British fashion struggles to see the hidden trends

With the after party hangovers subsiding and the models arriving in Paris, we can now all rest easy knowing that wallpaper florals and statement pockets will be ‘in’ this autumn.

But London Fashion Week isn’t just about what’s going to be hot later this year, it puts British brands and talent in the shop window for the world to see. And it's not only fashionistas who get excited – it’s easy for marketers to get swept up in the latest trends as they search for ways to turn curious browsers into buyers.

This year we've seen a range of quirky technology-led announcements to match the eye-catching designs on the runway, including the first hair dye that changes colour and Vogue’s new chatbot. And after initial rollouts at last year’s festival, ‘see now, buy now’ was a common feature once again for many brands, and Burberry once more experimented with Facebook Messenger to allow customers to book a cab to their nearest Burberry store.

But as the last parts of the runway are packed away, I think there are plenty of fashion brands – even those who weren’t on the catwalk – who missed out on capitalising on the spotlight to engage with new and existing customers.

Ironically for a week in which the visual dominates, some of the biggest opportunities for brands are hidden. Many future trends, behaviors and traits can be found within their customer data. Collecting the right type of information and then analysing this using smart technology, such as machine learning techniques, can enable brands to segment their customers like never before, at speeds and volumes that humans would find impossible to achieve.

Here are a few ways brands could harness their data to better understand, target and convert dedicated and casual followers of fashion around the world — ready for September's London Fashion Week.

All eyes on VIPs

Our research shows 0.3% of customers contribute up to 30% of a brand’s revenue, so identifying these high value, repeat shoppers – and harnessing their purchasing power – is crucial.

If you know who these VIPs are (and it’s all there in your data) you can leverage the Fashion Week spotlight to build excitement among these loyal customers and reward them. This could include maximising the content produced over Fashion Week, such as providing exclusive, behind the scenes video content or even invitations to special events.

At the same time, opportunities could be taken to sell, sell, sell. Exclusive early access to Fashion Week lines – perhaps a “See It Now, Buy It Before” concept – makes customers feel special, while specific deals on shipping can ensure these customers could even be wearing runway designs before Fashion Week closes.

Seizing the international spotlight

Fashion Week is also an opportunity to ramp up engagement with international customers, with whom ‘brand British’ is a particular draw. Overseas buyers of British fashion tend to spend high. Qubit’s own data found that while international customers accounted for 17% of fashion sales during last year’s festive period, they contributed more than a third (34%) of revenues.

Even small changes can make a marked difference. Take an example from the high street – Topshop recently began personalising its online store for US customers, displaying both the numerical size (eg size 8) and the more familiar alpha size (e.g. small) of an item. The result has been a 4.5% increase in US revenue – all from understanding the needs of a customer and personalising their website accordingly.

Machine learning can also identify segments you didn't know existed (and would take too long to find). For example, your data may highlight that German fashion fans have a particular interest in corduroy suits. It would, of course, make sense to flag these product lines to them proactively and early in their shopping journey.

But brands can now go beyond this basic, location-based segmentation. By collecting and analysing an increased amount of customer data, it’s possible to uncover a large group of British expats browsing in Germany, separate them from native German speakers and target them with particular offers to suit their shopping habits, instead of assuming they share the same preferences as all German browsers.

Follow the leader

Trends are made to be followed, and for every trendsetter there are hundreds seeking to follow. Data can show you those customers who are particularly predisposed to this ‘social proofing’ based on previous behaviour. For example, the content they have been reading on your blog or how they have reacted the ‘top trend lists’ on your website in the past.

Having this customer segment in your back pocket and then targeting them with content highlighting the real-time purchases of their peers during Fashion Week can enable you to increase sales.

And while a big physical presence at Fashion Week will always help, these opportunities aren’t exclusively open to brands putting on big shows and dominating the catwalks. These kinds of international events provide a halo effect, and fashion weeks draw eyes from around the world to British brands – it’s what you do with the visitors when they land on your page that matters. Through clever segmentation, any fashion brand can identify those shoppers. With the right experience, content and products served up during the hype of the week, these shoppers are more likely to hit the checkout button.

London Fashion Week puts Britain in the shop window, but the businesses that effectively capitalise on these events will understand that fantastic opportunities lie behind the glitz and glamour of the runway. Through better understanding customers using data, you can leverage the spotlight of Fashion Week to create tailored, relevant customer experiences, that ensure customers, at home or abroad, buy again and again. See you in September.

Geri Tuneva is head of marketing EMEA at Qubit

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