A Snapshot of Fashion Trends Through Social Media Analytics
This spring, Target made the strategic decision to integrate clothing designer Lilly Pulitzer into its array of product offerings. Within half an hour, the preppy, chic floral prints were completely sold out — signifying both success and opportunity.
Before its collaboration with Lily Pulitzer, it can be assumed that Target researched its audience, understanding that young, hip and affluent women had demand for the product. What if other consumer product brands were able to mine valuable information — e.g., the latest consumer demand trends — through social media analytics?
In recent analysis of more than 175,000 social media mentions about material, color, footwear and print, consumers revealed personal preferences for upcoming fashion trends. This well of data is helpful for consumer product manufacturers and retailers in gaining a better understanding of evolving consumer needs and preference trends, as well as supplementing tactical operational decisions.
Animal prints, for example, received about 58 percent more global social mentions than plaid, and 45 percent more mentions than floral prints. Looking back, in the spring and summer of 2012, floral was a dominating trend. Retail brands could use this information by comparing historical sales results to the corresponding increase or decline in demand for certain styles and preferences — e.g., floral prints. This opens up an opportunity to get ahead of fashion curves, encouraging supply chains to heighten demand through promotions, prices and markdowns.
Analyzing Social Mentions
By monitoring the conversation centered on fashion trends, consumer brands can not only offer an enhanced consumer experience, but also have more control of inventory. As technology continues to evolve, many retailers understand that customers must be targeted through an omnichannel approach. Long gone are the days of gaining customer loyalty by a friendly smile. Now, fashion brands must offer customers a fast, convenient way to deliver products in demand across all channels.
Meeting consumers’ high expectations and demands means fashion brands should integrate real-time consumer insights and behaviors to align with manufacturers’ supply chains, ultimately optimizing availability and costs. In North America, for instance, with more than 18,000 social mentions, black and white are the preferred colors within the region. On the other hand, metallic designs appear to dominate the Middle East and Europe.
By monitoring social media analytics and analyzing sentiments relating to a product — e.g., tone and consumer perception of the brand and its products — retailers can begin to develop a strategy to forecast changing demand and align stock to distribution centers locally and globally. That said, retailers could take a look at popular colors in the past and compare the information with current social mentions, harmonizing supply chains to fit appropriately in those regions. Consumers’ experiences are improved because of the availability and convenience of trending products offered in the applicable regions that fit to their insights and behaviors.
While Target anticipated a reaction from consumers regarding its Lilly Pulitzer debut, the company underestimated the demand. Monitoring social conversations around similar campaigns allows supply chains to get ahead of opportunities, enabling more control over production and customer demands instead of blindly forecasting a trend.
Although using social media analytics and monitoring sentiments to gage consumers’ reactions may be an unfamiliar tactic, it’s valuable information when used correctly. It delivers a snapshot of consumers’ preferences instantly, helping consumer product manufacturers to optimize supply chains efficiently. While Target certainly scored with its Lilly Pulitzer introduction, it may have been able to hit a home run if it tailored production to fit consumer demands.
Lori Mitchell-Keller is the senior vice president and head of global retail at SAP, a multinational software corporation.