Fashion Retailers Now Use Software from First Insight to Spot Trends, Replacing Focus Groups

Determining the right trends and styles is a very important aspect for fashion brands, such as American Eagle Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, The Gap, The Limited, etc. for their success. In fact, a single big mistake on this step can literally turn their fortunes into a financial downfall. With this in mind, these companies are always finding new ways to accurately predict upcoming styles, which are going to be popular, in time to design and manufacture clothing and other fashion products for the next fashion season.


Traditionally, these companies relied on focus groups, which are among the most often-used tools for market research. With such, a team of pre-vetted persons, who would be using a brand’s products, are put together in a conference room and asked their opinions, so the brand can evaluate perceptions of their target customers. Most of the time, the brand’s executives would watch the group secretly through a two-way mirror and record comments for subsequent review. However, focus groups can be limited, according to vice president of client insights and strategy at The Limited, Lois Huff. He said, “There’s a statistical rigor behind it. A traditional focus group might involve 20 or 30 or 40 people, but you have no insight into their ability to predict a winner or loser. Meanwhile, you’re making decisions worth millions of dollars.”

Now, a new program is developed by First Insight to solve issues faced by focus groups. It works by choosing participants based upon their ability to predict fashion styles and trends accurately. However, before the software relies on a person’s opinion going forward, it first assesses his/her reaction to older fashion preferences to assess his/her ability to choose trends that would be “in” in the future. It performs this task by using online surveys that show participants various clothing, bags and other fashion items and then asking them if they would purchase them at what cost.


Survey responses are then compared with the items’ actual performance. If the opinions given by participants were more accurate, their data is used to select products to be put into production. As stated by First insight’s founder and CEO, Greg Petro, “It’s about finding the people you need to listen to.”