October 06, 2014

Diagnostics: Why Merchandise Matters

Too often, marketers and analysts don't like merchants. 

This happens for a good reason, of course. Have you ever been in a meeting with a merchant? Nine minutes into the meeting, you're being inundated with "trend right" dialogue surrounding the fall merchandise assortment. You're skeptical, of course, because sales are 8% below plan. So you chime in with semi-helpful comment like "well, maybe we shouldn't have reduced skus" or "turtlenecks sure aren't trend right, now are they?"

You quickly learn that it is time to duck under the table, in an effort to insulate your skull from the forthcoming concussion.

You thought your comments would be helpful. Now you are being told that you should never pay more than $0.39 for a non-branded Chino keyword because we don't want to acquire customers like that because we'd rather sell the customer wear-to-work and not casual weekend wear. You're biting your lip, because now you are curious as to why we even sell casual weekend wear if we'd rather not be selling it? But you don't dare say anything after the verbal peppering you just endured, especially given how everybody else in the room failed to offer you cover.

From that point forward, the merchant elects to ignore you ... and you elect to ignore merchandise. You focus on omnichannel issues, you A/B test the big orange button coupled with a 20% off message against a small blue button with a free shipping message. Pretty soon, entire conferences are organized around every possible digital strategy that doesn't include selling merchandise.

Merchandise matters, of course, because it is what the customer purchases. And when business is not meeting expectations, it isn't because of your $0.39 payment threshold on non-branded Chino keywords. When business is not meeting expectations, it is highly likely that the customer doesn't like the merchandise offered, or doesn't like the way the merchandise is being presented. That's it.

I'm 25 for 30 now ... a readily apparent merchandising issue has been identified in 25 of the past 30 Merchandise Forensics projects. And yet, my inbox is full of comments from readers like "is there a better way to leverage organic search in a world where organic reach on Facebook is no longer viable?"

Go analyze merchandising issues. Merchandise matters! Don't worry about the repercussions of a merchant mulching you publicly in a meeting ... you're only being mulched because there is truth in what you are saying.