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The hidden power of suggestion in risk-taking

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February 20, 2015

Chris Paradysz is co-CEO of Paradysz + PM Digital

Chris Paradysz is co-CEO of Paradysz + PM Digital

By Chris Paradysz

Suggestive power is alive, and it is everywhere. Without it, we probably would not meet our spouses, double down on a new business launch, trade in our Samsung Note 5 early or mix in those new Louis Vuitton bangles – never mind step out a bit flashier in those new Alexander McQueen Skull Chain Skinny Sandals.

Actually, Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly, in the Devil Wears Prada, explained it best to her assistant, Andy (played by Anne Hathaway), who giggled dismissively, during a run-through of looks for a new issue of Runway – the fictional counterpart to Anna Wintour’s, Vogue :

“You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select … I don’t know … that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent … And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”

Fashion empires were built on risky and forward-thinking designs. Those risks, either directly or subtly, affect almost every facet of the retail industry. Creativity is both cherished and punished, daily. Registers and shopping carts add up the wins and losses, but consumers show, tell, and buy far differently because of how, and where, they seek information and inspiration.

Viewing this from a unique perspective, take a look at the power of paid and organic search trends. This data harbors some of the most powerful, suggestive data for discerning what could be designed and marketed, next. Yet, few retailers use it, and some do not believe it. What people type into a search box, however, reflects exactly what is on their minds. With the millions of searches made every second, hidden gems are hiding inside these mountains of accumulated actions. They reveal passions in ways we can’t see without asking outright. Even then, when surveyed, they are not as truthful as their anonymous fingers are with each press of a key.

Let us take a look at some intriguing search trends that may surprise a few designers:

Designer belts
Over the course of 11 months, (February 2014 – January 2015), increasingly accelerated search traffic for “Designer Belts” grew nearly 100 percent.

With designer brands making their logos more prominent, belts are a perfect extension. Search data had already revealed progressive growth rates in mid-2013. Imagine the increased demand that could have been generated if this data point was considered in seasonal trend forecasting and planning meetings.

Leather backpack
Searches for “Leather Backpack” are also trending upward, although the growth rates are the highest for the New York City region. Geo-targeted search data could open up incremental selling here, too.

Wedge heels, platform heels
In contrast, interest in “Wedge Heels” and “Platform Heels” appears to be fading. Contrasting this trend, the Container Store recently launched a “Tall Shoe Box,” via email. It is likely to feel the decline later than shoe merchants as storage is a more stable, steady product category, but the numbers suggest this drop may continue.

As earlier demonstrated by “Miranda Priestly,” fashion trends’ trickle-down effect has the power to influence related industries, not just the merchants who bring them to market. As search interest wanes for sky-high heels, The Container Store’s new “Tall Shoe Box” could fall short of expectations.

Some brands bring marketing, merchants and designers together in the hopes that they learn from one another. Search data, however, should also be brought into these meetings. Data can fuel more confidence in risk-taking and investment discussions in refreshing new ways. It is objective and, uniquely, not opinionated. This is a door that was hardly cracked open a scant year ago.

CONSUMERS ARE telling us what they are interested in. There is suggestive power within that seemingly insignificant search report buried on an analyst’s desk. Who knows what trend is just revealing itself in five large cities across the globe?

As we continue to see across all aspects of marketing, the downside risk of status quo is far greater than the risk of experimentation. And data can certainly bring boldness where wariness might be seeping in.

*Trends for the following key terms were pulled from Google Trends. The search interest is tracked by time (year) versus the search index, or percentage of all searches. The search index is on a scale from 0-100, 100 being the point where the search interest peaks.

Chris Paradysz is co-CEO of Paradysz + PM Digital, New York. Reach him at cparadysz@pmdigital.com.

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