Big Data goes to school

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FIT, the New York school of fashion, is going to offer a new course on the analysis of consumer data, in collaboration with the start-up, First Insight.Picture1.png

FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology), the great New York school of fashion, has decided to offer a new course on the analysis of Big Data. This course, which will debut in 2018 for 20 to 30 students, will run for the school year. It is managed in concert with the representatives of the start-up First Insight, a company founded in 2007 by Greg Petro, formally of the luxury store, Saks Fifth Avenue and the software group JDA.

The objective of this new course is to give future buyers, merchandising professionals and designers the tools they need to make their product selections and fix their prices.   The students are going to learn the abc’s of data analysis, making optimal use of the platforms of First Insight. A professor at FIT spent some time in the company to soak up their knowledge.

First Insight has just developed, along with PTC, a software program that uses machine learning techniques to step in early in the product design-production cycle. Videos, photos and other information collected from social media are collated, along with the historic data on product sales, in order to refine future collections. And they test customer reactions very quickly. The scientists of the company, which is located in Pittsburgh, rely on panels of 200 to 300 people. They are shown images and descriptions of articles and their feedback is received before introduction to the markets. “We ask a lot of questions, remarked Gretchen Jezerc, Vice-President for marketing. “How much are they willing to pay? What do they think of the color and the cut?” The answers are analyzed using in house algorithms that allow for adjustments in the range of products that will be offered to the store.

Consumer reactions

The experts at First Insight count less on instinct and experience and rely more on consumer reactions. This approach has already attracted a lot of business. In the United States, stores such as Dick's Sporting Goods, and Kohl's, and the brand names Under Armour, Salvatore Ferragamo and Maurices are already customers. Some European companies are following the movement: Desigual in Spain and S. Oliver in Germany. With the assistance of First Insight, sales have increased by 3 to 9% and the need to resort to discount sales was lowered by by 25%, Gretchen Jezerc confirms. Let’s look at  one of its success stories - David's Bridal, a chain of 300 stores dedicated to weddings in North American and Great Britain. The teams used to go to China four times a year. There they worked on new styles, designing their own samples and sending them to the American boutiques to see which caught their attention.  The process lasted five months. With First Insight, a few weeks is enough. David's scouting parties still travel to China, but they no longer make samples.

They take photos, which are tested on the greater public. Result: “We have two to four times more winning numbers, and we can easily spot the losers”, observed Gretchen Jezerc. As a bonus, the cost of manufacture of the samples has disappeared, and  David's appears more responsive.

This is the knowledge that the students of FIT will be receiving next year.

They will know the consumer reaction before the product has even launched. It will also enable the young designers, believers in the virtues of “machine learning”, to detect long term trends.

This article was translated from Le Journal du Textile.


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