LONDON — Luxury and data haven’t always been great bedfellows, but that can change if a fashion company’s different divisions start sharing more insights, said Matthew Keylock, director, data insight, Yoox Net-a-porter Group.

Keylock said there is so much data out there, and so many ways to use it that big companies are often overwhelmed or paralyzed by it. Alternatively, different divisions will often pursue their own agendas and view certain data in isolation.

“We may have all the right instruments, the violins, the cellos, the wind instruments and the percussion ones, but they may be playing to different conductors. Unless we start connecting these up we can’t start getting beneath certain challenges,” Keylock said.

“It also means there is a lot of confusion and ambiguity in the business. Sometimes data can actually slow you down and make things worse than it might otherwise be,” he said. “Maybe you are driving conversions that you are not really seeking, because not every sale is equal, and not every customer is equal.”

For big companies in particular, the solution lies in having a common vision aimed at bringing the customer to life by looking ever closer at how he or she is shopping, what their particular needs are, and qualities such as whether or not they are an early adopter.

External data — as opposed to payment data — is a critical way to learn about the customer and should not be underestimated, Keylock said.

“It can help identify opportunities and needs, so we can bring to life who our real customer is, where they go on holiday, whether they shop when they are on holiday, or before, and if so, how much before?

“Can we gather new data from the customers about the events they are going to? ‘I’m going to Ascot,’ ‘I’ve got two weddings this summer.’ All of those sorts of things will be helpful to build that really rich picture of who our individual customers are, and then allow us to apply that across all of the different social channels and start to use this data in a way that optimizes our business,” he said.

While companies can parse data and use it to understand customer behavior, they should also use it to make more strategic choices and delve even deeper into consumer habits and behavior.

“Do people buy marked-down on Net-a-porter, and then do most of their shopping on The Outnet — or the other way around? We have a good understanding of how different types of customers cross-shop, and that allows us to work out how we position those brands, how we buy the right brands, and how we price the mark down in the right way.”

He added that reading farther into big data also helps a company like YNAP remain nimble in an industry driven by trends and constantly changing tastes.

“If you take groceries, you kind of know there are things that customers are going to buy again and again. In our case it’s not the same. A lot of the stuff is perishable. A trend that was around last year might not be around this year. Or a brand may have changed designer and be going in a different direction, so the data helps us identify those trigger points, and behaviors that allow us to understand that broader spectrum.

“From a personalization point of view we’ve got to work out how much of (a consumer’s shopping) history is relevant to what we personalize right now, and that means not only understanding the customer, it also means understanding the product. Some brand loyalties go way beyond a customer’s most recent purchase, and we need to weigh those things for different customers.”