Artificial intelligence is one of the most talked about trends of the moment, with industries ranging from beauty to healthcare capitalising on the technology.
Fashion is another industry where AI holds huge potential, most commonly used to enhance the customer experience through personalisation.
Intelistyle is a new company built around this premise. An AI fashion stylist and retail aggregator – it offers personalised styling advice via its mobile app.
I recently spoke with Kostas Koukoravas, Intelistyle’s founder and CEO, to gain a better understanding of the company, and more specifically, how it is aiming to change the retail experience for everyday shoppers.
(Note, if you’re interested in AI, ecommerce and marketing, why not attend our Supercharged event on May 1st in London)
Supercharged clothes-styling and discovery
Most fashion brands claim to offer a ‘personalised’ service nowadays. But this usually amounts to recommendations based on past online purchases, or perhaps a chat with a style advisor in-store.
This is obviously due to the personal and often subjective nature of clothing in general, with brands typically using purchase or browsing data for marketing or re-targeting purposes.
Intelistyle strives to put personalisation at the forefront of the shopping experience. There are two ways people can use the mobile app – either to look for new clothes or to find out how to style their existing wardrobe. Users can browse from online retail stores or upload photos of their existing clothes. From this, the AI then provides them with instant outfit suggestions.
Kostas explains that the goal is to personalise the entire ecommerce experience, “tailoring recommendations to the user’s style, body type, skin tone and the latest fashion trends”.
The app is designed to solve a tangible need, with the idea stemming from Kostas’ own frustrations as a shopper – and someone who simply struggles knowing what to wear.
“Whenever I go shopping online or in store I end up browsing through hundreds of irrelevant clothes, so I started thinking that there must be a better way to do this.” With research showing that one in two adults in the UK are looking for inspiration on how to use or renew their wardrobe, “the idea of getting free personalised style advice at the press of a button is bound to appeal.”
Kostas also cites the success of brands like Spotify and YouTube as inspiration, and with previous experience working on AI products at Microsoft, he spotted a clear opportunity to use the technology to “supercharge clothes-styling and discovery” within fashion.
— Intelistyle (@intelistyle) March 27, 2018
How does Intelistyle work with fashion retailers?
There are two ways that retailers can work with Intelistyle. First, as an affiliate company, Intelistyle directly integrates with retail websites (and takes a cut of every sale).
According to Kostas, the ability to check out directly on the app is key, as it “allows customers to have an uninterrupted user experience.”
There are further benefits for brands too. “We’ve made this process really easy for smaller or independent retailers who might have different needs – our plugins allow them to sell their existing website stock on our platform without any additional risk or effort on their end.”
Alongside this, retailers also have the option of using Intelistyle’s AI styling services on their own website. This allows them to offer ‘complete the look’ recommendations for their entire product catalogue. Kostas says that this is where the real value lies, as retailers are able to personalise the entire customer experience:
“Their homepage and search results can show recommendations that are right for the user’s body type, skin tone, hair, and eye colour as well as personal sense of style.”
What’s more, email promotions or ad retargeting can become much more personal. For example, instead of delivering blanket offers, Intelistyle can tailor offers to the user’s specific needs.
Kostas explains, “Instead of just saying ‘here’s 20% off shoes’, you can say ‘here’s 20% off shoes to match that dress you own’ or ‘discover dresses to flatter your natural skin tone’. It immediately becomes much more powerful.”
An AI for your own wardrobe
There are a number of other brands using artificial intelligence for styling purposes. There’s Amazon’s ‘Style Check’ skill, for example, as well as styling chatbot Epytom.
So, how does Intelistyle differentiate itself?
Kostas says that it is down to the innovative nature of the AI, as while competitors offer consumers generic ideas for clothing that’s similar to ones they own, “Intelistyle gives specific recommendations for the actual clothes they have in their wardrobe.”
The AI has been trained by analysing millions of fashion photography images, and now uses 512 style parameters to give specific recommendations for clothes. This means Intelistyle doesn’t “box in” users with predefined styles, and the more someone uses the app, the more the AI learns and is able to create a style that is entirely unique and personal to them.
Alongside this, Kostas says that there’s also additional value in Intelistyle’s varied functionality, with users having the ability to use the app while out shopping.
“People can instantly see if the new clothes they’re buying match what they already own, or get styling advice for new combinations on the spot”.
— Intelistyle (@intelistyle) February 18, 2018
While there’s no real ‘chat’ involved with Intelistyle, the AI-stylist is still personified to a certain extent. Kostas explains how ‘Jamie’, as she’s known, is designed to have a personality – one that is supportive and friendly.
“We’re creating an experience that is like going shopping with your best friend, but who also happens to be a stylist.”
This is reflected in the app’s user experience, with Intelistyle creating one that feels as natural as possible.
“A good user interface allows for natural interactions that humans are used to. For example, it is a lot more instinctive to tap on a smartphone screen than use a mouse to translate your intent. In the same way, AI allows for exciting opportunities to create these human-like interactions.”
Obstacles and inspiration
Intelistyle started just one year ago, and the technology needed to power its efforts was in its infancy at that time. Unsurprisingly, with huge progress being made on a daily basis in the field of AI, Intelistyle has come a long way since. The company was also given a massive boost in the form of a grant from Innovate UK – the government’s innovation agency.
I asked Kostas whether there is a fashion brand or retailer using AI (or technology in general) that has been a particular inspiration. He cited 3D body scanning as “an area to watch”, largely to its “potential to bring a virtual fitting room into people’s homes.”
Likeaglove.me is a good example of this – a company that uses 3D scanning to measure a person’s body and recommend perfectly-fitting clothes.
Bodylabs, which is a recent acquisition from Amazon, is another. It can predict and measure the 3D shape of a body from just a single image, using traditional gaming technology to allow users to see a rendered avatar of themselves.
Things to know about LikeAGlove:
1. We analyzed hundreds of jean styles and brands and created an algorithm that takes your measurements and recommends jeans that look like they’re custom made specifically for your body. https://t.co/R6xuw85DEH#fashiontech #wearabletech pic.twitter.com/ohwaUg2Kf3
— LikeAGlove.me (@LikeAGlove_ltd) February 9, 2018
According to Kostas, there are huge benefits for both retailers and customers here, “potentially reducing the cost of returns and simultaneously driving conversions.”
How will Intelistyle evolve?
Alongside the possibilities presented by 3D scanning and other technology, Kostas believes the future of Intelistyle could lie beyond its own app walls.
He refers to the customer’s “fashion profile” (i.e. data their own unique style preferences, body type, skin tone, hair colour etc.) – which “customers will be able to take with them online or in-store to different retailers in order to instantly receive a personalised experience on the shop floor or in the fitting room.”
On top of this, augmented reality could be another key component, naturally helping retailers to reduce friction for customers buying online. This is because “being able to visualise how an entire outfit looks on you is not only an exciting way to explore styles, but to encourage shoppers to be more daring.”
While these features might be a way off for Intelistyle, the start-up’s bold intent to become the “Spotify of fashion” is clearly an immediate priority. Watch this space.
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