Thursday, December 11, 2014

Meet the Team Behind Polyvore: Andrea Sandke

Get to know the Polyvore team!
As we approach the end of 2014, Andrea talks about how she analyzed Polyvore search queries to get a pulse on the community over the past year. To learn more about Andrea, check out her About Me set here. And to learn more about Polyvore’s end of year search data, check out our blog post here.

Meet the Polyvore Team: Andrea Sandke

What do you do every day?
I have a fascinating job! Every day I spend time reviewing Polyvore’s search query logs to find notable patterns in Shop search, Set search, and Editor search, and then I share insights about these trends with the rest of the Polyvore team.

How do you forecast trends?
Working with query logs every day teaches you a lot about what people want and how searchers think. The challenge is taking these query lists and spotting the underlying search patterns. That’s one big contribution human editorial can offer: noticing intriguing search connections and turning them into actionable insights.

When I started at Polyvore, one of the first features I requested for our logs tool was the ability to see related searches, queries that users searched on after their initial query, because those progressions can reveal interesting and unexpected connections, from basic user intent to the brands shoppers want when they search on something like “wedge sneakers.” This past October, I noticed an uptick in searches on “red and white striped shirts,” which could be a straightforward fashion search, right? But related queries told a different story: “Where’s Waldo shirt” and “Waldo costume.” It was a Halloween search!
This halloween dress like Waldo!

And of course there are trends that you can predict from year to year. Things like coats, gloves, and sweaters are more popular during the winter, so we can anticipate more interest overall in such items. The next step is to spot the particularly buzzy versions of those looks for each season. Camel coats and cape coats are the most-searched coats on Polyvore in the end of 2014.

How are trends reflected within the Polyvore community? I’ve noticed that many trends continue to have a longer-than-expected shelf life in search logs and in sets and collections created on Polyvore. Search logs give us a sense of what is trending for shoppers, regardless of what trends being featured in the media. For example, when Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby movie came out in 2013, 1920s styles like flapper dresses, drop-waist dresses, and beaded dresses spiked dramatically, and a year later, the trend is still going strong. I’ve also enjoyed tracking the appetite for holiday sweaters, because it really seems to be a mix of people with various intentions. You have people who are going to Ugly Christmas Sweater parties, people who are wearing these type of sweaters ironically, and then shoppers who just feel festive and want to wear something cute for the holidays.

I’m often surprised by the seemingly random, non-fashion external web queries that drive traffic to Polyvore that reveal unexpected ways people are using Polyvore. During back to school season, there’s a surge in web searches on binder covers. Those searches bring users to Polyvore where they discover other like-minded users who design their own patterns and art for binder covers.

Another external web query that surprisingly drives a lot of traffic is “what to draw”. We discovered that when artists are looking for ideas of new things to draw, many of them find their way to Polyvore.

How are Polyvore’s data trends used internally and externally? Each team at Polyvore has different uses for our trends insights. For example, the Search team looks at query patterns to help us improve SEO and identify areas where we could improve our search relevance. We share trends with the engineering team to give them feedback on developing better data mining tools. Our editorial team looks at trends to display fresh content in our mobile apps and on our site.

If you want to see what’s trending, be sure to follow Polyvore’s Editorial page to get regular inspiration from our data. For those on Twitter, keep your eye out for the #PolyData hashtag, where you can find out about the popular scarf styles for the season, top-searched Disney princesses, or top fashion searches from around the world.

Any fun facts we should know about you? I have synesthesia, which means that I experience a mixing of the senses. One of the ways this manifests is that I perceive letters, numbers, and words in particular colors -- for instance, the letter a is red for me. I’ve found that my synesthesia actually helps when working with big batches of queries; I can quickly spot clusters of related queries because their colors are similar in my mind’s eye.