The Surprising Sex Appeal of Big Data

January 14, 2016 • Blog Post • By Atlantic Re:Think

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IN THIS ARTICLE

  • Lingerie company Adore Me is all about sex appeal, but the key to its success is something enterprises find far more attractive: Big Data

Adore Me is a lingerie company built on the proposition that being able to slice and dice customer data can be just as important as product design

Judging by its website, Adore Me is all about sexy lingerie, and that is indeed what it sells. But what’s driving its success as a business is something with slightly less sex appeal: data analytics.

The brainchild of a student at the Harvard Business School, Adore Me opened its virtual doors three years ago determined to disrupt the $13 billion lingerie industry in the same way that Warby Parker is shaking up eyewear and Harry’s is reinventing razor blades. It seems to be working. The company’s revenue totaled more than $16.5 million last year, and it ranked second in the retail sector on the Inc. 5000 list of the country’s fastest-growing private companies.

That success, says founder and CEO Morgan Hermand-Waiche, is all about Big Data, which drives everything from product design to advertising, marketing, pricing and the look of the website. “We have been data-driven in every single business decision we have made,” says Hermand-Waiche.

The idea for the company came to him back at Cambridge when he went shopping for lingerie as a birthday gift for his girlfriend. “It was so expensive for such a small garment,” he said. “I thought, ‘Gosh, maybe I am not the only one to feel that way.’”

That means Adore Me marketers can quickly cut the data to parse their customers’ shopping habits in extraordinary detail. For example, how the repurchase rate of customers in Iowa who had a shipment delayed by three days compares to that of customers whose delivery was five days late or right on time. Everyone else benefits from that structured data as well, from design to sales to supply chain to inventory management.

Perhaps no one benefits more than fashion director Helen Mears, a former design director at Victoria’s Secret. Adore Me introduces more than 1,000 new products each year—more than four times the production of a traditional lingerie company—so a sharp sense of what is selling and why greatly reduces the number of product flops and increases Mears’ percentage of winners.

A tool called Yotpo, for example, can sort through thousands of customer reviews for products that received 4.5 ratings and above. “When a product has 4.5 stars, on average, you know it will sell 20 percent more than if it has 4.2 stars,” Liot explains. “So you order more and suggest that instead of doing this bra only in pink, why don’t we do a blue and yellow version too?”

The same rigor is put into the images found on the Adore Me website. The company conducts A/B tests of its lingerie models through a platform that it developed in-house. Adore Me has its photographers shoot multiple versions of each piece of lingerie, with two different underwear models posing in different ways. For example, a brunette model may pose with her hand on her hip, and then a blonde model will strike a similar pose. Then, for every 1,000 people who come to the website, 500 will see the photo with the brunette model and 500 will see the photo with the blonde.

Some of the results are surprising. Adore Me has found that with the exact same product and pose, a brunette model will generate up to eight times more sales than a blonde one. Plus-size models sell more products than size-two models do. And sex does not necessarily sell.

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That means Adore Me marketers can quickly cut the data to parse their customers’ shopping habits in extraordinary detail. For example, how the repurchase rate of customers in Iowa who had a shipment delayed by three days compares to that of customers whose delivery was five days late or right on time. Everyone else benefits from that structured data as well, from design to sales to supply chain to inventory management.

Perhaps no one benefits more than fashion director Helen Mears, a former design director at Victoria’s Secret. Adore Me introduces more than 1,000 new products each year—more than four times the production of a traditional lingerie company—so a sharp sense of what is selling and why greatly reduces the number of product flops and increases Mears’ percentage of winners.

A tool called Yotpo, for example, can sort through thousands of customer reviews for products that received 4.5 ratings and above. “When a product has 4.5 stars, on average, you know it will sell 20 percent more than if it has 4.2 stars,” Liot explains. “So you order more and suggest that instead of doing this bra only in pink, why don’t we do a blue and yellow version too?”

The same rigor is put into the images found on the Adore Me website. The company conducts A/B tests of its lingerie models through a platform that it developed in-house. Adore Me has its photographers shoot multiple versions of each piece of lingerie, with two different underwear models posing in different ways. For example, a brunette model may pose with her hand on her hip, and then a blonde model will strike a similar pose. Then, for every 1,000 people who come to the website, 500 will see the photo with the brunette model and 500 will see the photo with the blonde.

Some of the results are surprising. Adore Me has found that with the exact same product and pose, a brunette model will generate up to eight times more sales than a blonde one. Plus-size models sell more products than size-two models do. And sex does not necessarily sell.

In an A/B test of two different television commercials, Adore Me found that an ad aimed at men, featuring a beautiful model seductively asking viewers if they would like to meet up, did not drive sales. Instead, a spot targeting women that highlighted the company’s latest products—and asked the audience to try them on—generated a very strong response.

Adore Me has relied on similar experiments to inform the design of its website and its online purchase flow. And the company recently started fine-tuning the more than 500 million email messages it sends out to customers each year. For example, Adore Me’s marketers found that 80 percent of all sales conversions came within the first week that a customer opted to receive its emails. Based on that insight, the Adore Me team created a series of welcome emails beginning with a promotional offer and progressing toward more customer education content, such as advice on finding the best-fitting bra. The result was a 23 percent increase in sales.

So where will the numbers take Adore Me next? Adore Me’s leaders say they plan to use their powerful marketing capabilities to help them identify new markets—especially as they begin selling Adore Me products overseas. They also plan to glean insights from A/B testing when they launch a new activewear collection in 2016.

Clearly, though, the company’s hopes for the future rest at least as much on new, stronger methods of data analytics as they do on product development.

“You can always go one step further and more granular, combining more and more dimensions,” says Lion. “And you will have the new generations of tools.”

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