Trends. They’re visual, sometimes even hard to describe, right? Well, there’s some truth to that, but what if we told you that trends as we know them, could be reinforced by looking at data?
Let’s clarify a few things out of the gate. First, no one is saying the data creates trends…not completely (we’re talking to you, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram…), but it gives us a tool to track when, where, and how they emerge. Second, trends can be quite specific to a particular geography, demographic profile, or mindset. You have to assess its relevancy based on fit with your target consumer profile. Third, and last, at some point something can move from being a trend to a more permanent state of being.
So let’s take a step-by-step look at what data points you should be examining as you track a trend’s emergence and evolution.
What Are My Sources?
A world before social media? Frankly, we can barely remember what that looked like, and say what you will about its role in our everyday lives, it’s one of the single most important sources of intel on what is trending. Of course, fashion trends still do come to life frequently via the runway, but the line between runway and ‘in real life’ has been greatly blurred by social media.
So when we talk to brands and retailers, we suggest that they pick a core group of people on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that they should be tracking and to make sure to pinpoint them by locale. This group should be one part aspirational and one part approachable. Tracking how their behaviors shift over time, you begin to see patterns of imagery, language, and tagging. And when consumers begin to see an item showing up across multiple social media channels, well, it takes on a life of its own. A trend has been born.
So It Has A Name, What Next?
Put yourself in the trend-savvy consumer’s shoes. They’re going to start using search engines to locate this thing that has a name, especially when they’re not quite sure who makes it or where to find it. Enter Google Search Trends. This is where you begin to understand how things are being searched for, the brands and influencers related to it, and where interest is clustering. This can greatly inform how you develop a specific trend and where you allocate your inventory.
But There’s More!
Talking trends is pointless, however, if you don’t have a clear vision of who your core consumer is. Going back to that group of influencers whom you’re hopefully tracking, you also have to know your benchmark brands. And like influencers, some of them will be aspirational and others will be accessible.
So are you the first to market, or is your core consumer someone who wants to see how this trend is going to play out first? Look, not everyone is first to market, and you may want to interpret a trend very differently to suit your customers’ preferences. That’s fine, but establishing these benchmark competitors is critical.
Once you’ve identified this, start analyzing how this trend is emerging at the point-of-sale. Pinpoint when it first appeared and its trend profile: in a fashion example, this would mean you’re looking for materials and colors, specific garment types, and price points. But how do you know if it’s commercially successful once it’s in the market? You’ll want to look for rates of full-price stock-outs – if the trend is resonating with consumers, it’s more likely to sell out at a non-discounted price.
The other side of the coin is that if a retailer has over-invested in a trend, you’ll see heightened levels of discounting, in order to move excess stock. And because we know trends cycle in and out at increasingly rapid rates, you need to be keeping a constant pulse on these movements.
So now you’ve got a 360-degree view of trends, take a look at our case study, on how you can use data to inform your trend decision-making: how to identify which trends to buy into, what extent to buy into them, and how to segment them properly, in order to ensure their commercial success.
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