When Your Data Tells You to Stop Making a Product You Love

When Wei and I launched our women’s outerwear brand Avantūr, we started with coats because we loved them, and because they were the product that best represented our brand. Bold, adventurous, architectural — so much about one’s personal style can be gleaned from one’s coat!

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But, two years in, our love of coats and our customer data have crashed head on. After analyzing our website and online shopping platform data, sales data and anecdotal customer feedback, we learned that the data doesn’t lie. In fact, it’s been critical to help us make a strong, numbers-based rather than emotional decision to change our product mix and revamp our merchandising strategy to drive more sales.

When we launched with only coats, we knew it would be tough. Outerwear in general is a difficult category — coats sell at a higher price point, are typically bought only once a season (if at all), and are rarely an impulse buy but rather a considered, thoughtful purchase.

Knowing this, in our second season, we refreshed our merchandising strategy and added less expensive outerwear accessories to the mix. We realized that coats were always going to be critical, “showpiece” products for us, but accessories, as less expensive introductions to the brand, were great entry points for new buyers.

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After a first season of only coats, then a second season of coats and accessories, the data was clear. Sales volume for accessories was much higher than sales volume for coats, and we sold nearly 100% of accessories at full price, which meant higher profit margins, which was not the case for coats.

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Our online customer shopping data told a similar story. While our website and other online shopping platforms showed a similar number of views, likes and general interest across all of our products, accessories had a much higher conversion rate, eg, views resulting in sales.

Anecdotal feedback from customers around how they purchased coats — once a year, very thoughtfully given the higher price point, very dependent on the weather — made it very clear that we needed to adjust.

While none of this was what we expected when we launched, we quickly learned to take these results into account and adjust our plans. Today we’re at an 80/20 mix of accessories vs. coats, and it’s very, very likely that in another year that mix will change again!

By looking at our data after every season and leveraging it to decide what to produce next, we’ve boosted sales by more than 50%. We’ll keep experimenting until we find that elusive “perfect” mix for our buyers.

Learn from us: trust your gut, but leverage your data, even if it tells you to stop making a product you love!

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