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VF teams up with Tmall to bolster product offering in Chinese market

VF Corporation has partnered with Tmall’s Innovation Center (TMIC) to up its offering in the Chinese market through the use of consumer insights and analytics.

The collaboration is aiming to give the retail group behind brands including The North Face, Vans and Timberland, access to Alibaba-owned Tmall’s 654 million-strong customer database.

The goal is to identify customer trends faster, build customer data profiles, track products to judge how well they’re selling and design new lines tailored specifically to Chinese consumers.

Other brands within VF, including Kipling and Dickies, have already made use of the insights. Kipling launched a new backpack following consumer testing, which resulted in it becoming a top-seller among all items debuted by the brand this year.

Dickies meanwhile is making use of chatrooms within the Tmall app to conduct focus group discussions and have users share photos of how they style their items. The results are helping the brand design a new clothing line appealing to Chinese street style.

Any product that launches out of TMIC will be sold exclusively on Alibaba for a period of time.

Alibaba is using Tmall’s Innovation Center to lure western brands interested in the Chinese market. With no private-label products (like Amazon’s), brands don’t need to worry about Alibaba’s customer database being used to undercut their sales on the platform in the same way.

VF is the first fashion company to collaborate with TMIC, but other brands like L’Oréal, Unilever, and Mattel have also worked with the company on product development. Last fall, Alibaba partnered with 10 global market research powerhouses such as Nielsen, Euromonitor International, Ipsos, AdMaster and GFK, to broaden TMIC’s reach.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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O Boticário pioneers the launch of AI-developed fragrances

Brazil’s O Boticário cosmetics brand is launching two new fragrances specifically for millennials that have been developed through artificial intelligence.

Created in partnership with IBM, they are the result of a data-driven study by Symrise, a major producer of flavors and fragrances, that collected 1.7 million fragrance formulas – including scents sold to Coty and Estée Lauder.

This was combined with fragrance sales information, customers’ location and their age, human usage patterns and responses, to enable IBM to develop the scent AI tool called Philyra.

Philyra uses machine learning to create fragrance combinations that will match specific demographics. For Brazilian millennials, for instance, it suggests notes of fruits, flowers, wood, spices, and even caramel, cucumber, and condensed milk.

It’s not all algorithm however. The human element still exists on top with both perfumes ultimately tweaked by a master perfumer at Symrise to emphasize a particular note and improve how it lasted on the skin.

O Boticário is also known for being a brand that champions diversity and inclusion in their ads, so both AI-generated perfumes will be sold as genderless. “Fragrances are fragrances, and men and women should use whatever they prefer. We want to make our fragrance development process less bias,” said O Boticário’s marketing director, Alexandre Souza, to Exame’s publication.

Symrise’s perfumer working on fragrances created by IBM’s Philyra.

Now, Symrise plans to distribute this technology not only to master perfumers but also to its Perfumery School to help train students. Beyond developing fragrances, IBM believes the technology can aid in other uses, like flavors, cosmetics adhesives, lubricants, and construction materials, as reported by Engadget.

The two O Boticário fragrances will hit the market on Monday, May 27.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business data e-commerce product Retail technology

Rent the Runway launches data-driven clothing line

Luxury clothing rental platform Rent the Runway is leveraging years worth of consumer feedback to launch a range of new clothing lines driven by data.

The “Designer Collective” lines will feature 10-15 items of clothing and be developed alongside prominent US-based designers, such as Jason Wu, Derek Lam and Prabal Gurung, with prices averaging on $350.

Rent the Runway’s business model allows customers to rent expensive designer pieces for a fraction of the retail value. Once clothing is returned, customers are asked to fill out surveys about their fit and style preferences.

“We have millions of data points that our customers provide about wear rate, where they’re wearing the clothes, fit by style and sizes, demand by hem line, sleeve length, demand by geo region etc, and all the feedback is funnelled to our designers,” a spokesperson for the company told FashionUnited.

For designers, this means access to an entirely new audience. “A reality of our business is that we sit at a luxury price point, which isn’t accessible for everyone. Partnering with RTR allows us to connect with a younger customer,” designer Prabal Gurung told BoF. “We’re able to start a relationship with this client … and when she does rent the piece that really resonates with her, that she can’t bring herself to return, we’ve seen it convert, and that’s a beautiful success.”

While some designs will be developed from scratch, others will simply feature adjustments exclusive to the platform’s customers. For example, Gurung’s first line will be entirely based on his main collection, but in colors and prints that respond to RTR’s customer feedback.

Speaking at NRF’s Big Show earlier this month, Jennifer Hyman, Rent the Runway’s co-founder and CEO, said: “Data is such a fundamental piece of what we do. We’re exchanging a massive amount of it [with designers] on how their products are being worn, what events they’re being worn to, and how their products or dresses last over time,” she says, adding that this helps brands iterate their designs to better suit customer wants and needs. “The data we have in renting clothing over time is so important to the manufacturing of clothes.”

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so.TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.