Fashion + Analytics + Social = The Perfect Ensemble

April 27, 2012
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Decoded Fashion Banner

I’ll be presenting at Decoded Fashion next week at the Lincoln Center in New York:

Decoded Fashion Banner

I’ll be presenting at Decoded Fashion next week at the Lincoln Center in New York:

“The first Fashion and Technology Forum Series connecting the world’s best startups and most noteworthy technologies to the Fashion, Beauty and Retail industries to accelerate innovation and increase the bottom line.”

It promises to be fascinating, with a wide range of sessions on different aspects of using technology in the fashion business, including leading-edge topics such as “Secrets from Social Curation Pros” and “Consumer-Powered Design”.

The speaker list is a who’s who of hot technology startups, and I’m especially interested in hearing the keynote from David Karp, CEO/Founder of Tumblr and Mashable’s Associate Editor Lauren Indvik, and hearing from Amy Cole of very-much-in-the-news Instagram (I’m a huge fan of both photo platforms).

Panel: Crystal Approach into Consumer Behavior

I’ll be moderating a panel session entitled Crystal Ball Approach into Consumer Behavior, discussing the use of analytics and business intelligence technology in the industry:

“ In the new social era, consumers no longer abide by set fashion rules and define their own style and trends. Real-time fashion analytics is a powerful tool to predict consumers’ real desires today and tomorrow.”

I have three panelists with deep experience of analytics in the fashion industry:

Lilly Berelovich Geoff Watts Rohan Deuskar  Timo Elliott

Lilly Berelovich, President, Fashion Snoops: Lilly Berelovich is the Co-Founder of Fashion Snoops, one of the first online trend services ever launched to become a renowned global research and advisory company. Lilly leads brands like Disney, Hang Ten, Sears, Wal-mart, and Warner Bros in the areas of licensing, branding, merchandising, and design. [Video profile here: First Comes Fashion]

Geoff Watts, Co-Founder, EditD. Geoff’s background in big data began way before the term “big data” was even coined. Because we process more data at EDITD than anyone else in the fashion business, his experience is essential. Geoff invents amazing tools from new technology with a great team of people, and he’s on a mission to make EDITD into the definitive real-time resource for the industry. [Here’s a great example of the company’s work: http://editd.com/reports/2011-a-year-in-fashion/]

Rohan Deuskar, CEO/Co-Founder, Stylitics. Rohan Deuskar is the CEO and Co-founder of Stylitics, a consumer insights company that gives consumers an intelligent and engaging platform to manage their clothing choices and share them with brands and friends. Rohan attended The Wharton School where he gained his MBA, and in the process also started Stylitics. Prior to Wharton, Rohan was Director of Innovation for Vibes Media. [Check out the Campus edition of the Stylitics site to find out the “Most Stylish Campus in America”]

How Analytics Can Help the Fashion World

From my initial discussions with the panelists, it’s clear that the fashion industry is going through the same type of technology revolution as other business sectors:

  1. There has been massive changes in the amount of data available and what can be done with it – and many organizations are still aware of the new possibilities
  2. The industry is slowly shifting from a batch-based, date-oriented supply chain to something more flexible, iterative, and data-driven, taking account of the new real-time opportunities
  3. The consumer is becoming an integral part of the business processes, not just an end-consumer of it, helping shape industry directions and product designs
  4. The biggest barriers to change and business value are cultural and organizational rather than technological

Looking down the list of sessions at the event, analytics is at the heart of almost all the fashion industry developments, including:

Retail optimization. Better analytics can directly help profitability. Better analytics can help optimize every aspect of the fashion business, including the supply chain, customer segmentation, spotting hot items, avoiding stockouts, monitoring profitability, etc. Companies like Burberry have reduced costs by over $150 million by driving down stock inventory levels thanks to data coming from their SAP systems.  And analytics is essential to answer more strategic questions such as “what’s the right tradeoff between profitability, customer loyalty, and brand value?” and “how can we optimize the depth and timing of markdowns in order boost sales?”  There have been recent changes to underlying analytics technology, including in-memory computing systems like SAP HANA that mean that companies can do this with large amounts of very detailed data in near-real time. SAP has a range of specific fashion industry solutions available.

Fashion trends. Peering into the future of upcoming fabrics and colors is a huge part of the industry dynamic. New “big data” techniques mean that massive amounts of structured (numbers) and unstructured (text, pictures, video…) data can now be gathered and combined to get an aggregate view of the key trends.

Social fashion. It’s now possible to analyze all the public information now available about fashion on the internet and using it to track brand trends and sentiment. And fashion-oriented social communities are emerging that let like-minded people share information about their fashion interests. This becomes a real-time source of analytics data for consumers and brands alike, and social network analysis can reveal who are the key influencers.

Customization and iteration. Rather than the traditional cycle (design collection/sell collection), it’s now possible to create more “analytics first” fashion.  Companies can move to a more iterative, analytics-based. customized approach, where clothes are made in smaller batches based on the particular desires of an individual or community. Retailers can then iterate designs by monitoring sales in real time, making constant changes and tests to improve sales and profitability.

Mobile, sensors, and monitoring. Location-based promotions can now be created using mobile applications. Research and pilot programs involving sensors, RFID chips, and related technologies are evolving. Large-scale retailers like Walmart are looking to optimize inventory tracking by embedding RFID chips in jeans and underwear. Vendors of expensive items (shoes, handbags, etc.) are increasingly interested in using embedded chips to thwart counterfeiters. This has interesting implications for privacy (imagine a customer buying shoes in a store, then setting off a profiling algorithm at the entrance each time they visit…), and as the RSA web site points out, the key aspect of this is creating the database…

Session Outline

During the session itself, we’ll be discussing the following topics:

  • The changes in the industry and what is now possible with new analytic technologies and solution
  • How companies overwhelmed with the choices can make sensible decisions about how to get started
  • Barriers to moving forward effectively with analytics
  • Some of the more exciting future trends

I hope you can join us, but if not, you can get a glimpse of the sessions by following the @decodedfashion hashtag.

Fun Fashion Analytics Bonus

I couldn’t resist mentioning this wonderful piece of fashion analytics from the Economist, illustrating “size inflation” in the UK (the US trends are very similar). Sorry to break it to you, but if you’ve been wearing the same size clothing for the last ten years, you’re actually 4+ inches thicker around the waist. And no, men don’t get off any better:

“Studies in America and Britain have found that some brands of men’s trousers labelled “waist 36 inches”, say, are in fact up to five inches bigger.”