IBM & MSFW talk Designer Data

Every year at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (MSFW), Creative Victoria and Melbourne City Council invite industry leaders to teach up-and-coming designers, startups, students and industry partners practical skills on how to succeed in the world of fashion and take their business to the next level.

This year, the learning program shifted to a whole new level with IBM sharing insights into Designer Data – specifically how to uncover hidden trends to help grow business in the retail sector.

Karen Hardie, one of our leading experts in predictive analytics, and myself hosted three practical workshops, taking attendees through key topics including:

Real-world examples of designers, brands and department stores that have successfully used data and analytics to improve their business performance.  These include Elie Tahari, who have been successfully using insight to make more informed decisions about merchandise and stock levels, ensuring the right size is located in store when the customer wants to purchase it, and drastically reducing the cost of air freight for last-minute stock replenishment.  Luxottica, who successfully use data and analytics to get a 360-degree view of over 100 million customers around the world, identifying the highest-value customers to create individualised marketing campaigns and maximise marketing effectiveness.  And Macy’s, who sought to create a more personalised shopping experience both online and instore, with targeted marketing campaigns based on historical spending of high value customers.

How the role of data and analytics has changed over time – moving from the traditional approach of understanding what happened and why, to what is most likely happen in the future and what you should do about it.  From leaving analytics to the data professionals, to putting it in the hands of every decision maker and embedding it into everything we do.  From just understanding when a customer has transacted, to building a 360-degree view into how they interact, who they are, and what they think about your product or service.  Ultimately, how retail has made a fundamental shift from looking just at transactions to understanding customer relationships.

The critical impact of getting the timing right in successfully making the right offer to the right customer.  Make an offer too soon and it’s “creepy”.  Make it too late and you’ve missed the opportunity and become irrelevant.

Karen walked the attendees through an engaging demonstration of IBM Watson Analytics, the SaaS visualisation tool designed to help everyone from business users to data scientists get rapid insights from their data.  In less than an hour, she analysed complex shoe designs to understand shoe preferences of consumers around the world, she predicted whether customers were designing shoes from a blank canvas or simply personalising a design that had been suggested for them, and she tapped into the voice of the customer on social media to understand sentiment in the market and find social advocates for the brand.  She also packaged all these insights up into a visual, interactive dashboard that can be shared with others to find new insights in the data.

It was an exciting and engaging event, with a broad range of questions and discussions that covered the use of social media locally, how best to get started, and what to consider for those that are still starting to capture data about their business.

We left them with three simple steps on how they too could get started with data and analytics:

  1. Sign up for a free account at
  2. Extract and save the data you want to work with in CSV format.
  3. Upload, and start designing with data.

Thanks to all those who attended – make sure you reach out and let us know how you went.  We’d love to hear from you!

MSFW Designer Data