Google offers retailers free fashion trend reports

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has begun preparing fashion trend analysis reports and offering them free of charge to retailers.

The company is attempting to leverage its 6 billion fashion-related searches in an attempt to grow beyond its search engine and advertising platform to become more influential in e-commerce and fashion, reported the New York Times.

For example, in its first report, Google differentiates between "sustained growth" trends, such as consumer interest in tulle skirts and jogger pants, and temporary trends, such as consumer interest in emoji shirts and kale sweatshirts. The report also distinguishes "seasonal growth" styles that grow stronger each spring, as is the case with white jumpsuits. There are also differences pointed out between products that are in "sustained declines," such as peplum dresses, seasonal drop-offs such as skinny jeans, and fads that have already ended, such as the interest in scarf vests.

Google has begun working with retailers such as Calvin Klein to help them use real-time Google search data in their fashion planning and forecasting, said Lisa Green, who heads Google's fashion and luxury team.

"We're interested in being powerful digital consultants for our brands, not just somebody they can talk to about what ads they can buy online," she said. "They can say, 'Google has identified this as a trend, and we have six weeks to get this out on the racks.'"

By categorizing past apparel-related queries based on similar search-demand patterns, "we were able to distinguish between the trends to watch and the trends to forget," noted the Think with Google newsletter. "And by looking at geographic data along with co-search behavior (such as words and phrases being searched alongside a particular fashion), we can get consumer insights into fashions that will be hot this season."

Google currently plans to share this database free to retailers and trend followers and is hoping to gain partners and fashion industry clout. The company said it will not match its search data with retailer customer data to target ads at individuals.

The huge volume of Google's data—6 billion data points—means fashion patterns detected by Google are a significant indicator of trend awareness and purchasing behavior, reported NYT.

The search company has experimented with e-commerce through services such as Google Shopping for price comparisons, and the recently launched Shopping Express that enables grocery purchases from local stores with delivery either the same day or one day later. However, the company trails behind Amazon and Alibaba as consumers' preferred sites for most products.

IBM and Spotify also offer analytics to help companies determine trends.

"People tend to make trend predictions based on a very limited number of observations, and that's very hit and miss," said Trevor Davis, a consumer products expert who led the project at IBM. "The ability to detect trends very early on before they really become noticeable, and to follow them, is invaluable."

The degree to which Google's fashion search data is actually accurate has yet to be determined, Davis said. A weakness of Google's data is that it includes all searches that relate to apparel, regardless of whether the person searching actually bought or intended to buy a product. For example, a search for "tulle skirt" could come from a shopper looking for an item to buy, or a fashion novice looking for a definition.

For more:
-See this article from The New York Times
-See this Think with Google article
-See the Google Spring 2015 U.S. Fashion Trends Report

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