What the data world can learn from the fashion industry

How generating conversations can become one of the most important data assets for any organization.

FD_coverAt O’Reilly Research, we focus our attention on trends in technology adoption — which tools are adopted and in which industries. In doing so, we uncover interesting cross-disciplinary opportunities and discover what we can learn from innovations in other fields.

We’ve recently learned about the increasing role of data in the fashion industry, so we set out to uncover some of the players who are making disruptive changes using technology and analytics.

Our team asked Liza Kindred, founder of Third Wave Fashion, and Julie Steele, coauthor of Beautiful Visualization and Designing Data Visualizations, to take a closer look at these developments in their new report, “Fashioning Data: How fashion industry leaders innovate with data and what you can learn from what they know.” We think you’ll find some surprising applications of data and analytics in the fashion industry — applications that are useful regardless of the industry or organization you work within. And, we know we’re just at the beginning of what is likely a growing trend.

We are beguiled by a key concept from this report: fashion innovators spend time listening to their customers and turning what they hear into data. The result is data that is critical to understanding what fashion consumers are interested in, how they are engaged, and what motivates them.

For example, some fashion startups are offering consumers value in exchange for providing fine-grained and personal data (such as sizing and preference information) — and in turn, consumers might receive free products or personalized style recommendations.

“We don’t guess — we ask.”“Most companies — Google, Yahoo!, Netflix — use what they call inferred attributes: they guess. We don’t guess — we ask,” says Eric Colson, who spent six years working at Netflix before becoming the chief algorithms and analytics officer at Stitch Fix, a personalized online shopping and styling service for women. In order for customers to willingly answer personal questions, there needs to be both a value proposition and a certain amount of trust.

This study into the business of fashion has revealed a major takeaway relevant across industries: conversations generate data that unlock insights into human behavior — and those insights might not be available through any other source.

Download the free report here.

Join us at Strata + Hadoop World in New York, October 15-17, 2014, and save 20% on registration with the code FASHIONDATA. Learn how data can help you tell better brand stories, discover the importance of data in wearable technology, and discover how start-ups are making use of both online and offline data collection. You can check out all the fashion-related sessions on the Strata + Hadoop World website. If you’re coming to the event, grab a drink at the Fashioning Data Mixer on Thursday, October 16, from 6-7 p.m., at the O’Reilly booth.

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