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A day in the life of a trend scout

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Fashion |IN DEPTH

Trend scouting is often referred to as the grey area of fashion, a somewhat dubious profession whose methodology is largely based on observations that may or may not seem highly speculative.

The reality, of course, couldn't be more different, as there is a measurable business benefit to trend scouting, even if results are not always immediately tangible. Global businesses around the world rely on trend scouts to keep the pulse on social, cultural, economic and political changes and climates, filtering information into concepts that will then in turn be used for design processes, idea generation and innovation.

Research reveals general lifestyle habits of shoppers

You can imagine that the fashion industry could not do without such as service, where consumer research is essential in order to gain information about what the general lifestyle habits, aesthetics, fashionability, education and lifecycle of consumers are.

At Zalando, one of Europe's largest e-commerce retailers, trend scouting is a key driver of its innovation management, and the company relies on trend analysis to give it decisive advantages over the competition and to remain relevant in each of its markets.

Kasia Luczak, Zalando's leading trend scout, covers such arenas as concept design and fashion direction, a profession which takes her across the various markets in Europe, but also to major cities such as Seoul, "where fashion is bubbling," Luczak notes.

Importance of keeping track of early developments

"Fashion is changing, technology advancing and consumers are savvy," Luczak says, therefore all the more reason for Zalando's scout to keep track of early developments.

Luczak often starts collecting data 18 months ahead of the fashion season, partly to be able to spot future trends but also respond to the different characteristics in different markets, which are not solely defined by their geography.

Zalando is currently operational in over 15 countries, offering 150,000 product choices at any given time, and serving 18 million customers. One simple webshop would not be able to cater to such an extensive community.

Even if modern retail concepts cannot cater all things to all people, Zalando is bucking that trend. The company has likely learned since its inception in 2008 that buying habits across Europe are vastly different. A customer from Austria has very different fashion notions from someone in the United Kingdom. And a customer from Switzerland maybe easily classified as a conservative buyer, when in fact they are one of the highest consuming countries of fashion explains Luczak.

A tailor-made user experience

The information Luczak and her team collate are passed to the buying team and country merchandisers in each market, allowing Zalando to offer a tailor-made consumer experience, no matter where a user is browsing from. By understanding local lifestyle habits Zalando is able to target its stories and online stock to what appeals to each country, allowing its platform to be relevant across different markets.

Someone visiting Zalando's homepage in Zurich will see a different page than a user in London, and ultimately the idea is for no two people to view the same page, so targeted and curated is its technology.

Of course in the end, a platform is only as good as the service it provides to its users. A nicely curated online store is one aspect, strong customer service is another. Zalando is currently testing a partnership with a local store in its home market of Berlin, where nearby customers can have available items shipped to them on the same day. It also offers users greater product availability and an extended shopping experience. If successful, the service could be rolled out to other parts in Germany and eventually other markets.

While the UK is arguably Europe's most advanced e-commerce market when it comes to fashion, Zalando hasn't quite cracked the UK like its other markets. Here the online giant hopes its customer-centric and geographically-curated approach will grow to the same success it has seen elsewhere, where fashion remains only a click away.

Image:Kasia Luczak, Trend Scout, Zalando

Trend scouting