Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Dr. Trevor Davis, Consumer Product Expert, IBM Global Business Services

By Emily Simmons, IBM Writer, Communications

If you ask Trevor Davis what rule he lives by, he will tell you it’s to “seek the creative opportunity in everything.” As a former scientist who worked on the Space Shuttle and NASA’s International Space Station, Davis has spent his entire career using technology to create and innovate some of the most forward-thinking business solutions for companies like PwC and IBM.

Currently, Davis is a recognized expert on Consumer Products for IBM’s Global Business Services, where his colleagues say he still has a bit of the ‘mad scientist’ in him.  His new clients are primarily within the Consumer Products industry and are in the midst of a new business era — one that’s focused on empowering the consumer. Davis’s new challenge: develop new business solutions that help them reach their target markets.

Big Data has attracted manufacturer and retailer focus over the past few years, but it is the power of advanced analytics that is now playing the lead role in business strategy. Today, more and more companies are asking, “What more can we do with this information?” Davis says his clients began taking a deeper look at Big Data and want to explore how predictive analytics can offer insight into new product development and highlight trends in technology at the macroeconomic level.

As Davis’ clients challenged him to mine even deeper insight from available customer data, he began to think back on his career and wondered how he could pull from his past experiences and apply those toward his clients’ needs. For example, with the prominence of social media analytics, many are wrapping their minds around how they can take unstructured data floating around in cyber space and make concrete predictions from it.

Davis began his career as a metallurgist—one who studies the transformation of metals from their ores into new, manufactured objects. While working with metals, Davis developed an algorithm to show how liquid metals change into the solids we are all familiar with. He would never know quite how applicable this formula would become later in his career. Yet decades later, it has helped his current clientele reach loyal and prospective customers through social media.

Davis experimented with this topic by applying the same algorithm he created as a metallurgist to unstructured data he pulled from the Web. What he uncovered was that not only were two seemingly unrelated subjects alike, but he could now watch the Birth of Trend, its progression over time and in turn, predict where the movement would lead. Davis, also a teen fashion model, had stumbled across a new model for the retail industry.

One of the first trends he was able to uncover was the notion of cycle chic. This movement emerged in Copenhagen in 2007 and is most noted for beach cruiser cyclists roaming the streets in Mad Men style clothing. The trend spread quickly across Europe before jumping to the U.S. Over the next five years, the “style over speed” movement would be seen in Canada, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Designer Ralph Lauren even hosted a tweed run in 2011, encouraging participants to bike in cycle chic attire from its Rugby line.

In his latest analysis, Davis uncovered a steampunk trend, which most people would associate with fiction that employs a fashion style marked by a Victorian-era look, goggles and industrial-type clocks. While the trend is one that has been around for decades, it is now becoming mainstream for fashion designers, making impressions on the designs of Prada and storefront windows at Macy’s.

Davis believes fast-moving trends receive the most attention, but it’s the slow-moving trends that are the most powerful. Through a combination of algorithm application and statistical techniques, he is able to determine if a trend really sticks, therefore determining its power.

Now when Davis works with clients, he won’t just tell them what their customer data means. He will also share the implications of the trend, what new products a company should develop and what types of products will appeal to a mass customer base. Most importantly, he is able to help retailers become smarter—and that’s a powerful trend in itself.

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