Article: Disciplined Merchandising

Required for e-Retailing Success

Merchandising performance is a key driver of retailing success and is the global process through which products are produced, sourced, and sold all over the world. Merchandising is also using the retail space or your website as a medium of communication.

Disciplined merchandising whether in stores, on the Internet, or through catalogues can place your products in front of high value consumer segments, strengthen retail brands, and enhance both your top and bottom line. It’s well known that the best retailers make merchandising the core of their business.

As such, developing a successful on-line presence requires an investment of time, effort, and money, plus retailing and on-line commerce experience. It is not easily fulfilled utilizing rigid, template driven shopping cart software that allow little flexibility with their ‘One size fits all’ credo.

For example, as customers enter a retail location, they build impressions of that retailer based on what they experience. Merchandising helps create the experience that you the retailer want them to have. Merchandising may include a wide range of features that may be special displays, signs that promote certain products or offers, and collateral material that provide more detailed information, yet you are the experienced retailer that determines the impression. It is through the effective use of these and other merchandising techniques that you generate the selling opportunities.

Although merchandising processes are somewhat different for e-Retailers compared to store based operators as they require a greater emphasis on Visual Merchandising, the basic principles are the same for all types of retailing.

As a traditional retailer you should leverage your “physical” assets to build a “bricks and clicks” organization that can deliver seamless offerings across multiple channels to build and strengthen customer loyalty. You have an inherent advantage of a name that is already recognized in your market. This strong brand name provides many benefits of awareness and credibility for establishing your web presence.

Being an existing ‘brick and mortar’ retailer, you already have several relatively low cost mechanisms for your promotion. This can include your web addresses in advertising campaigns as well as printing your web addresses in your store catalogues and store receipts. Moreover, you can also tie your store loyalty cards and catalogues circulation lists to in-house mailing lists in order to increase awareness and usage of your online channel.

Furthermore, as discussed in previous articles, establishing an online presence can help you track the URL that shoppers came from or the email message that motivated them to shop. You will know how many unique shoppers come to your site and how many of them ultimately make a purchase. This knowledge is often too expensive to obtain in real world retailing.

As a retailer, whether large or small, you should try the click-and-mortar strategy. After all, it is an additional sales channel that addresses the consumers’ demand for having a product when, where, and the way in which they want it. This will also allow you to improve your financial performance without adding stores. With today’s increased pressures of competition and eroding margins, then growing store sales and increasing your margins can be made through more effective merchandising and sales on the Internet. – John Shenton – March, 2002