May 01, 2013

Why Must The Marketer Measure The Merchant?

I want to expand upon a comment I received yesterday.  I don't get many comments ... social media experts would blame me in some way for not meeting their expectations ... but some of the comments end up provoking subsequent thought.

Here's the comment:

"As a marketer, why do we owe it to our merchandising team to tell them, in a changing environment, how items are performing?  Shouldn't it be their job?"

There are so many thoughts that come to mind.  Let's address the thoughts.  Leave a comment at the end of the post, and offer your thoughts.

Aptitude:  This concept is so poorly understood that it deserves a blog post.  Marketers who analyze must pick up a broom, and analyze issues for others.  What is a merchant good at?  Merchandise!  This means that the merchant is unlikely to possess the talent to analyze issues properly.  And because the merchant is unlikely to possess the talent to analyze issues properly, the systems that support the merchant are likely to be poorly designed.  And when systems are poorly designed, the quality of analysis is likely to suffer.  Those who have aptitude must pick up a broom, and clean up messes created by those who do not possess aptitude.

Leadership:  I learned this early in my career.  Those who analyze marketing issues have influence in the marketing department.  Those who analyze business issues have influence across the company.  We have a responsibility to "connect the dots" ... there is an interplay between marketing, creative, and merchandising that is simply not well understood.  By only focusing on marketing, we miss 2/3 of the reason why success/failure happens.  We need to lead, to help all of our co-workers understand how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Accountability:  This happens, all the time.  Business stinks.  Fingers are pointed.  And they're pointed right at you ... the marketer!  It's your fault!  Your pay-per-click campaign is attracting the wrong kind of buyer.  Accountability is shared, of course.  Business stinks because nobody wants to buy merchandise the way we are creatively presenting it, via the marketing channels currently utilized.  By analyzing merchandise productivity and creative strategy, we help foster an environment of shared accountability.

Finance:  If you don't measure something, Finance will.  You don't want to let Finance measure things.  Not because Finance folks measure things poorly, but because their worldview leads to Finance-centric conclusions.  When you work in partnership with Finance, Merchandise, Marketing, and Creative, you move toward customer-centric solutions.

Perspective:  When you are measuring merchandising issues, you learn about different perspectives.  This is important.  Not everything in life is about optimization or advertising.  You learn why a merchant introduced new items.  You learn why outstanding inventory management is directly linked to company profitability.  You learn why the creative team is moving away from proven creative treatments.  In other words, you learn how to run a business.

Performance:  So often, marketing fails because of merchandise productivity.  When customers like merchandise at 90% of the rate of the prior year, marketing activities will perform 10% worse.  Our instinct is to dive in and measure marketing performance.  This is opposite of what we should do.  We should dive in and measure merchandise productivity.

Career Advancement:  There's a reason why so few marketers and analytics experts run companies.  When you gain the perspective earned by analyzing merchandising issues, you become a well rounded individual.  Eventually, you'll get career opportunities outside of marketing/analytics.  Those career opportunities are invaluable, if you want to lead a company or a division of a company.

Change:  It's really hard to enact change if all you do is count the number of visitors from affiliate websites.  Change happens when a marketer, creative expert, and a merchant forge a shared vision.

Merchandise Forensics (click here please) now comprise nearly half of my projects.  Clearly, we're on to something ... it is becoming obvious that we can't enable change simply by adding channels and hoping that an omnichannel future leads to riches.  Obviously, the merchandise we sell, presented creatively, makes a big difference.

Time for your thoughts.  Please leave a comment.