8 hours ago | By WGSN Insider
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Nov 09, 2016
By Sandy Chu
In today’s increasingly global fashion world, businesses are going into unfamiliar markets and approaching non-native cultures, in non-native languages. This poses a challenge for retail business. Businesses now need to be nimble enough to keep up and engage with information being transmitted instantaneously on local social media feeds, respecting and understanding local nuances to make their mark and engage with this global and local consumer. Couple this with that fact that these same businesses are being challenged with ever-disappearing margins and ever-growing need to maximize ROIs. It’s a tough time for retail brands and especially those trying to make an impact abroad.
To tackle this challenge, Avery Booker, the founder of Enflux, has created a data mining tool to help brands. Enflux, taps into that never-ending flow of data quickly transforming it into coherent usable takeaways. It can tame the river so to speak, qualify media spends, planning and more importantly help brands audit their international partners’ recommendations to avoid costly dupes in emerging markets?
We asked founder Avery Booker to walk us through Enflux, to discuss how it’s being used by brands to increase productivity, reduce stress and overall costs by adding an additional data based element.
How and when did the idea to launch Enflux come about?
Avery: The initial spark for Enflux came out of consulting work I was doing for luxury brands and retailers nearly three years ago. I constantly saw a huge amount of waste and uncertainty around their (very expensive) marketing efforts, particularly in terms of media and influencer collaborations. I felt there was an opportunity to better understand who and what was really influencing consumer behaviour, which transcended what was already on the market: influencer management platforms and social listening tools.
After honing the business concept, my co-founder [Cameron Powell] and I set to work building out a beta version of the data engine, which we stealth tested with a group of brands and retailers in North America, Europe, and Asia, and got a much stronger sense of the areas in which companies are falling behind online. After securing a strong funding base and months of heads-down development, we rolled Enflux out to select clients earlier this year.
Was it difficult to build your team? How did you do it?
Avery: Building a team from the ground up is always difficult, particularly when you’re working on something wholly new, since there’s no clear blueprint and you’re constantly tweaking and re-conceptualising based on market needs and opportunities. We have been lucky in that my Texas-based co-founder has built a number of successful tech companies over the past decade and we could call on an existing network of talent to get us off the ground.
Over the past six months, we stood up our in-house data science and engineering team using a strong tech network in San Antonio and Austin, Texas–a region of incredible tech and business talent–and have pulled on the most brilliant data scientists and developers I have ever come across. Had we tried to build out a development team in the usual tech hubs of Silicon Valley or New York, I don’t believe we would have been able to build such a strong team so quickly.
Also, basing our technology headquarters and development team in Texas has allowed us to quickly build an international client-facing presence and open our second and third offices in London and Paris.
In layman’s terms how does Enflux work?
Avery: Enflux is a predictive global influence monitoring and mining engine, which applies machine learning to data from the world’s major social media platforms along with more than 18,000 external data sources to monitor and predict what is truly influencing consumer behaviour.
At a basic level, Enflux applies advanced adaptive filters and predictive analytics to take what is essentially noisy, chaotic data and pull forward-facing insights from it, everything from who brands should collaborate with on their social media campaigns to cities they should open new stores and how much to spend on an advertising effort in a particular country.
The nature of our proprietary data engine, which is built completely from scratch and has multiple filed patents, is living and breathing rather than passive, like a social listening tool.
What can it do? Why is this so important?
Avery: What this does is allow us to take a client’s expected marketing approach and budget and predict whether it will bear fruit or if they should reallocate efforts and resources to a strategy that the data shows will have better results and ROI. This is critical for any company, whether they’re a multinational conglomerate or an independent brand, because they’re still essentially operating in the dark when it comes to understanding what’s really happening to their marketing spend. Are they just setting half of it on fire and hoping for the best with the other half? Or are there areas of clear success they can build on?
Enflux helps clients see what matters to their target customer now, and what will matter in the months ahead, then “test out” their campaigns or marketing strategies without spending a penny. We give them greater confidence in their decision-making process and help them reduce misguided spending. We have not come across a single client that couldn’t reallocate their marketing budget in very tactical ways to greatly improve marketing ROI and conversion.
What have clients come to you for?
Avery: Clients come to us with a wide variety of concerns, surprisingly wider than I’d ever expected when we started the company. Questions we’ve addressed include how to allocate inventory to different stores around the world to combat the grey-market trade; whether a brand’s China team was actually accomplishing anything or simply burning marketing budget and buying fake followers (it was the latter); how tall to make a new high-heel shoe to appeal more to the East Asia market; and which “non-blogger” influential individuals a French fashion brand should work with to promote a new collection.
The nature of our data engine is such that we can easily address questions like this across verticals, regions, and industries, so our client base includes everyone from luxury and fashion brands to major museums, grocery store chains, and global consumer goods companies.
The best part about our clients’ wide spectrum of concerns is that we’re able to rapidly incorporate new functionalities into the data engine, so it becomes more useful to clients over time and can in many ways anticipate their business concerns.
Why is this product important for unfamiliar markets, in particular China?
Avery: Enflux is a crucial partner for our clients in tough global markets like China and Latin America, where they have limited expertise or data. This is because Enflux uses transparent data to paint a picture of a company’s performance and opportunities in a given market, and digs far deeper than the surface metrics that companies often have to go on.
For companies with offices or teams based in these difficult countries, we provide a layer of validation to check whether that team is driving real conversion and consumer interest or whether they’re simply buying fake social media fans and wasting money on high-priced media partnerships with low conversion rates.
We’ve already had clients fire their international partners in countries like China because of Enflux data. In one case, we showed a Paris-based client that their China partner had essentially been wasting marketing resources for years, despite providing Paris with rosy (albeit heavily fudged) reports all the while. In another case, we helped a New York client save nearly half a million dollars on an Asia marketing campaign by finding media and celebrity partners that were less expensive (but more effective) than those recommended by their local team.
When it’s so easy for data to be faked, it’s important to have a partner that looks at a much wider and deeper range of sources, digs into the competitive landscape, then triangulates all of this information and makes informed predictions for where things are headed. Otherwise, companies are just taking the word of their global teams or PR partners at face value.
Are there any upcoming events for Enflux?
Avery: Later this autumn and into winter 2017 we will hold breakfast briefings in Europe and the US, and will likely hold private client events around the re-launch of our website in November.
And if people are interested in learning more how can they get in touch?
Avery: Anybody interested in learning more about what we do and collaborating on a program can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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