The retail landscape looks drastically different today than it did a decade ago. It’s a swift game of cat and mouse - as companies must chase consumers who desire instant gratification, low prices, and access to the trending items found via social media.
Staying ahead of today’s customer requires constant analysis of everything, from purchasing patterns to pricing, stock, and promotional performance. A merchandiser’s job is never done, but not all is lost at the hands of the consumer. Here are a few tips to be sure you’re accurately predicting what your audience wants without going off the deep end.
Know Where To Go
As influencer culture infiltrates marketing strategies and celebrity-dom, knowing where trends will emerge is crucial in having a first mover advantage. Relying on the runways is now a one-dimensional way to pick out upcoming trends, when the street is where these products (and those of lesser stature) get a life of their own. Prediction lies in listening: what are influencers wearing? More importantly, how are they wearing it? This concept of styling is how trends emerge. Bubble coats have existed for the last several decades, but until recently, it was considered purely a functional garment. Only when styled off-the-shoulder by Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and Aleali May, did it launch a consumer buying frenzy.
Listen and Engage
Don’t make the mistake of focusing only on macro influencers. The little people matter too. Local influencers, those with smaller but equally dedicated followings, can give you huge cues on what will perform well in that specific market and provide guidance on how to communicate it. Take notes from brands like Fashion Nova and Glossier, who listened and crowdsourced ideas from micro influencers while applying the raw, unfiltered feedback to their product development process. Outside of development, social listening is advantageous in connecting with your customer. Here, you’ll find exactly how to interact with and foster deeper relationships to “be in the know” when potential trends appear. Which keywords are influencers using to engage with their audience? What early language is used to describe trend variations? Having one ear to the ground will only push you ahead. Our platform combines search data, geographic mapping of peak interest, along with influencer monitoring to help make those critical merchandising decisions.
Know When and How to Execute
Timing is a pivotal component in trend prediction, albeit many miss the mark. Awareness of emerging trends is important, but successfully introducing them within the right time frame is key. Use historical data (yours and that of competitors) to dictate the timing of product releases and discounting, and guide trends with the understanding of past pricing and assortment patterns. Oftentimes it's far from obvious when identifying slow sellers, what should replace them. Using e-commerce analytics will eliminate those assortment-strategy shifts solely based on acts of faith and old sales data.
Accuracy requires consistency, and with enough on the plate of designers and merchandisers, we understand the difficulty of maintaining profitable forecasting efforts. Buckle down on your trend and design predictions with the power of data!