A few months back Google released this, a trend forecast for fashion in the U.S. for the coming months. When you think of fashion the first brand you think of is most likely not Google, and you may even be surprised to think of a company like Google knowing anything about fashion, but obviously that is the power of big data. Google has made its first stab at not only recording trends that go into its search box, but trying to forecast something that is largely seen as an enigma.
If you don’t know what ‘big data’ is, it is essentially the compiling of all the metrics that a company can possibly record in order to see patterns and develop algorithms to better understand the market. Google essentially has the ‘biggest data’ and so can hope to do what fashion retailers, and especially fast fashion retailers have been trying to do for the past decades, see fashion trends coming before they make it big. Many companies use big data to try and reduce wasted opportunities for their company and to increase efficiency by predicting consumer behavior. One of the most famous symptoms of big data research is the fact that Wal-Mart stocks their stores with extra strawberry pop-tarts and beer whenever a storm is predicted to hit in the area of a Wal-Mart store.
However, fashion isn’t influenced by events like large storms and so using data to predict market shifts in this realm would be pretty significant for many fashion retailers, especially fast fashion retailers like H&M and Zara who rely on getting to fashion trends first. Being able to estimate the rise and fall of these trends would mean less time and resources wasted on producing trend items for declining trends and trends that might not take off.
The problem with this is the fact that all of these fashion companies already track and map trends in different ways. They have teams marketing and following trends that can be ported to fashion so that the tiniest social trend can be capitalized on through a cheap t-shirt or necklace. The companies are founded on the idea that if they get to a new trend market quickly and cheaply they can grab the bulk of the money from consumers before other companies get there or the trend dies.
With all of their predictive technologies then is Google bound to capitalize the fast fashion market? The short answer is no. The first reason is because it just wouldn’t really be worth it for them, and I believe this is more just a show of the power of predictive technology when used to try and predict a fluid thing like fashion. The second reason is because if you look at some of the trends Google predicted and are relatively fashion conscious you already knew these things were happening by Spring 2015. Many of the trends, like jogger pants, had been growing for a while until that point and would’ve been available at most fast fashion retailers and regular retailers.
Take a look at some of the trends they predicted would come true and see if they are in fact around you and if you weren’t already aware of them a few months ago. Do you think fashion retailers could rely on these types of trend predictions or are they really more for those who are out of the loop to catch up on trends before they die?