Who knew data is such a crucial part of a colourful, fluid and emotionally-driven industry like Fashion? 

Barry Ooi, head of Fashion Analytics from Omnilytics – A fashion analytics and insights solutions company, shares with us his insights on his experience working with fashion and retail brands, and his journey in educating his clients on the importance of data analysis in their businesses.

What is your main responsibility as a fashion analytics expert? 

A lot of what I do is still focused on education. Many of the players in the fashion industries are still lagging in the use of data to optimise their business. So what I often do is very much focused on educating and convincing these businesses to accept data as part of their processes to optimise their business. 

Who are the target clients of Omnilytics? 

Our clients do cover a wide range of fashion companies, from the clients from micro-companies like SMEs or local startup brands, all the way up to global enterprises. 

Many of the clients we speak to do not really understand and appreciate data as a tool valuable in their business yet. You might be surprised, even the larger distributors or global brands might not feel it’s necessary, as they believed that they grown their company to its current scale without data previously, they should be able to continue doing so with the presence of data analytics. 

Hence, it is always a challenge for us to educate our clients and simplify the processes as to how our platform can help them gain the necessary insights for their business’s growth. 

What do you think is the reason for the slow adoption of data in these businesses? 

I think it’s because these businesses have been running and operating in such a way, to which they already have their own established processes. 

There are some who believe that they do not need our services as they have been collecting data on their own as well. 

However, most of these analyses are very internal, which is based on their own sales and numbers. These analytics can only do so much because what it does is to help you market and promote your brand and products to the same target audience over and over again. That way, you are not able to expand or grow your business towards new markets, and it does not help you gain a better understanding of what is happening outside your own bubble, and learning insights of your competitors in the market. 

Another factor in the slow adoption of data, specifically the fashion industry, is that it can be very emotionally-driven. From the brand or designers selecting the products they are selling to the consumers buying them, it is a very emotional process. This way, data can be seen as something hard and cold that these businesses feel do not gel with the nature of their business. 

If that is the case, how can you convince these designers or fashion brands to adopt data? 

Often times, designers are concerned that if they are data-driven, they might lose their sense of uniqueness. 

But what we are trying to do here is not to make everyone copycats. As a designer or brand owner, you would have your own brand vision and identity. You do not have to change that.

But if you are running a business, its undeniable you are looking to be profitable. What data can do is to help validate the designs that you have created. For example, if you have a collection of 20 pieces of clothing, how many can actually sell? Or what is the market willing to pay for them? 

With this information, you are able to use your resources more efficiently, make better decisions as to which products are higher in demand, which ones have the best margins; and overall, to lower your risks and run your business more efficiently. 

What are the main factors which will affect consumer’s purchasing decisions in relation to fashion products? 

I always say this, there are 4 main factors as to whether a product sells well or not, which is – right product, at the right price, right time, and towards the right market fit. 

In order to succeed, you will need to get all 4 correct. Even if you have the right product, right price and right market fit, but your timing is off by even just 1 week, you may lose out. 

For example, if you launch your fashion item just 1 week before it goes on trend, people will not remember your brand anymore by the time the trend takes on. Hence, it is with data and its insights that can help you make better decisions to ensure you have these 4 factors right to push your product out to the market.

Catch Barry’s presentation in D/M Summit: Leverage Big Data and Analytics to Leapfrog Your Competition

After so many years in the fashion industry, have you seen any specific market trends or how data analytics is changing the fashion industry?

You can say there is a benchmark to the larger macro market trends, for example, the pricing range of a certain piece of clothing specific to a market etc, can be relatively predictable. 

But the micro-trends which are able to really make a difference to drive revenues and margins, those are a bit more unpredictable, so you will need to put in more attention into that. 

What would you say to a designer who is not looking into data analysis, and wants to challenge the market and create demand for his/her products? 

We would still advise them to gather the data information to validate their designs. 

Of course, if your design or brand is backed by a certain level of presence and influence, perhaps by the designer itself or its ambassador, to which it is able to carry a certain level of hype, then sure, you might not need data to help you grow your market. 

But not many people have that, so data is what can help you play it safe and get the results you are looking for. 

How can smaller fashion retail brands go against the giants? Do you have any clients who were able to do that? 

I don’t advise you go head-on with the retail giants in the market, because no matter what, they have the budget to outrun your marketing and promotion efforts. However, what you can do is to focus on your own niche to optimise whatever resources you have to get the highest returns. 

One of our earlier clients at Omnilytics was called Rye, who is run by a one-woman show in Singapore. She told us she was doing it on her own, from the designs to the marketing. So we helped her grow her business with the data information and insights we could obtain, and her sales grew by 60% in the first 3 months. 

What other ways are you educating fashion brands on the use of analytics (eg: Omnilytics) in their businesses? 

We do a lot of content regarding interesting reports on our website, to share the insights businesses can learn from their data analytics. We try to keep our content very relevant and relatable to the trends and market in the industry, so its something that would spark interest in our audience. 

We write a lot about the local market trends and what interesting findings we found through our data, such as the recent one we did on the Top Muslimah Brands in Malaysia.

Through this content, we are able to use real-life examples as to how our data platform can bring to the surface certain impactful knowledge and information of the market that will be valuable to our clients. 

What do you think is the future of fashion analytics? 

More and more people are adopting fashion analytics, and you can see that by the growth in platforms that use data. 

For example, Shopify allows you to create an e-commerce platform very easily, and it also has functions that allows their users to generate basic data reports. 

So as much as many people are still intimidated by data and numbers, you can see that there is a lot of groundwork done in educating these consumers, and slowly but surely, people will start to adopt data in their businesses. 

If you are working in the fashion industry, or you are building a fashion retail or design business, be sure to tune in to Barry’s session on the D/M Summit as he shares in detail how data can help you to build a well-informed retail strategy to maximise your profits

Get the lifetime-access pass to learn more from Barry and other industry experts on all things data and marketing at the D/M Summit.