Data Emerging as Top Driver of Brands' Success

As pressure to see a return on investment mounts, customer data will become a key differentiator between those that succeed and those that don’t.

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Web sites need to have more than just a pretty interface.

Until now, much of a brand’s or retailer’s digital presence was based on aesthetics and how their digital flagship or Facebook page looked. But as pressure to see a return on investment mounts, customer data will become a key differentiator between those that succeed and those that don’t.

Brands like Kate Spade, Rebecca Minkoff, Tory Burch, Coach, Burberry and Sephora excel in the space because of the attention paid to science as well as art. Now, a slew of solutions and new sites — Fashion GPS, Olapic and Fohr Card among them — are available to help more brands track facts and figures.

Maureen Mullen, director of research and advisory for New York University think tank Luxury Lab, or L2, in December told WWD that the use of data will “make or break” a business in the next five to 10 years, particularly the use of data in a multichannel environment.

“You’re going to start seeing titles like ‘data scientist’ emerge in organizations, and quickly those people will become some of the most important in terms of driving customer value,” Mullen said, drawing a comparison to 2010 when the “hottest job” across retail and luxury was a social media manager.

From a data perspective, she declared that Amazon is the prime example of an e-tailer seamlessly capturing this information online.

RELATED STORY: Amazon Reports Loss, but Gains Market Share >>

Amazon is “obsessive” about its data and statistic-gathering functionalities, and for Mullen, it’s interesting that the National Retail Federation rates as having the best service — despite the fact that it possesses none of the traditional notions of customer service.

“There’s not a big live chat box and there aren’t 1-800 numbers all over. They target every aspect of the shopping experience specific to customer preferences and then operationally fulfill that with two-day delivery,” Mullen said.

Kate Spade’s vice president of e-commerce, Johanna Murphy, also cites Amazon (and Nordstrom) as setting the bar for how all brands in the industry should work, especially from an operational standpoint and what customers expect. Working collaboratively with the creative side, Kate Spade spends much time studying and analyzing consumer behavior. For example, Murphy pointed out that “science wins” when it comes to e-mail subject lines — noting that a specific type of message or wording will generate the most traffic back to the Web site, and subsequently more transactions.

This spring, when Kate Spade rolls out a series of redesigned Web sites for all of its brands — Kate Spade New York, Jack Spade and the new Kate Spade Saturday — an overhaul of the back end will be just as important as how the sites look. Attention was paid to the consumer and how to better the shopping experience for them online, as well as implement enhanced inventory management systems.

Rebecca Minkoff’s eight-year-old brand credits the Internet for its rapid growth, and data have been integral to the brand’s overall strategy from the beginning, according to chief executive officer Uri Minkoff. He said the company — almost from the start — has maintained dashboards to monitor how it is doing online, as well as about 10 to 15 other brands and personalities it tracks.

Minkoff also pointed to Amazon — noting that the e-tail giant is acknowledging the importance of balancing science and art as it gears up to open its first fashion-focused studio in Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, later this year, to be entirely dedicated to Amazon Fashion’s entities on, Shopbop and MyHabit.

RELATED STORY: Luxe Brands Speed Digital Marketing Embrace >>

Rebecca Minkoff employs a part-time chief digital architect who Minkoff said is “strictly math, data and science.” The ceo will come up with the creative ideas and the digital architect is the one who determines if it’s performing or not.

“He’s the one who will tell us what ranking the social channels have in directing traffic to our site and taking it to the next step — and how do we then quantify that to purchases. You have the traffic, but what is the quality of that traffic? Then we have to run the numbers to see which of the channels drives the most sales and which customers drive the most sales,” Minkoff said.

Engagements, comments and “likes” are closely monitored — and Minkoff now counts about three to four subjects that always garner a strong response from an engagement perspective.

“Our customer has different needs throughout the day and we’ve come to understand what those needs are that are going to inspire her and going to engage with her. Depending on platform, some of it is for engagement and others are for sales,” Minkoff explained.

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