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E-Commerce Players: If You Don’t Have Data Scientists On Board, You May Be Doing it Wrong

Whether the business serves the luxury goods market like Farfetch or the better denim market as Warp + Weft, e-commerce pure-plays had better do their homework.

They have to know what their customer wants, when they want it, how to get it to them and how to react to problems and changes along the way.

John Veichmanis, chief merchandising officer of Farfetch, speaking at the Glossy Forum in New York City Tuesday, described the company as the “intersection between creative arts and technology.”

“We focus on data being our currency,” Veichmanis said. “Knowing how to target your customer and understanding what happens when you target them is the most important thing we do as a marketing team.”

He noted that personal luxury has seen healthy growth this decade and analysts predict roughly 5 percent growth through the end of the decade. The online space is forecast to growing about 23 percent through 2020.

“So offline is shrinking, while online is growing,” Veichmanis said. “Any business that wants to grow has to build strong online presence. Sixteen percent of luxury will be bought online by 2020, but it’s a laggard category. But we’re going to switch to a faster pace.”

He said the new audience diving the online space are millennials with fresh disposable income who surf the Internet more than any other generation–100 percent that buy luxury also use the Internet.

“The question is how are we adjusting and adapting our marketing playbook to adapt to this market change,” Veichmanis said. “Sixty percent of the traffic on Farftech is now on a mobile device, surpassing desktop. As a marketer, this shift is rapidly changing the way we interact and communicate with potential and existing customers.”

[Read more about Farfetch: Invests in Farfetch and Forms Strategic Partnership]

Millennials use their phone about 85 times a day, most less than 30 seconds at a time. In addition, by the end of this decade, 82 percent of all consumer traffic will be video or rich media in the next few years.

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“As a marketer, this is amazing to me that I have a wide range of media in which to reach consumers,” Veichmanis said. “It’s also a very difficult creative challenge. You need lots of different content to reach this consumer.”

For instance, a marketing campaign can’t start off with great excitement and then fade away at the end.

“We have to have constant approach to everything we do,” Veichmanis said.

One major challenge is that often customers buy from Farfetch by chance or circumstance, not through name recognition. So the opportunity must be seized when that happens “to have the most relative message to the consumer, so we can help them or make a purchase or make decisions about what they want to buy,” Veichmanis explained.

He noted that his team captures everything–page views, impressions, clicks, price points, brand preferences–and that 25 percent of the team are data scientists.

“Everything we do focuses on the audience and understanding what they need and how to let them know we can give it to them,” Veichmanis added. “We have audience-specific teams that are responsible for driving revenue and awareness for specific audience groups. We’re a marketplace and we have more data than anybody else. We can make good predictions, but we can also use that data to enhance the experience. Our business is collecting every single signal that enables a consumer to have a better experience.”

Sarah Ahmed, chief executive office of Warp + Weft, explained that the direct-to-consumer company makes jeans for men and women selling for under $100. The vertically integrated company makes women’s, plus sizes and petite’s using denim fabrics including modal and Dual FX. Warp + Weft targets millennials and uses digital channels like Facebook and subscription box services to reach its customer.

“E-commerce offers great feedback from the consumer and we actually integrate customer suggestions into our designs, Ahmed said.

But more than taking what they say into consideration for product development, Warp + Weft takes every opportunity to reach and listen to its customer.

“Retailers give you a lot of visibility at the beginning, but starting a direct-to-consumer business right now means you can reach the customer through all digital channels,” Ahmed said. “So that visibility can be compensated for in other ways.”