Fashion's SmarterChild: 3 Ways Technology Is Building Savvier Shoppers
We browse the sales on ASOS multiple times during the workday.
We perk up from daily Anthropologie emails advertising the latest chance to get 50 percent off.
We end up spending more money at Forever21 because we're $6.99 away from free shipping so the hairbrush kit we really didn’t need becomes an absolute necessity.
And we certainly all feel the guilt and shame of having our credit card numbers memorized from excessive use.
We can’t help it; we’re addicted. But this isn’t news to anyone.
What is newsworthy, however, is the fact e-commerce sites know exactly how to suck us in.
Just like the rest of the Internet, the wonderful world of flash sales and virtual shopping baskets is dynamic.
Companies are striving to have the hottest new shopping app or spending thousands of dollars to become the leader in streamlining the online purchase.
Chris Morton, CEO and cofounder of Lyst, put it this way:
We haven't scratched the surface of what we can do with ecommerce -- the only constant is that the rate of change is accelerating faster and faster, so there's an awful lot of work to do.
So, what should the average online shopper expect to see in 2015? Faster checkouts? Better security?
More creepy Facebook ads to remind you you haven’t yet purchased those over-the-knee black boots you’ve been Internet-stalking since November?
Sorry, but those creepy Facebook ads are just the beginning. Here's how new technology will change the way we online shop:
1. The more you click, the more they'll know.
What this means for you: Not to completely scare you, but the ads the Internet knows you’re interested in aren't going anywhere.
Take Morton’s company, Lyst, for example. When you’re browsing on Lyst for a “little black dress," your activity on the site influences the recommendations you’re given, which results in “a truly intuitive and more effective shopping experience.”
You like the way Trina Turk dresses flatter your tummy?
And hate how anything you buy from Alice + Olivia makes your broad shoulders look like an NFL linebacker's?
Lyst employs a special algorithm to determine a customized live shopping feed, which incorporates your personal preferences.
So basically, you're leaving a trail of breadcrumbs with every click.
The tech behind it: This algorithm is exactly like what you studied in 10th-grade algebra, but it's a little less mind-numbing.
Lyst uses three different factors to create the final resulting "recommendation algorithm": product characteristics, customer behavior with the actual pieces and a "recency factor."
Say you've been eyeing a Rebecca Minkoff crossbody bag. Lyst notices the brand, the fact you only want a black one, definitely in leather, and you're willing to spend around $250.
This product and all these characteristics get positive ratings. Other products with traits you didn't choose -- snakeskin, exorbitant price, brown -- get negative ratings.
This creates your individual "taste profile." When new products come in, they're ranked against your specific profile.
The final "recency factor" makes the entire algorithm a little less data-oriented because, obviously, style and preferences don't just revolve around a series of numbers and clicks.
Lyst's Miyon Im says this takes into account how new something is and how much Lyst thinks "you'll like it," so it "takes a chance" and adds it to your feed.
It prevents your profile from becoming too stagnant or repetitive.
2. It's not like you're going to stop using your smartphone anytime soon.
What this means for you: You’re not going to be shopping strictly from your laptop anymore -- and brands know that better than anyone.
Last year alone, smartphone shopping generated $78 billion across the US and Europe.
Retailers will continue to invest money in such a profitable market, meaning you’ll probably use your thumbs instead of your mouse to order your summer swimsuit.
According to recent research from Nielsen, over 85 percent of Millennials own smartphones. And our generation tends to prefer the convenience and efficiency of online shopping versus the ancient art of mall-browsing.
It’s simple math: more phones with Internet access, more touchscreen purchases, more money spent, more money made.
And, with the rise in shopping apps, it’ll soon be more common to use your iPhone to determine going with a size 6 versus 8 (rather than scrutinize how your hips look almost as wide as your mother’s in the unforgiving mirror at H&M).
The tech being used: Let's talk about apps, baby.
Take Mallzee, for example. Self-titled as the "Tinder for fashion," the UK-based app brings over 200 different stores right to your fingertips.
Instead of browsing in and out of the racks at Urban Outfitters, you swipe right on items you like and left on the items you'd never wear. (See, we weren't joking about the Tinder reference.)
While this doesn't seem like the most innovative idea in the world, Mallzee brings in a social aspect. Users can get their friends' opinions on outfits and specific items.
It's like sending your friend all the links to five different pairs of Madewell boots so they can tell you their thoughts on heel versus no heel.
There's also Spring, a slicked-up version of Instagram. You "follow" brands you enjoy wearing, and every single piece on the app is available to purchase any time you want it. Convenient, but also very, very dangerous.
3. Big Brother is watching -- and sending you messages.
What this means for you: Beacon technology might be the best and worst thing ever invented for the recreational shopper.
The tech behind it: Beacon technology is the GPS tracker of shopping. "Beacons" positioned around a particular store are connected with the store's sales.
Coupons or notifications about products based on the shopper's preferences are then sent to his or her phone whenever he or she walks into the location.
With apps like Lyst or Pivot, you'll receive a notification when the specific Northern Lights sunglasses you saw Alexa Chung rocking are in stock at Revolve as soon as you walk into the SoHo store.
Once again, it’s about tailoring your entire shopping experience to your exact fit.
If this freaks you out and reminds you of "1984," don’t worry. Coupons won’t start bombarding your phone unless you choose to opt-in and download the necessary apps.
What you should remember: It's pretty clear all of these factors have two things in common: you, the shopper, and accessibility.
It looks like 2015's digital innovations will test both our willingness to change as well as our self-control when it comes to online purchases. (All this as I click "checkout" on my latest online splurge. Whoops!)