Inside the in-house data teams of three fashion brands

As they attempt to make data-driven decisions, fashion brands and retailers are increasingly relying on in-house data analysts and engineers.

For brands born in the digital era (think: Lyst, Rent the Runway and Spring, to name a few), a data and analytics team has always been part of their company’s DNA . For more traditional brands and retailers, however, these jobs are just starting to be woven in.

Regardless of when they launched, data and technology is top of mind for most brands and retailers. At the recent Glossy Forum, industry executives collectively reported data and tech as being their biggest challenges. Whether it be internally or via third-party analytics firms, navigating how to collect data, finding and tracking the consumer journey online, and actually using data to make meaningful business and marketing decisions are all challenges executives said they face. There’s also the issue of internal silos within brands — that is, who is in charge of the data? Is it the marketing department, e-commerce or an altogether separate department?

To get a better idea of how brands are integrating data and analytics teams into their day-to-day workings, we asked three to share how theirs operate.

Rent the Runway
The brand’s data and analytics team, made up of engineers, analysts and data scientists, has been a core part of the business since the brand’s conception. CEO Jennifer Hyman’s first C-suite hire was chief technology officer Vijay Subramanian.

Rent the Runway rents designer clothes to women at much lower prices than the styles’ original cost. The logistics of making sure items are shipped out, returned, repaired and cleaned before being sent to the next customer — sometimes within one day — are driven by data. The data team is currently 13 people strong, broken into the three smaller departments: The data engineering team has four members, who are responsible for tracking everything that occurs on Rent the Runway’s website, storing the data and processing it. Then there are senior analysts and the director of analytics, who read the data and connect the dots to generate insights — that can be anything from how products should be displayed on the website to what initiatives should be implemented around subscriptions. Lastly, the data scientists’ role mirrors that of analysts, except they also write code and create data for products. For example, they’re responsible for writing the code that fuels the “You may also like” section that appears at the bottom of a webpage when a consumer is browsing.

Rent the Runway approaches creating new data-driven projects and ideas by pulling together small teams of staff members from different departments — that could include analysts, engineers and marketers. They work to figure out what consumers like, what they care about and how products are shown on the website. The analyst’s job, for example, would be to bring a numerical lens to the conversation, Subramanian said.

A screenshot of Rent the Runway’s “You may also like” suggestions

Kit and Ace
Direct-to-consumer Canadian-based label Kit and Ace has an internal data team of three, which is led by its chief information officer, who manages the brand’s analytics and metrics. There are also data analysts in the finance and e-commerce departments to ensure data-driven decisions can be made across departments. Kit and Ace also counts on third-party analytics companies to supplement its internal data.

The data it tracks includes consumer behavior on its website, from when customers leave the site during the purchasing funnel to what form of technology they’re using to shop. It also collects data on how receptive consumers are to the brand’s creative content. For instance, currently on the Kit and Ace website, there’s a two-and-a-half-minute video titled, “Pause for a moment,” which is a nostalgic spin on a holiday video. If not for being on the brand’s website, viewers would have no idea the video was brand-related content — Kit and Ace analysts will decide if the brand-free concept was successful.

For insights into how customers are interacting with the brand, Kit and Ace also tracks where its customers are located and where transactions are taking place throughout its brick-and-mortar locations.

Burberry’s in-house data team falls under the lead of the brand’s chief customer officer, Stephen Sacks. While the brand wouldn’t confirm the size of its team, Sacks divulged in a preliminary results presentation in May 2015 that the brand has invested in a team of in-house data scientists.

The British fashion house captures data through about 85 percent of its transactions — it includes browsing behavior online, foot traffic in stores and anonymous data from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and WeChat. The company then analyzes and draws insights from the data to inform decisions around retail, marketing, merchandising and planning, as well as to improve digital platforms in terms of design, content and site performance.

For example, over the Lunar New Year period in 2015, the brand used data and analytics to track shopping patterns of Chinese consumers. Leading up to the New Year, it found what products were being browsed and bought by Chinese consumers at home, and also where they were buying geographically. Using that information, Burberry made sure popular shops were well-stocked with the most popular styles of handbags, jackets and scarves, and it also deployed Mandarin speakers into stores to meet the travel patterns of shoppers.

In terms of customer service, Burberry puts a huge focus on using data to enhance its customers’ experiences. Through what is dubbed its Customer Value Management program, the brand focuses on its most elite customers who account for one-third of its sales, according to the same investor relations document.

“While, at the heart, this is an analytical engine, what the customer receives is regular, personal, one-to-one communication from an associate,” the document read, adding that the customers who were contacted through the CVM program were 50 percent more likely to shop again. Burberry said that in the year leading up to May 2015, it grew the value of its top customers by over a quarter, with the program driving a third of the growth.

Image via Kit and Ace.

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