Why the ‘Listening Model’ is becoming more important than ever…


I’m sure you’ve all seen the various insanely successful Netflix original series and there’s been a viral chain-reaction through your friends & families? I know I certainly nodded sagely, unsurprised, when I learnt that Netflix has used the big data from their digital customers watching habits to identify new opportunities and so invest in and develop new and apparently un-missable content.

Customer profiling and market research have long been an established part of the fashion retail landscape so why is the Netflix Listening Model more important than ever?

Is it because whilst the fashion industry has always been keen to offer up the most relevant and desirable collections, it’s also been a slightly more dictatorial model than a listening one? The Runways for so long were the epitome of Fashion or façon (the way) with the wider industry then following the newest trends, with the trickle down effect dictating which trends were then adopted into mainstream life. (As so succinctly, if scathingly, explained by Meryl Streep’s character in Devil Wears Prada…)

But the advent of street wear changed ALL that and the runways had to react far more to the critical mass that was changing the dynamic of modern fashion. Now that the Internet has democratized, amongst other things, fashion and popular culture, impacting and changing how fashion operates, is digested and consumed – forever.

Data science and its’ impact (across the board) is now one of the most important factors that modern Omni channel businesses have to take note of. So how can the listening model become an integral part of our everyday work, as teams who create, develop and sell fashion ranges across the globe?

We’ve seen the launch earlier this year of the Amazon Echo Look camera – marketed as a personal stylist, helping you to ‘look your best’. It may seem to some like an expensive selfie camera, but, paired with the “Style Check” feature that combines Amazon’s machine learning algorithms and advice from the Amazon stylists, this is actually perfecting Amazon’s growing fashion offer. This is the stuff market-researchers dream of!  In typical Amazon-style, the fashion apparel group marketers have realized that this ‘listening’, or rather ‘watching’ tool, is the easiest way to match learnt preferences to individuals to their product. It’s a great tool that will lead to a deep understanding, similar to Netflix, as to what to focus on.

However, this is still sentiment testing after the garment has been developed, made, heavily invested in and warehoused. Surely it makes sense to look at what can be achieved further upstream? Identifying winning styles with targeted sense checks that focus on the market you want to reach and succeed with?

If we think about the way that marketing budgets have for so long been a key focus in driving the success of a collection, the biggest lesson from Netflix must be that this marketing money is better spent upstream, well before the huge investments are made in developing and manufacturing collections? Surely the sentiment testing that we see in marketing teams should be happening at the supplier stages – before their collections are have even been edited into by retailers or buyers?

Creating a new, more intuitive model – which encourages more intelligent, informed range building; to achieve more sales success and, most importantly less wastage, that is:

Learn . Develop . Buy . Sell  Versus  Develop . Buy . Learn . Sell

Where previously the marketing / merchandising of ranges had been the remit of the retailers, with mythical “market knowledge” (part of the protectorate of brands and retailers) there is now a growing need for the suppliers and manufacturers to be involved earlier on in the process. This is in order to set themselves, as well as retailers and brands, and ultimately the customer, up for success. It’s this opportunity that RangeRoom understands is key to the real success of all those in our community – manufacturers, suppliers, buyers, retailers and brands. By developing the sentiment testing technology and the connections to markets across the board that (from earlier on) early learning & Intel is already inbuilt into each product that our manufacturing community offers.

If you, as a supplier, were able to easily/in advance test the sentiment of your collections (be it price/style/colour/print) within the markets that you were supplying or aspiring to supply, and so have a market rating already inbuilt how much easier would your collection be to sell?

If as a retailer, you were able to see each style from your suppliers or prospective suppliers, and how your customer demographic had received them, wouldn’t this be a compelling curation tool as part of your range building process? Surely connecting your customer audience to the raw, undeveloped product makes sense? Are your focus groups working solely with your marketing teams or for the relevance of the brand? Isn’t this the way to engage customers so your brand becomes part of their worlds?

How about being able to reach your in-store managers for their crucial input to help with allocation and sense checks the teams at the front line of customer interaction, so leveraging your eco-system to the height of its potential.

We’ve seen how this strategy means that Zara out-performs their competitors by leveraging their eco-system and the expertise on different levels. Testing becomes even more compelling if it’s done from an earlier point of view.

What do you think of this idea?

How about using this tool in conjunction with your suppliers, to test new initiatives or collections, and so collaborating on growth opportunities? Wouldn’t this be a great way to start building strategies with easy testing built-into your process?

We’d love to hear how you approach sentiment testing with your customers, how do you look to improve your sales at the front line rather than waiting until you have the stock in the warehouse, at risk and vulnerable? Or, would you like to try Range Room where you can sentiment test click here, for a free demo?


Photo credits: Title image: Galen Crout, Clock image: Jonathan Simcoe at Unsplash and Devil Wears Prada: 20th Century Fox


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