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There is no Silver Bullet to Guarantee Online Merchandizing Success – but There are Ways to Improve Your Chances (Part One)

Guest Blog by Steven Kramer, North America President of hybris, www.hybris.com 

Matching your business’ interests with those of your online customers’ is a delicate balancing act.  On the one hand, you want the customer to find the product that they are looking for, but on the other you also want to influence their purchasing decisions based on your preferences (e.g. if a certain product has a higher margin, there are too many of a particular product in stock, it’s the end of a product line, etc.).

Successful online merchandizing is not enabled by just one tool. It is a mixture of various techniques, the data you have and, last but not least, your own gut feel.  Following are five key considerations to keep in mind when you are evaluating merchandizing tools and your efforts:

1. How good is your data?

The old saying of “garbage in equals garbage out” is as true in merchandizing as anywhere else. Does the tool you are evaluating give you the ability to:

- Effectively administrate, govern and steward the data you want to use?

- Help you to improve the overall quality of your data?

- Ensure consistency across various data outlets and not just your merchandizing tool?

- Give you the ability to define and manage the facets you will later show to your customers?

Ultimately, good data management means good navigation and effective search.

2. Do you think about going global?

Support for multi-language on the front end, as well as in the back end, will be key for a successful global roll-out.  Often tools struggle due to the additional amount of data that’s required for multi-language support.  Keep in mind that, while tools often provide the additional language packs, they come at a significant extra cost and often synonym dictionaries are not available.  Languages such as Chinese or Arabic are a no-go.

3. How complex is your pricing model?

Do you really have only one price per product, as often assumed by merchandizing tools?  If not, because of the approach that merchandizing tools take to index your data, by flattening the data structure, billions of data rows are not uncommon.  Can your tool deal with this Big Data-style situation?

4. Can you create association between products?

Certainly guided navigation and a great search can do a lot, but what’s also really powerful is establishing cross, up or accessory relations.  The set-up, management and handling of bundles is also a very powerful merchandizing mechanism that requires more than a powerful search.

5. Can you create landing pages dynamically?

Your customer searched for a specific brand.  Wouldn’t it be great to have them land on a page dedicated just to that one brand?  Alternatively, they may search for a category, for example, running shoes.  Why not have them land on a page dedicated to running, presenting shoes and additional running gear along with promotions relevant to their search?

The above are guidelines to help you in your merchandizing tool evaluation and overall online efforts.  In a follow-up post, I’ll provide five additional points to consider, focusing on relevancy, promotions, information access, cross-channel and tool integration, to help you drive success with your merchandizing initiatives.

Steven Kramer is North America President of hybris, www.hybris.com. Today’s guest blog is part one in a two part series. Part two will run in January 2013. 

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