100,000 Haul Videos Point Way to Holiday Trends

In the world of retailing, ignoring the trendsetters is never a good thing. These important folks are communicating to your customers, advising them about what’s fashionable – and what’s so six months ago. If you know what they are thinking, you can factor the information into every aspect of your business, from product development to merchandising.
Of course, the total number of trendsetters used to be relatively small. Think fashion designers, movie stars, a magazine editor or two. No more. The Internet has given anyone with a blog and a point of view the ability to build a loyal following and affect public opinion (and your company’s bottom line).
And now, an army of self-appointed tastemakers is taking things a step further with “video hauling,” one of the hottest social media trends in retailing today. These show-and-tell videos are created unprompted by individual shoppers – often but not always young people -- and posted online. In a typical video, the consumer will discuss and display the items purchased during a recent shopping trip – i.e. the “haul.”
There are more than 100,000 of these haul videos on YouTube. A quick search will demonstrate just how sophisticated, opinionated and knowledgeable many of these folks are. Some have tens of thousands of followers and have posted dozens of videos, in which they opine on everything from makeup to clothing to jewelry.
Merchants who understand this trend can attain a deeper knowledge of their customers, increase sales and even anticipate trends ahead of the competition.
But how to begin? The sheer number of videos posted online seems daunting. Fortunately, new analytics technology combined with powerful speech-to-text software can quickly provide merchants with deep insight into these videos – answering questions, like:
•        Who are the most popular trendsetters posting videos about your products?
•        How much clout do they have?
•        What do they like and dislike?
•        What would they change about your products?
•        What do they have to say about your competitors – specifically, in which areas are your competitors beating you?
•        What do their followers have to say about your products?
This is extremely valuable information that you can use in many different ways. You might open a dialogue with the most influential of the trendsetters – maybe even hiring several of them to devote some exclusive video time to your product line.
But don’t stop there. The insights generated by analyzing these videos with the latest technology can help you see where the market is going before the information shows up in your P&L statements. They can inform your product marketing strategy (let’s highlight the lavender scarf in the new tv commercial) as well as your supply chain (we better produce 10,000 more lavender scarves).
You can use this data to modify existing products and create new ones. You can better understand not just what’s selling now, but what’s going to be selling a year from now. You might even pinpoint the moment when an “unstoppable” trend starts to die.
Video haulers are new participants in a massive online conversation about your products, a conversation that includes blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Ignore it at your peril. The smarter move by far is to engage with these 21st century pundits and use the information they provide to deliver the kind of products that will increase both customer satisfaction and sales.
Melissa Schaefer is global retail leader for IBM’s Institute for Business Value
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