Why is big data on trend for fashion brands?

Big data is revolutionising how companies of all shapes and sizes do business, and one area in which is is having a big impact is the world of fashion.

Collecting information on everything from consumer's buying patterns to shipping costs will help make a business more successful, providing it is used successfully, something Julia Fowler of Editd has recognised.

Ms Fowler established the company five years ago in a bid to assist the fashion industry in operating more efficiently, and the company now claims to be home to the world's largest collection of apparel-related data.

Speaking to Fortune, Ms Fowler said she set out to fix the problem of wastage in the fashion industry. "Every time you see a discount on a product, it's because the wrong decisions were made," she explained, adding that in the past, retailers were being less productive as they were unable to tap into data effectively.

She used the example of one particularly data-driven client, which used to get its buying and merchandising team to spend one week out of every six browsing competitors' websites to collect information on pricing and the range of items on offer.

"They’d put together the reports in Excel, then the booklets were bound and distributed around the company," Ms Fowler noted.

Editd, which works with big-name brands such as Gap and Target in the US, negates the need for such labour-intensive tasks by offering data to clients that is collected from a wide range of sources, including blogs, fashion show reports, social media and online retailers. It boasts 53 billion data points and hosts the data on 120 servers relying on flash memory rather than hard drives to ensure it can be accessed quickly.

Geoff Watts, CEO and co-founder of the company, noted keeping the data "super-responsive" is key in the fast-moving industry, adding it also needs to be easy to digest if retailers are able to capitalise on it and tweak their supply chains and price points to fit consumers' demands.

With big data use set to grow and grow, the race is now on in the fashion industry to use it effectively.