Tmall will publish a series of data-driven forecast reports to help fashion brands stay on-trend in China’s fast-evolving consumer landscape, the Alibaba Group-owned B2C shopping platform said Wednesday.
Announced during the biannual Shanghai Fashion Week festival, the news comes as brands increasingly feel pressure to stay nimble in the face of the rapidly changing tastes of Chinese consumers.
Tmall will compile long-term reports, extending at least six months out, that offer trend predictions for upcoming seasonal releases and category information that allows brands to strategize for specific products, such as handbags or footwear. For brands looking to thrive in today’s hyper-fast fashion cycles, Tmall will provide monthly “fast-react” forecasts that predict trends three months ahead.
At the launch event, Tmall Fashion and Luxury President Jessica Liu said she hopes the new trend forecasting service will “help the industry ‘see’ new global trends and consumer insights.”
“We hope to enable our brand partners to develop products which meet the desires of consumers and see them debut more on-trend items on our platform,” said Liu. And in return, “we will provide them with sales and marketing channels that cater to different consumer segments, helping boost their conversion rates, while strengthening their influence as trend-setting brands.”
Tmall said it also plans to bring to market 500,000 items every year — all designs created based on its trend forecasts.
“Today, we are capable of identifying trends. But in the long-term future, we hope together we can create trends,” Liu added.
Tmall will leverage Alibaba’s artificial-intelligence technologies, including image and pattern recognition and natural language processing, to read trends in real-time. The trends will be drawn from Alibaba’s consumer analytics and insights from third-party partners, including brands, fashion media outlets, universities, textile authorities, such as Première Vision Paris and The Woolmark Company, along with fashion trend-forecasting firms, such as Paris-based Promostyl.
Pierre Lequeux, the Greater China representative for Première Vision, which specializes in trend forecasting for everything from textiles to fabrics, said Alibaba and fashion authorities such as his share the common goal of bringing clarity to clients on upcoming trends.
“[We] look forward to partnering with Tmall to enable Chinese fashion brands through deeper and more-comprehensive insights and help them stay abreast of local and global trends,” he said.
Tmall created a sample report for the spring-summer 2019 season. Done in collaboration with Alimama, Alibaba Group’s digital-marketing platform, the report offered general information about Tmall’s “fashion-conscious consumers” and highlighted four core buyers on the site: “earthy minimalists,” “the rebel,” “the weekender” and “future-forward stylists.”
The “earthy minimalists,” who like simple tailoring and natural fabric and colors, would likely purchase oversized suit jackets, straw totes for women or pinstripe suits for men, Tmall said. Among the “rebels,” loud colors and bohemian styles dominated. For this group, Tmall predicted that colorful tie-dye patterns would make a comeback, along with pop art-inspired creations that mix graphics of food with textile prints. It is this kind of insight and analysis upon which brands could make strategic decisions about the China market, Tmall said.
Tmall also said it’s aiming, over the next three years, to help 1,500 partner brands increase their sales and market share within a specific consumer group it classified as “fashion-forward and trend-conscious.” The small group has significant spending potential, as it accounted for a fourth of the total gross merchandise volume for apparel on the site last year, Tmall said. Tmall didn’t disclose the size of the group, but said it is mostly made up of young consumers between 18-24 years old, with more than 62% of them based in China’s most-developed cities.
Also during Shanghai Fashion Week, Tmall joined Italy’s Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery in naming China as the next “Guest Nation” at its upcoming menswear trade fair Pitti Immagine Uomo, which will run from June 11-14 in Florence.
Guest Nation will spotlight 11 emerging Chinese labels at the trade show, including Percy Lau, 8on8, Danshan and Pronounce. During the four-day event, Tmall will roll out online sales campaigns to promote some of these up-and-coming brands, as well as bring the event to Chinese consumers via livestreams. It will also invite menswear brands to workshops on-site to explore partnership opportunities, Tmall said.