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7 Dec 2021

How Tech Innovation Can Promote Inclusive Retail

The last year has seen a major retail revolution. Covid-19 posed many obstacles, but it also provided opportunities that have influenced the future of retail…

The last year has seen a major retail revolution. Covid-19 posed many obstacles, but it also provided opportunities that have influenced the future of retail and e-commerce; the industry has continued to reinvent itself. Several trends have evolved for retailers to increase their growth and keep on top of changing customer expectations, ranging from augmented shopping to phygital marketing.

Among these trends is a push for retailers to embrace diversity and inclusivity in their stores and online. At the heart of inclusive design is the recognition that there is no single, monolithic user, instead, inclusive products should be built for everyone. This article delves into what inclusive retail is, as well as how and why retailers should apply it.

Beyond the acronym, the ‘I’ in DEI

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion have always been an integral part of a successful business and healthy corporate culture.

While all three are vital in their own right, ‘inclusion’ tends to naturally bring about diversity. It’s not enough to simply say your company is inclusive without being able to back it up; in fact, doing so could backfire. It should be reflected in both your products and workforce.

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Verna Myers, Diversity and Inclusion expert

What is the importance of inclusive retail?

In retail, the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” have become buzzwords. The discussion goes beyond having a diverse workforce. Your products and campaigns should also reflect your positioning to consumers.

Inclusive retail refers to a wide range of things. Both online and brick-and-mortar stores should be designed to include and accommodate all customers while celebrating their diverse backgrounds. This can be accomplished through marketing strategies, website infrastructure, and the product line.

The beauty of this shift is that inclusive brands that champion their customers’ diverse backgrounds grow in popularity. According to Accenture’s research, four out of ten (42%) customers would spend 5% more to shop with a company that values diversity and inclusion, and 29% would switch to a more conscientious retailer than the one they now shop with. This is a step in the right direction for both businesses and society as a whole.

How to implement inclusive retail:

Website accessibility

When it comes to online shopping, retailers must ensure that their websites are accessible. Results from the 2019 Click-Away Pound Survey reveal that nearly three-quarters of disabled online consumers (69%) will simply click away from websites that they find difficult to use because of their disability.

Retailers can make their websites more accessible by making a few minor changes. For instance, all videos on the website should have captions for those that have impaired hearing. Using bold typefaces and large text can also make the website more user-friendly to those who are visually impaired. Keyboard navigation, voice search, and alt tags are also options that help improve a website’s accessibility for those with disabilities.

Voice commerce is a technology that allows users to search for and purchase things online using voice commands, reducing their reliance on hardware. A study from Juniper Research has found that eCommerce transaction values via voice assistants will reach $19.4 billion by 2023; rising from just $4.6 billion in 2021.

Designing your website in an accessible manner allows you to provide a better customer journey for all shoppers. Voice commerce facilitates this by allowing consumers to navigate the site more easily and conveniently through the use of voice assistants and voice search. A voice tool saves users time and makes the shopping experience easier.

AR/VR for Virtual try-on

Inclusive retail

The fashion industry is known for being elitist, non-diverse, and stuck in its ways. AR filters and AI-generated models are helping to disrupt the market and increase diversity and inclusion.

Many fashion retailers are experimenting with AR filters, in which a team of fashion designers, CGI 3D modellers, UX designers, and developers custom “fit” clothing to a photo submitted by a user.

Clothing is one minor portion of the problem with diversity in fashion. Modelling has a reputation for being one of the least diverse industries, not only in terms of body diversity, but also in terms of ethnic diversity, ageism and ableism.

Brands can customise AI-generated 3D models based on intricate hairstyles, body sizes and body shapes, which is something we don’t commonly see with human models. This is exactly what Lalaland, a B2B Dutch firm that develops AI-generated models for fashion labels and e-commerce platforms, does.

A website manager can use Lalaland’s platform to create various AI models based on data points acquired from customers, which Lalaland also assists with. More customers will feel seen and represented as a result of this, particularly those who defy the ‘beauty standard’ set by the average human model.

Lalaland’s CEO, Michael Musandu, says that the brand is founded on social empowerment, but that it’s also beneficial for eCommerce businesses’ bottom lines because buyers who can identify with a model are more inclined to buy and less likely to return.

Startups embracing or enabling inclusive retail

Major brands aren’t the only ones who care about inclusive retail. In fact, many retail startups have made inclusion a core value. Some startups have created tools and technologies to assist retailers in being more inclusive.

Here are a few noteworthy examples:

  • Stark develops a toolkit to help designers and developers create accessible products for the visually impaired
  • Lalaland develops AI-powered hyper-realistic digital models for online retailers to showcase clothing on diverse models more easily
  • is aj AI body scanning software that allows individuals to virtually “try on” garments
  • Metail is a B2B virtual fitting room service that allows consumers to construct 3D models of themselves to try on clothing
  • BigThinx is a deep tech startup specialising in AI to generate virtual people, digital garments, virtual fashion shows, and virtual shopping experiences

In the coming years, retailers’ growth and success will unavoidably be influenced by their embrace of diversity. Consumer knowledge and expectations are rising because of the increasing availability of products and solutions to address inclusion. Given the rapid improvements in technology, there’s no reason why businesses shouldn’t focus on creating inclusive shopping experiences and diverse product lines.

At Storm5, we recognize that there is still much work to be done with diversity and inclusion in the industry. As part of our ongoing commitment to championing DE&I in the RetailTech industry, we can actively assist our clients in advocating for the same in their hiring processes. Get in touch if you’re looking to grow your team and diversify your startup. Our processes are in place to assist you in attracting incredible and diverse talent.

We’ve helped some of the most successful RetailTech startups grow.

— now it’s your turn.