The majority of Zara’s new design ideas do not come from the fashion shows in Milan, Paris, or even New York. Most of these new ideas actually come from the sales staff in Zara stores. Every two weeks, the various store managers gather their teams together to take a look at new arrivals, observations by the sales staff of what their fashionable customers are wearing. The main point of the meeting is to discuss products that customers ask for but can’t find in stores. All this information is sent directly and analyzed by the headquarters in Spain, and is then forwarded to the design team.
One Zara staff member I was able to talk about this with gave me an excellent example of how effective this method is. He explained, for instance, that if there’s high demand for red in an item, the sales staff will send in this information and the item will then be produced in red and sent out to stores in about 3 weeks.
Another example: If lots of sales staff notice that fashionable customers are wearing high boots, they’ll send in this information so that these boots can be produced quickly, as well as other items that may be sold alongside them.
Data processing for optimal efficiency
Zara’s business model is based on two essential elements: listening to customers via the employees on site, and reactivity in quickly processing the information received and acting accordingly. From a very young age, Amancio Ortega, the creator of Zara and founder of the Inditex Group, has always realized the importance of humility in managers. He created a group that constantly analyzes the data from thousands of stores all over the world.
The Inditex headquarters data center | Source: Inditex
Actually, the Inditex Group works more like a tech company than a traditional fashion retailer. In tech lingo, “agile development” refers to a method of building software products, and instead of planning for big roll-outs in advance, teams provide small, regular batches of updates, improving their product with each new batch in response to the requests from customers gathered by sales staff.
I’ve realized the power of this information cycle since I started setting it up with certain retailers. Every day, our team of analysts analyzes feedback from the field from several international brands in Europe and Canada, and detect “reliable feedback”. Vendors use the FrontVoice interface to share insights and it’s incredible to see how this information is accurate when you manage to aggregate it correctly. It’s a high-precision job with a final result that shows how, collectively, the judgment of employees in stores is so close to reality.
Zara’s search bar and data collector
Zara chose to place its search bar as prominently as possible, putting it at the head of its home page. Instead of a simple magnifying glass, you can find the word “___________SEARCH” in large print. The interest here is to prompt visitors to choose to perform a search using keywords rather than browsing by using the site’s menu.
But their originality doesn’t stop there; when you click on the search field, the content of the page you’re on at that moment disappears, replaced by the simple search field on a white background.
You’re left with something like the homepage of Google: a logo, a search bar, and that’s it! Let’s take a look at the purpose of this function:
Here, Zara’s goal is to have visitors do a search with no filters. You can’t filter results by color, price, size, availability, etc. Here, the extended filter bar is hidden. That way, visitors have to enter keywords. It’s a bit like the difference between a multiple-choice question and an open question.
With this slick trick, Zara can gather all the searches done by visitors, and all the keywords they use. Zara wants to know exactly what its customers are looking forand to do this, will get rid of any obstacle that can stand in the way of this goal, so that visitors concentrate only on what they really want, independently of what already exists on the site.
This technique once again lets Zara gather millions of pieces of data that will be analyzed. The aggregation mechanism will detect the most relevant results, which will then be transferred to the design department (same principle as above). The last reports issued from our analysis team at FrontVoice contain terms that are so precise that the purchasing department can immediately act on them.
Zara’s obsession with customer demand both online and offline is the first ingredient in its recipe for success.
Jonathan from FrontVoice “Listen to The Voice of Your Frontline Employees”