Trends. They’re visual, sometimes even hard to describe, right? Well, there’s some truth to that, but what if I told you that trends as we know them, could be reinforced by looking at (gasp!) 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.
We don’t know about you, but the way we learn things most easily is via a specific example. So let’s figure out what the data tells us about one of fashion’s biggest trends over the past few years, the off-the-shoulder top.
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 IRL 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 (and hey we have an awesome little feature for that, 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, which, in our case is the off-the-shoulder top, especially when they’re not quite sure who makes it or where to find it. Enter Google Search. Let’s look at how off-the-shoulder has been searched by consumers over the past few years.
You can see from these two views that this trend emerged in full force in the early part of 2016. (A bit surprising, eh? Search can come well before purchase intent has fully set in in some cases.) But what’s really interesting is that while we have seen the volume of search increasing steadily since then, it’s actually stabilized quite a bit over the past year. A sustained volume of search over a substantial period of time (in this case one year), tells us that this profile may have very well shifted from trend to core item.
Another area to drill down into is related search terms. This will tell you which brands are being searched, the colors and materials most desirable, and specific people associated with this trend.
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: materials and colors, specific garment types, and price point. In this example, we saw it first emerge at Moda Operandi, Net-A-Porter, and yep, you guessed it, Zara. Very different price points, but they each tell interesting stories. Moreover, we have seen the number of off-shoulder options steadily increasing within retailers already stocking it and spreading to less trend-driven retailers, to the point now where you see it at a stable level over the past few months. Sound familiar to the story that the Google search data told us? Precisely. This indicates that this item has a significant likelihood of representation in core collections going forward. Pretty nifty, right?
So now you’ve got a 360-degree view of trends. Interested in learning more about our tool to track trends? Get the first mover’s advantage here.