InnoKOL | Geneviève Flaven: the Value of Data Results from An Interaction between An Observer, A Technology and A Context

2019/09/18 Innoverview Read

On September.18th, we had great honor of interviewing Ms.Geneviève Flaven,Founder& Managing Partner of Style-Vision Asia,which is the leading trend research and design consulting company in France. She shared her expertise on how to identify, understand and explain social evolutions and consumer’s expectations and translate those insights into design directions for future products.

Innoverview: How would you describe yourself in three words? What’s your motto?


Culture. Change. Cooperation

My moto: Be the change that you wish to see in the world!

Innoverview: Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? 


 I am graduated in Economics from French Business School ESSEC and I ‘ve got a postgraduate in Econometrics and Game theory. 

After a couple of years of work in consulting and IT, I cofounded a trend and design consulting company in 2001 in France and after 10 years in Europe I moved the company to Shanghai in 2010. Since the end of 2018, I come back progressively in Europe.

Innoverview: When I research your experience on internet, I'm thrilled to find you produced the 

amazing stage show called 99Women,please tell us something about that.


Yes, sure. Since then I have directed 5 more projects, in China,India,France,Tunisia and USA......but this is my second career. :-)

Innoverview: And we’d love to hear what brought you to Retail.


Retail (and especially Fashion retail) has been an important sector for my company in China because its evolution was extremely fast. 

The development of distribution networks, shopping malls & ecommerce, everything happened at the same time in China and brands needed some support to navigate successfully in such a fast-moving business context: how to understand and respond to the market needs with successful products? How to differentiate from competitors?

Innoverview: Your area of expertise is to identify, understand and explain social evolutions and consumer’s expectations and translate those insights into design directions for future products. Could you share 1-2 prominent cases among the 350 creative projects you’ve delivered?


In the retail area, my work is to help the teams of buyers and stylists at each step of the development of a “collection” that is a comprehensive and structured set of products. The development of a collection requires many steps that needs to be very carefully mastered to lead to success. sourcing of samples, colors selection, materials selection, seasonal themes and inspiration, collection plan, key looks, design, fitting, craftmanship, etc…


We had many successful projects, but I want to mention two of them.  

1/ Hotwind is a large shoes retailer in China with 800+ stores in China. Hotwind wanted to develop a better fashion collection with products such as socks, lingerie, bags, wallets, and clothes… to increase the value of the shopping bag. At that time on 54% of customer was 

buying only shoes. 

But the Hotwind team was totally unable to do a good mix and match of the whole collection (shoes, apparel, bags and accessories) because they were lacking of fashion awareness. 

We implemented a guide for buyers to purchase the right products according to trends and combine them to create smarter matches between the products (including shoes) so that clients can buy more items. After one year, the turnover generated the apparel, bags and accessories collections increased by 25 %. As Apparel, bags and accessories represented 45% of the total revenue of Hotwind in China (an increase of 25% was surely a LOT of money!)


2/ Sandriver is a luxury cashmere brand in China with 15 stores in China and a large ecommerce website (mostly in European countries). Sandriver wanted to develop a collection that could sells more to young people. But her style was too old. We developed a very trendy color range (combining basic colors and trendy colors) as well as catchy product to attract younger consumers. Catchy products are not meant to be good sellers but they create traction and image.

The sales of the season increased by 30 percent and enables Sandriver to open 3 more shops in China. 

This two examples illustrate the two main problems of fashion retail brands

- select the right products in the right colors to attract their consumers.

-improve the mix and match to increase the value of the basket.

Scott D. Williams-GM of Tojoy Capital: What are good ways to research and be in the top of latest trends to decide your seasonal collections?


In the past, fashion trends were analyzed with a mix of intuition and rational thinking by trend forecasters like us. Today, Big Data is becoming an important part of intuition-based,sometimes self-fulfilling and unpredictable industry.

Innoverview: As technology continues to evolve, it transforms the retail process at a fast pace, generating new consumer demands from retailers concerning their shopping experiences. From your experience and perspective, what are the game-changing technologies? How will the technologies drive business success? How do you think of the emerging technologies such as AI,IoT?


I think“Big data” will be more and more important change to understand consumer profiles and offer a customized section of products. In the past, fashion trends were analyzed with a mix of intuition and rational thinking by trend forecasters like us. Today, Big Data is becoming an important part of this intuition-based, sometimes self-fulfilling and unpredictable industry.

However, Big data applications nowadays focus mostly on selling : data are used to learn more about customers profiles, their requests and make recommendations on the fly based on their profiles and selections.  

But the buying side of retail ( this means the offering provided to the customer) is a bit more neglected so far both to measure the efficiency of a collection but as well to improve the design of the future collection

In addition to this I think RFID technology can be very useful for high value items bothe in store and online. 

IoT is already very important especially Voice Technology.

Scott D. Williams-GM of Tojoy Capital: Can you expand on what you mean by voice technology?


I mean tools like "Alexa",consumers already use them at home so why not in stores? Many technology innovations can contribute to reinforce the digital and physical connections in retail stores. Data capture with camera to manage the consumer flows in shopping malls and for instance help to find parking spaces or augmented reality to create immersive retail environment.

Innoverview: Nowadays, value proposition of physical stores is evolving from being a distribution channel to that of a platform for discovery, engagement, experience and interaction. What’s your suggestions for retail commercial centers to unlock the power of transformative business models in physical and digital spaces?


The technologies I mentionned before (data capture, voice activation or auglented reality) are meant to reinforce the connection between physical and digital world. There are as well other ways to make physical stores more attractive. But this is less based on technology perse. shopping mall and commercial centers are becoming “life centers” with a wide range of services that take place In real Life 

Scott D. Williams-GM of Tojoy Capital: Does entertainment play a role in these “ life centers “?Would love to hear your views on that .


Supporting culture(art center, concert, museum) and social life( social club,citizen initiatives,etc.)can be a new opportunity for retailers because it creates digital content and traction but requires facilities,equipment and human interactions.

Innoverview:I think FEC(family entertainment center) is also like of the life centers.


Yes,correct. Services liked to education for kids as well as for parents(coaching, financial consulting)and wellbeing (spas, fitness, nutrition, mental health,etc)are going to increase.

Innoverview: Recent years have highlighted the importance of leveraging data science as a core capability throughout the organization to drive decision-making, yet it has not been adopted at the rapid rate that the industry requires. What opportunities and challenges for businesses to act now to reap the rewards of the consumer data gold rush?


Data projects are not purely technical projects.  

Fact is that the value of data results from an interaction between an observer (what does the user actually needs to make a decision?), a technology and a context (what are the specific rules that drive the business? ).

•      In many projects, the user is almost forgotten. New indicators are implemented but nobody use them because they are too many of them, they are too complicated etc…= > to address this issue, workshops with end users are important to co create the indicators or interfaces that they will use.

•      In most project, the context is completely ignored and thus data projects only show obvious facts that are common knowledge. Zero vow effect! …= > to address this issue, experts are necessary to frame the project and to zoom on the area of data / processes where the value actually is. 

For instance, I did a project for Tencent in 2018.They use AI to lean about the favourite colours of young Chinese.They collected 95 millions picture of young Chinese and anlysed the colours of their T-shirts.From a technological point of view,it's a great job.However,from the business point of view, the results were 0 added value.

Why? Because everybody knows in fashion that the 3 most common colour are black,white and grey for T-shirts.You can ask a small shop on the street.He/She will know for sure. Unfortunately, with this survey, that may have deleted more interesting insights but they had no clue of the fashion business. So Tencent did a complex work for uninteresting result.What a pity!

Innoverview: In China, there were many buzz words turned out to be flash-in-the-pan, O2O, omnichannel retail, self-service retail, etc. What do you think about it?


China is the laboratory of new retail. I think these experiments are extremely interesting and many innovations are here to stay. However, it will be important at some point to examine the social consequences of these new formats on human beings (work, social inclusion) and the environment. The disintermediation (no people, machine or consumers do it all) do not always have positive externalities. We are (I think) very naive about it. 

Innoverview: For years we've heard that disruption is coming. In reality, the retail industry is already disrupted – here is the new retail world. How will you predict the market trends and consumer insights for this new retail world?


As you mention, we see more and more that shopping mall and commercial centers are becoming “life centers” with a wide range of services beyond offering good prices and saving time.

According to me, services linked to education both for kids as well as for parents (coaching, financial consulting) and wellbeing (spas, fitness, nutrition, mental health, ….) are going to increase.

I think as well that supporting culture (art center, concert, museum) and social life (social club, citizen initiatives, etc..) can be a new opportunity for retailers because it creates digital content and traction but requires facilities, equipment and human interactions.