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Tech Guest Viewpoint: Behind the Fashion Conversation


With the advent of social media came an outburst of sharing content, expressing opinions and increasing expectations. And in an industry where brands and fashion houses were once responsible for creating trends, consumers are now taking the reins. They’re turning to social channels to chat with other shoppers and share likes, dislikes and the next best thing – which is often changing as fast as the social conversation.

So how does a fashion brand stay competitive in a world of heightened expectations and quick turnover trends? Some retailers stick with stocking inventory based on fashion designer outputs, and expected seasonal trends. In this day and age, that’s more of a guessing game approach, and often leaves retailers with increased markdowns just to turn over product.

Instead, retailers and brands must focus where the consumers are spending their time – social media. By mining social commentary, retailers are better able to understand consumer desires, create merchandise that shoppers want, and ultimately drive purchases.

For example, a recent analysis of more than 175,000 social mentions found what consumers are craving this summer in terms of materials, prints, shoes and colors. Real-time customer insights enable retailers to stay on top of the trends, make informed purchasing decisions, and meet expectations.

Keeping up with fast-fashion

Today’s customer is all about buying now and wearing now – meaning consumers will only buy at full price when they’re ready to wear. With the fashion trends changing at a seemingly rapid speed, retailers must act quickly when translating consumer demands into merchandise on the shelves. And they must be ready to move onto the next wave without looking back.

We can learn a lot from fast-fashion retailers, as quick inventory turnover is what they do. Fast-fashion retailers use a process of quick-turn design and production; inventory optimization that supports fast turnover; and integrated marketing, merchandizing and pricing strategies to move products quickly out the door.

To decrease the likelihood of a trend flop, a good tip for fast fashion is to pair historical data with the social sentiment. By combining current consumer behaviors and attitudes with data from POS and syndicated data, retailers can use history as a guide to develop even better risk strategies associated with maintaining fast-turn inventory.

One size doesn’t fit all

While social commentary can be used universally, it’s important that retailers analyze behaviors down to the regional level.

In the analysis of the fashion commentary, we found that boots and booties are a hot trend this summer – but not everywhere. While 65% of Eastern European consumers prefer to sport the style, Latin American consumers are trending toward lace-ups instead.

When it comes to fashion, one size never fits all. By segmenting consumer social media conversations by location, fashion brands can adjust the supply chain to support these regional trends, align stock to distribution centers across specific geographies, and create an optimal mix of products ready to launch in a short amount of time – consistently getting the right merchandise to the right locations.

Embracing change

By understanding consumer desires, comparing social sentiment to historical data, and taking tips from fast fashion brands, stocking inventory is no longer a guessing game. Retailers are able to offer in-demand styles across regions without the worry of end-of-the-season markdowns.

Today’s fashion is shaped by the consumer. Brands embracing that and keeping up with the pace of customer change will be the brands to beat.

Lori Mitchell-Keller is senior VP and head of global retail, SAP.

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