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Executive interview: How Figleaves uncovers a data Eden

Online lingerie business that started out at the height of the dot com boom is now focused on using advanced analytics to reveal new data insights

Online lingerie company Figleaves is celebrating its 21st anniversary. Now owned by N Brown Group, the online retailer has, over the past few years, updated both its business and its technology stack.

It has moved off an in-house-developed e-commerce platform and, from a business development perspective, Figleaves is actively growing its own brand of lingerie products. Becoming a data-driven business has become a key requirement as the company evolves.

Angus Jenkins heads up e-commerce at Figleaves. He joined the company two years ago as part of a drive to refresh its approach to technology to support a new business strategy.

“One of the big changes is that we’ve been building our own brand,” says Jenkins. “Instead of just being a retailer, our growth is in our brand. This means we need to occupy different types of digital marketing arenas and spend a lot more cash on social media and digital presence.”

When Jenkins joined Figleaves, the technology it was using dated back to 1999, and the company was actively moving off these legacy platforms to modern off-the-shelf products and software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms. 

In the past, Figleaves relied on customer relationship management (CRM) and e-commerce platforms that it developed itself. But the world of e-commerce has moved on, and the company has been rethinking its approach.

“One of the things that occurred to us was that we were in a 21-year-old business,” says Jenkins. “This is a mindset shift. Over the years, we’ve seen a fundamental change in how businesses adopt and bring in third-party technologies.”

Figleaves took a strategic decision to stop supporting its in-house e-commerce platform and migrate onto the Salesforce Commerce cloud. Jenkins says this had a knock-on effect on how the business operates, how it uses newer technology and what technology it decides to develop in-house.

Read more about advanced analytics

Among the areas it wanted to focus on was changing its approach to data and reporting to get a consistent trusted view across different emerging business processes. In the past, the company’s data had been quite siloed, and it was a challenge to pull the right data sources together to make data-driven business decisions.

One of the drivers that led Figleaves to rework its data analytics was a blip in trading. “We saw trading changes and didn’t understand why,” says Jenkins.

It took the team three days to figure out that the blip was caused by competitive pricing on a particular product range. To understand competitive pricing on a subset of brands on Google, the analytics team needed to assemble the data manually.

Beyond competitive analysis, Jenkins sees metrics as fundamental to the development of the Figleaves brand digitally. “We spent quite a lot of time understanding how we could use YouTube instead of traditional TV advertising,” he says, adding that Figleaves wanted to correlate audience intent with platforms such as Facebook. 

“Playing in wholesale means we think about stock and merchandising,” he says. “So we have to build these metrics into business models with rafts of data we didn’t have before.”

Meaningful data in one place

Figleaves has begun using Avora to obtain meaningful insight from the data it collects. The Avora machine learning augmented analytics platform gives Figleaves one set of reporting in a single system that lets different departments look at key areas, such as products, promotional activities, traffic, customer behaviour, stock availability, rate of sales and returns. 

The company generates millions of bytes of session data each day and has more than 200 variants of size and colour for a single product, including its own range and numerous other brands. Avora provides reporting over granular data, such as stock availability, rate of sale, type of traffic, level of intent to purchase, and a slew of other data points.

Previously, this could only ever be seen from a macro perspective. As well as having all its data in one place and putting algorithms around it, Figleaves’ data analysts can now spend their time more strategically to better support the business.

Avora fits in with Figleaves’ strategy to buy off-the-shelf software. The platform provides 350 built-in integrations for ingesting data from external sources into its hybrid cloud database architecture. The pre-built connectors for ingesting data from common database platforms and social media sites means Figleaves does not have to maintain custom integration to connect to social media sites.

The Avora software replaces the company’s data silos with a single data warehouse with a snapshot of the social media data feeds and a read-only view of Figleaves’ internal transactional systems.

Jenkins hopes Avora will draw attention to discrepancies, detect anomalies and identify positive and negative changes in particular marketing campaigns. “If some parts are not performing very well, we can see what is not working,” he says.

Moving from data silos to a single data analytics platform will help Figleaves support where the business wants to go. It no longer sees itself purely as an online lingerie retailer, and Jenkins hopes Avora will help the company make informed decisions on pricing based on what its competitors are doing, its stock position and its margins.

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