July 28, 2014

What Has Changed Since "Hillstrom's Merchandise Forensics"?

Merchandise.

It's the reason customers purchase from the businesses we manage. And in early 2013, it became obvious that many businesses crawled into a hole in late 2008, conserving cash, and never popped back out of that hole. Hence, I wrote Hillstrom's Merchandise Forensics (click here).

See, I'd sit in meetings or participate on calls, listening to the marketing team get beaten over the head because the business was down 8% to plan. You'd hear all sorts of interesting comments.

  • "Did you forecast the business incorrectly?"
  • "Are your SEO efforts sub-standard? Why are we paying for terms that we could get for free?"
  • "Email marketing stinks - nobody buys from email unless there's 30% off plus free shipping. You marketers ruined that channel, didn't you?"
  • "Why do you insist on mailing the wrong customers all the time?"
  • "Amazon doesn't have a catalog and they seem to be doing pretty well, maybe it is time to bring some of those folks in here to shake things up."
Meanwhile, the merchandising team got less scrutiny. Much less scrutiny. Sometimes they were so immune to criticism that they piled on the marketing team.

I conducted 27 Merchandise Forensics projects since conceiving the content in the booklet.

In 22 of the 27 projects, there was a clear merchandising problem that was easy to understand, and potentially easy to fix. If the problem could be fixed, marketing productivity would immediately increase, and the level of criticism over marketing tactics would (theoretically) cease, or at least change to topics more strategic in nature.

What changed since releasing the booklet?

Accountability.

I get emails from many of you. I'm told that you've implemented the reporting in the book yourself, and you, too, learned that there are merchandising issues, issues that can be fixed. You've told me that company reporting focuses on counts (what sells, what day it sells, what channel it sells in), and does not focus on merchandise dynamics across time. That is changing. You tell me that both marketing and information technology folks are producing reporting that enables marketing staffers to understand how merchandise productivity is impacting the business.

You tell me that you've restructured your departments, that you've added links between marketing and merchandising, matrixed relationships, so that each side can teach each other how the business works.

You tell me that you've created new product goals.

You tell me that you've created a "path to success" for items, giving more digital and print real estate to newer items moving up the productivity ladder.

In other words, you've exceeded my expectations!

You've done really, really good work.

You decided that merchandise is truly important. And for that, I am grateful.