How First-Party Data Can Help Build Direct Customer Relationships

At Quirks Brooklyn today, Deepa Iyer from Fossil Group, joined by Jackie Lorch from Dynata, discussed “how Fossil Group incorporates first-party data into the way they create, market and communicate with their target buyers to build long-term brand health and customer retention.”

Fossil Group is a manufacturer of fashion accessories from jewelry to traditional watches to smart watches and more; the brand has over 500 stores. In a quick poll, she was surprised at how many in the audience were wearing traditional watches rather than smart watches, which are cannibalizing traditional watches and are forecast by IDC to grow at 31% annually. Smart watches have grown from 26% of the watch industry in 2017 to 38% in 2019, posing challenges for Fossil Group and other makers of traditional watches.

The Fossil Group analytics team is looking to improve ROI by making “smarter decisions based on intellectual honesty and analytical rigor.” The team is transitioning from being US-centric to global, with a focus on India and China for long-term growth. The goal is “to offer the right product at the right price in the right channels at the right time and advertise it in the most efficient way for each consumer.”

The traditional path to purchase was studied qualitatively (product trends), quantitatively (past sales), and with secondary data (global sales trends, product trends, competition). The new design goal is to identify which new products to launch, reducing product samples and increasing the rate of success and speed to market (moving from an 18-month cycle).

With Dynata, the Fossil Group built a panel of 18,000 active respondents (customers as well as general population) spanning 5 countries. In the past year, they’ve tested 500 SKUs and get a 25% to 30% response rate, despite not paying for every survey (emphasis on drawings). This has provided richer, faster, more international insights through both quant and qual research. For instance, designers focused on chronographs, which consumers were unaware of it, valuing instead the aesthetics of the design. “When we don’t listen to our customers, we end up with so many products in liquidated channels.” Interesting, one product tested well and was rejected by wholesalers; Fossil Group sold it in its own stores, where it became a best seller; this dynamic has contributed to a change away from wholesale in the distribution mix.

The new process grows adoption within the organization to influence key decisions, investing in new capabilities, encouraging innovation, growing opportunities, and building accountability.

The research has added AI to mine the open-ended verbatim comments, and designers now iterate with panel feedback. As a result, new features are being added to smart watches, time to market has been cut in half, new trends are being identified sooner, new designs are 2.5 times more successful than products without panel feedback.

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