Demand sensing has become a panacea to inventory woes — and companies such as Stylumia offer niche consumer data that brands need to address said retail challenges all across the spectrum, inclusive of mapping new product introductions, pricing and discount movement, market positioning and analysis of consumer buying behavior through its technology.
Stylumia, an AI-powered trend forecasting and demand sensing platform, uses fashion forecasting methods to swiftly and strategically streamline inventory for retailers by way of its Consumer Intelligence tool, an algorithmic solution that instantly aggregates data on consumer buying behavior across markets, geographical regions, fashion retailers and brands, categories, and styles and colors, all according to the firm.
Founded by entrepreneur Ganesh Subramanian in 2015, the India-based company experienced its fastest growth to date during the coronavirus pandemic, when retailers flocked to e-commerce and many already existing in the space reinvented their digital strategy and approach — and it has stayed on an upward trajectory ever since. In fact, the company said that due to profound changes in retail stemming from the pandemic, the fashion industry accelerated its digital transformation roadmap by at least two to three years.
Here, Sanjay Mehra, senior vice president and general manager, North America, at Stylumia, talks to WWD about its Consumer Intelligence Tool, and what’s currently trending in retail.
WWD: What problem was identified, and how did Stylumia solve it?
Sanjay Mehra: The idea for Stylumia was born when our chief executive officer and founder Ganesh Subramanian was chief operating officer at Myntra, India’s pioneering e-commerce site for fashion and lifestyle (now part of Walmart India). The business was on an aggressive growth trajectory, and Ganesh saw the opportunity to use data and advanced analytics for better decision-making, leading to higher revenue/profit and lower wastage.
He saw a gap in the market wherein existing tools were providing supply-driven trends and the need of the hour was demand-driven trends. After running a few experiments, he was convinced this was the future of the industry and left his corporate role to establish Stylumia.
After releasing our first product — the Consumer Intelligence Tool, “C.IT” — used by designers and merchandisers, Stylumia extended to the next part of the value chain and the most critical of all supply chain areas: demand sensing/prediction. Getting the demand plan right is the biggest lever to achieving financial success, from a product and supply chain perspective.
Stylumia’s innovative approach includes the integration of deep consumer insights from C.IT and a sophisticated and proprietary demand sensing platform that also includes a unique Taste Modeling approach to incorporate consumer behavior around relative choices (eg: predicting demand for a round neck T-shirt versus a polo T-shirt or predicting demand of a blue sweatshirt in the context of other blue sweatshirts).
WWD: Would you elaborate on-demand sensing and its place in effective supply chain management? What can brands do differently to streamline their operations, and how can Stylumia help?
S.M.: Stylumia enables brands and retailers to predict demand at the lowest level of granularity (style/color/size/attribute) at a location level for any specified timeframe, with world-class accuracy.
Brands and retailers have recognized the importance of having accurate consumer demand at the time of season kickoff, final adoption and in-season execution. An accurate demand plan enables brands and retailers to match consumer needs with their product offerings more effectively, leading to higher price realization, rate of sale, gross margin and lower inventory costs.
In addition, brands and retailers are now able to run multiple go-to-market tracks based on demand dynamics, time required to create the product and manufacturing/supply chain lead times. During a time when the speed of the supply chain is becoming paramount, an accurate demand plan is the fuel that helps accelerate the growth of the business.
Stylumia is also democratizing this capability by offering our demand sensing and prediction solution at prices that small and mid-sized companies can also afford, in addition to global leaders. The tremendous ROI gained from demand sensing and prediction is resulting in more organizations seeking these types of solutions.
WWD: What are some notable consumer trends, patterns or behaviors that emerged during the pandemic? How have brands responded to these changes?
S.M.: Stylumia’s C.IT spots demand trends over time. During the early days of COVID-19, we constantly kept brands and retailers informed on key shifts in “life at home” lifestyle-related movements in demand. The shifts were provided by geography and consumer segment, for brands to act quickly. We saw a tremendous shift in e-commerce affinity for consumers; even those who rarely shopped online. This led to digital channel contribution doubling in many cases through the initial COVID-19 period. In other words, digital demand-intelligence became a necessity.
We as a company experienced the fastest growth through this period in our history, and it has continued since then. We can confidently state that the fashion industry accelerated its digital transformation roadmap by at least two to three years.
In terms of specific trends or patterns, we observed a fundamental shift to comfort clothing with the merger of work, fitness and lounge all coming together as “life at home.” The trends kept shifting dynamically with the share of “above the desk wear” showing rising sales (puff sleeves top-wear and keyhole neckline went popular considering their video conference appeal), followed by a higher share of top-wear during the initial wave.
In men’s wear, we saw polo T-shirts trending over crew necks. We also saw a rising trend in maxidresses and knee-length dresses. Bottom wear picked up through the recovery period, in particular parallel bottoms performed better over regular ones. Lounge and activewear continue to maintain good momentum even now.
WWD: What’s next for Stylumia?
S.M.: Stylumia is at a very exciting juncture with our upcoming second version of our Consumer Intelligence Tool. We believe this will create further separation in the market based on our proprietary and unique Demand-Science engine. We are also enhancing our demand sensing and prediction engine, along with our inventory allocation and optimization engine, to elevate in-season capabilities.
With sudden shifts in demand becoming more frequent, we are confident that our next generation of solutions will give brands and retailers the additional speed and agility to optimize their business across any time horizon. Our ImaGenie innovation platform has won kudos from industry leaders, and we will continue to invest in it.
Stay tuned for more exciting news from Stylumia, as we would not want to tip our hat to the competition too early.
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