo Look is Amazon’s way of placing a target on the backs of apparel retail.
Echo Look provides users access to Amazon’s popular voice command driven A.I. Alexa which allows customer access to Amazon’s catalog of items, music service, and useful home automation skills. The big difference is the inclusion of a camera which allows users to photograph themselves to create look books of their outfits and even get advice from an AI stylist. Simple enough, so why should this have apparel retailers concerned?
Amazon plays the long game. What will happen when millions users haplessly hand over pictures of themselves wearing outfits of all shapes and sizes? You can bet they’ll be calculating metrics how all of those items fit. The ultimate goal? Replicate some of that much sought after store experience magic in the comfort of your home. It might not happen this quarter or even this year, but before you know it, their goal is to eliminate or at least minimize the need to try on the clothes they sell. For good reason: shipping and returns costs are killing Amazon’s margins on apparel with customers often buying and returning multiple sizes of the same item, returning what doesn’t fit.
The big unknown is whether enough customers will buy Echo Look and enough will share their photos in order for Amazon to collect enough data to make this predictive fit data reliable enough. They’ve had similar technology for shoe sizing on their website for some time now- just share your size in a shoe you already own and they’ll try to predict how others will fit.
Ultimately, apparel retailers who have physical stores have an edge in the game of trying on clothing and shoes. But be warned, Amazon trying to find ways around the fit problem has plagued ecommerce since its beginning. If it isn’t Echo Look it will be the next iteration.
Net-net, there is ‘gold’ in the store where Amazon still can’t yet quite compete directly. For those who innovate, the store can be a strategic advantage in protecting market share from the online giant.