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IBM Social Sentiment Index Predicts New Retail Trend in the Making

Analytics points to the "Birth of a Trend," steampunk aesthetic to pervade pop culture in 2013

NEW YORK, Jan. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- National Retail Federation Convention -- Based on an analysis of more than a half million public posts on message boards, blogs, social media sites and news sources, IBM (NYSE: IBM) predicts that 'steampunk,' a sub-genre inspired by the clothing, technology and social mores of Victorian society, will be a major trend to bubble up, and take hold, of the retail industry. Major fashion labels, accessories providers and jewelry makers are expected to integrate a steampunk aesthetic into their designs in the coming year.

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Measuring public sentiment can help retail chief marketing officers customize incentives and services to be more in tune with what customers are asking for, using data to tailor their offerings to address fast-moving trends and real-time customer needs.

Through its sentiment analysis, IBM has found that steampunk is evolving into a cultural 'meme' via a series of leaps across cultural domains (such as fiction, visual arts, etc). A combination of science fiction and fantasy, steampunk is a sub-genre based around gothic machinery and the industrialized civilization of the 19th century.  Rooted in the designs of the industrialized civilization of the 19th century, steampunk is a retro-futuristic style of fashion that is influenced by the works of Jules Verne, Nikola Tesla, HG Wells and more.

Using advanced analytics, IBM has been able to track the spread of trends geographically, chronologically and now, culturally. From 2009 to 2012, the amount of steampunk chatter has increased eleven-fold.  Since 2010, more than two dozen US department stores and specialty retailers have become steampunk savvy. During the next two years, IBM predicts that steampunk will shift from low production, high cost "craft" manufacturing to mass production.  

IBM's "Birth of a Trend" project is a unique effort dedicated to understanding the science behind predicting online trends that can revolutionize an industry. By studying how online trends spread globally, IBM provides deep insights into whether what's trending on social networks is, or is likely to become, commercially viable.

Interesting points of analysis

  • 33 percent of online fashion chatter around steampunk can be found on gaming sites
  • 2010 saw a year on year increase in chatter of 296 percent. This increase can be attributed to steampunk-inspired NYC ComicCon events in October of 2010
  • Twitter is the #1 social network for steampunk chatter; hosts six times the number of discussions as Facebook
  • 63 percent of fashion discussions around steampunk are initiated by individuals less than 30 years old
  • 55 percent of social sentiment chatter for steampunk fashion derived by blogs

"Smart retailers are using social analytics to better understand, predict and shape consumer demand for 'must-have' products before a particular trend gets saturated in the marketplace," said Trevor Davis, Consumer Products Expert with IBM's Global Business Services. "By staying ahead of a trend as it develops, a retailer can more effectively control critical merchandizing, inventory and planning decisions. Technology can provide tremendous foresight to help businesses differentiate what is a fleeting fad, versus what is an enduring trend."

The IBM Social Sentiment Index combines sophisticated analytics and natural language processing technologies to gauge consumer public opinions from Twitter, blogs, message boards and other social media.

About the IBM Social Sentiment Index

The IBM Social Sentiment Index uses advanced analytics and natural language processing technologies to analyze large volumes of social media data in order to assess public opinions. The Index can identify and measure positive, negative and neutral sentiments shared in public forums such as Twitter, blogs, message boards and other social media, and provide quick insights into consumer conversations about issues, products and services. Representing a new form of market research, social sentiment analyses offer organizations new insights that can help them better understand and respond to consumer trends. IBM's social sentiment capabilities are delivered on an industry-leading big data platform that can access, store and analyze any data regardless of how fast it is moving, what type it is, or where it resides.  

For more information about IBM Social Sentiment Index, please visit Follow the conversation at #IBMPopData on Twitter. 

Pasha Ray Dahncke
IBM Communications
Cell: 646-342-4013


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