Reshaping retail with data
Retailing, writes Stephen Lohr in the Times, is emerging as a real-world incubator for testing how computer firepower and smart software can be applied to social science — in this case, how variables like household economics and human behavior affect shopping. While data has found a variety of uses among retailers, what’s changing is the amount and the types of data that is now available. Also with improvements in tools used to dig into all of this and the availability of cheaper and faster hardware means they are able to find newer patterns and intelligence. Along with instore data and customer purchase behaviour, retailers are increasingly mining vast troves of digital information to improve the decisions they make about pricing, shelf-stocking and product offerings. Like what WetSeal, a retail chain that caters to teenage girls has been doing. Wet Seal introduced a Web feature called Outfitter, which allows users to put together their own outfits online. The virtual outfits are posted and users can browse through them, comment and exchange recommendations. So far, more than 300,000 user-generated outfits have been designed, generating millions of page views. “We can get a read on where our customer is headed faster than ever before,” Edmond S. Thomas, the C.E.O of WetSeal said. The user designs, he said, helped the company see early signs of a recent trend toward more informal outfits — dressy tops, but casual bottoms, usually jeans. More in the Times.