All are intended to enhance the personalisation that is central to the company's strategy, which Alexander describes as "providing in the moment fulfilment for customers".
"It's all about knowing our customer, knowing their preferences, knowing what they like and the context so we can offer real-time personalisation and create that virtual assistant for them: a trusted advisor that can tell them what to buy, places they want to go, what is trending there and so on," he says.
YNAP is also developing AI to empower customer care agents when dealing with orders and returns. AI in the app can help the customer find different designs for a specific item of clothing and when the questions become personal the AI can suggest switching to a personal shopper whose previous interactions with the customer will be bolstered by the new data.
The AI will remain in the background to provide support to the personal shopper when needed but will remain a complementary capability rather than a replacement for people.
"You need to also blend technology with that human touch as well, so we see artificial intelligence helping our personal shoppers to provide more insight to our customers, but also enabling us to use artificial intelligence to interact and engage with our customers as well," says Alexander.
Data is the enabler for much of the work done by the YNAP tech team. Customer data around buying history, such as preferred designers, and contextual data including the weather where they are and their location can be assessed to understand individual needs and offer personalised engagement.
AI allows the company to combine data from both their own records and external records, such as social media and dark data.
Cloud provides crucial support for both mobile and AI, as it keeps the company close to where its customers are at all times, and lets it quickly compute the abundance of information it holds at any given moment.
Automation already plays a key role in the business, notably in ensuring that products can be quickly merchandised to fit daily fluctuations during the short fashion seasons, and automating the process of bringing products to the warehouse and quickly merchandising them on the website.
Alexander mixes buy and build in his technology strategy to balance innovation unique to the business and that with more general applications.
The unique visual merchandising and pricing algorithms YNAP has developed in house over years, for example, can't be replicated by third parties, but best of breed products in areas such as order management systems are better bought from others.
The current tech hub team will be joined by another 100 members of staff over the next two years. Alexander wants to become a global centre of talent that continues to create new products for YNAP customers focused on a tailored shopping experience.
"It's all about creating that one to one relationship," he says. "We want to move from customer segments to knowing the customer by name."
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