Last week was the first time I attended the Shop.org Merchandising Workshop, although, our company attends every year. In addition to the impeccable setting (the California coast…I mean, c’mon), the conversations were lively and quite interesting. I’m growing to value these more topically-focused events more and more.
When attending shows, our team is of course there to evangelize our vision and solution, but we get the most value from just listening to the retailers we meet. Here are some sound bites that resonated most with our team.
The amount of product data being created is overwhelming, whether what comes from the manufacturers or what is created socially by customers. Just getting it on the product page is an accomplishment but integrating it with other site content and navigation while also optimizing it over time is a real challenge. The reality is, though, that shoppers are evolving to expect to find “the right data at the right time”.
Additionally, challenges are arising with data flow and the ability of legacy/proprietary rules management systems to keep up with the growth of data and the retailer’s evolving organization.
Many of the biggest original hurdles tied to “omnichannel” have been surpassed for some retailers; shared inventory, “buy online, pickup in store”, shared customer account data, etc. Retailers are now starting to talk about the omnichannel “experience”. How does the product data, the merchandising, the brand content and each channel-specific engagement build upon one another to create an experience that feels cohesive, enlightening, modern and memorable.
This challenge will not be solved in the next year, especially as most retailers are still figuring out their mobile infrastructure strategy. The short-term silver bullet is cohesive merchandising data that is readily available within a fully responsive site, and easily integrated with something like a separate mdot site. In apparel, for example, 1/3 of shoppers will research an item online before walking into a store to buy. Make sure they can find something that is relevant and exciting online, and then make sure it’s similarly merchandised in both channels increasing the chance for a conversion.
Innovative retailers are trying to deploy technologies that represent the overall culture of their brands. For companies like Urban Decay, that means working with bleeding-edge vendors that are highly skilled and willing to take the right kind of risks. (Check out the case study we discussed together at our Shop.org Merchandising roundtable.) As shoppers embrace more and more channels and devices, retailers have to make decisions and get aligned around an integrated channel strategy. Do you want to be social-centric and drive the majority of sales through your ecomm site, or is your primary goal to attract mobile customers and drive them into the store?
This becomes even more complicated as retailers look to capitalize on the continued growth of general digital engagement and potential revenue. What new shoppers do you want to attract? How do you also retain your most important customers? The answers to these questions should drive the way that each retailer’s product merchandising content is created, iterated on, presented and shared. The content sets the tone, and the tone either resonates with the right people, or not.
We’re excited about these challenges that we hope to help retailers address, and we’ll be back to listen again next year at Shop.org Merchandising.