Chapter 3. Addressing the Challenges

If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?

T.S. Eliot

The fashion industry has some unique challenges, which we’ll address in this section. At the same time, some of the challenges the fashion industry faces will be very familiar to those in any industry. Topics we’ll explore in this section include the unique pace of supply and demand, the use of algorithms and natural language processing, the potential (and importance) of visual search in a highly visual market, and what’s new with using data in menswear.

First, we’ll explore the rapid pace of change in the fashion industry—demand for new products happens 8–20 times faster than in consumer electronics. For instance, consumers these days replace their mobile phones on average once every 30 months, while they shop for clothing as often as twice per month. Then, we’ll look at geography, and how it does—and does not—affect demand.

Even when working with hard data, it’s important to let the softer side of humanity shine through. We’ll look at how companies are finding ways for humans and machines to work together successfully, as well as explore the challenges and benefits of focusing on natural language processing.

Algorithms are an integral part of many fashion businesses today, and we’ll look at companies that are implementing algorithms in some new and interesting ways. Fashion is emotional, though, and so it’s also worth comparing the use of algorithms to the continued ...

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