Argentis’ Lucas Ritondale looks at how fashion businesses can use Big Data to accelerate business performance
Making up 2% of the world’s GDP, the fashion industry is known for design innovation and, with the advent of fast fashion, its ability to reinvent itself in line with changing customer behaviors. Although ‘gut instinct’ and intuition still have a large role to play in keeping fashion businesses not only current but profitable, one area where the fashion industry is making real leaps forward, is taking advantage of Big Data to improve business performance and ultimately, increase profits.
Already undertaking a whole host of initiatives to increase production efficiencies, speeding up time-to-market and increasing customer satisfaction, the fashion industry is well-placed to make even further efficiency savings, optimizing operations through a more granular, in-depth approach. This is where data is key, Big Data in particular.
As with all industries, the fashion sector has seen a huge rise in the volumes of data generated by the different technologies and applications in use right across the supply chain. And, while businesses are often good at storing, tracking and monitoring this data, where they’re missing out is when it comes to deriving real value from this data. With the right systems in place, fashion businesses can make sense of all this data, resulting in actionable insights, identifying additional ways to optimize processes and procedures, and providing multiple business opportunities across the value chain.
Where the main barrier to uncovering such insight was that data was often held in disparate systems and spreadsheets, making it difficult, time consuming and error-prone to bring it all together, more and more fashion businesses are investing in affordable solutions that sit across the entire business. Not only does this make business-wide data more readily accessible, but the addition of in-built data analytics enables the business to determine interdependencies, patterns and relationships between different processes for ultimate business efficiency.
The right information
It’s definitely true that making the most of Big Data can make a difference to all areas of the business. For example, it gives you all the information needed to put in place an effective dynamic pricing strategy, providing the ability to bring together product information, stock data, competitor information and customer behavior patterns to implement successful dynamic pricing. And, the ability to analyze customer behavior based on an astounding number of factors and variables provides previously uncovered insight into how customers shop, enabling the business to segment customers into well-defined categories for extremely tailored and targeted marketing efforts.
Big Data enables customers to be more involved in the actual design process, with the ability to measure customer reactions to samples and ideas and then automatically feed this information back into the system allowing designers to adjust the product accordingly, saving time and effort further down the line. When it comes to production, built-in Materials Requirements Planning is fully integrated with purchasing, finance and stock control, with the amalgamated data enabling not only the intelligent, responsive and automated reordering of stock, but making a real difference when it comes to accuracy of financial forecasts.
Forecasting in general is another area where Big Data has the potential to revolutionize current practices, in the factory, in the warehouse and in store. By bringing together information from across the business, with the right data analytics in place, it’s possible to accurately predict demand based on such variables such as customer buying patterns, seasonal variations, new and future trends, raw materials availability, machine downtime, and the list goes on. The more you can analyze, the more accurate your results will be, taking a more scientific, granular approach to forecasting, guaranteeing optimum levels of agility and efficiency across the business.
It’s this ability to match the right products, with the right people, at the right time that eliminates over and under supply, too. The same can be said for sale season. By analyzing customer behavior data, it’s possible to gauge a mark-down price that will ignite demand, ensuring stock clearance while still turning a healthy profit. Similarly, analyzing buying patterns helps to identify which products customers are more likely to buy in future, signaling also which products go well with others to optimize cross-selling opportunities.
It’s only with the right analytics in place that fashion businesses can make the most of the Big Data that’s at their disposal from right across the value chain. At every step of the product lifecycle, from design through to purchase, the ability to pull together and analyze the ever-increasing amounts of data that are generated enables the entire business to better understand, manage and control not only design and production but the entire customer experience too. This results in a more streamlined, efficient and effective business where decisions are based on comprehensive, accurate, and real-time information, underpinning new levels of business agility and paving the way for continued innovation, the cornerstone of the fashion world.