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

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

Last month, I wrote about five key considerations to keep in mind when evaluating merchandizing tools and your initiatives (http://blog.retail-merchandiser.com/?p=211).  This post will expand on that and discuss four additional points to consider to help you drive success with your merchandizing efforts.

1. In search, context is king

The context of a consumer’s search is as important as the search itself. Here are a few questions you may want your tool to find the answers for and then weave them into the execution of merchandizing rules. Do you know this customer? What did he/she buy in the past? What do you know about the customer’s current session? Have they logged in with a Facebook account and provided me with access to what they like? Or what have they pinned on their Pinterest board? You may have that product in your store, and, although they haven’t searched for it explicitly, why not show it anyway? How did they interact with your business on other channels? Have they bought from your stores or via your mobile site? Can you create rules that take this effectively into account?

Can you present products depending upon a customer’s location? Can you factor in real-time stock levels?  Successfully blending product, order, customer and stock level information with the real-time context of the customer allows for very powerful merchandizing.

2. Promotions are more than just displaying a banner

Displaying a promotion is often more complex than just showing a banner.  It depends on a customer’s context as well as the context of the page or the navigation, and economical aspects play a role, too. Some of these factors have to be evaluated in real-time. For example, a promotion may be limited in how many customers can use it. You don’t want to show a promotion to your customer first, only to tell them later that they are no longer entitled to it.

3. Can you re-use your merchandizing tool across customer touch points?

By design each customer touch point has different characteristics, which merchandizers have to cater to. Although the goal is fundamentally still the same (getting the right product at the right time in front of the customer) the way to achieve it is different. What works very well via one touch point may not work so well through another.  For example, on a website it’s perfectly acceptable to have a search & navigation bar, show cross- and up-sell products, and have many filters and sometimes long lists of products. Research, though, has shown that customers rarely use their mobile phones in the same way that they use browsers on a notebook or desktop. In fact they often have the clear intent to find the one product they are standing in front of.  So the journey would probably not start with browsing, and the intent would most likely be to find a specific product very quickly. As a result merchandizing needs to happen on the product detail page, but in a way that does not distract the customer from the product they have already expressed interest in. Additionally, the tool set should support the merchandizing of accessories or similar alternatives in the space available.

Merchandizing tools that work across touch points can also be used to support customer service or sales personnel in-store. Tablets that provide access to content fed by the merchandizing tool can help salespeople stay educated, which leads to more effective and insightful interactions with customers, thus increasing the likelihood of sales.

4. Does your merchandizing tool play well with others?

As in the physical world, merchandizing is a team sport in the virtual world. Various tools have to work together to provide that great customer experience and bring out the products your customers love and are profitable for you. On any typical state-of-the-art commerce site, you’ll find a zoo of tools that have to be working together. Web Content Management, Recommendation Engines, Search & Navigation, Product Content, Behavioral targeting engines, Review Engines and many more. Some may have overlapping functionality; some may claim they can do it all. The reality, though, is that they all have their individual strengths. If orchestrated in the right way they can really make your revenue explode, but the opposite is true, too. So it’s important to merchandisers that they have a centralized view on all these tools and get a good and precise understanding of how they affect a customer’s journey, so these tools do good and not harm.

In Closing

Merchandizing is a team sport. So when selecting your tool set, think about how your perfect team looks so that it can deliver the trophies you deserve.  And be sure to feed your tool with quality content and leverage the tool across customer touch points for the most impactful merchandizing results.

Steven Kramer is North America President of hybris, www.hybris.com 

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