March 09, 2017

Killing Off A Popular Item

In the past year, my projects illustrate a consistent theme.
  1. Merchants kill off a popular item.
  2. Merchants do not replace the popular item with an acceptable new item.
  3. Demand declines.
  4. Marketing gets yelled at.
Here's a good example. Take a look at this item - the graph depicts monthly demand for an item introduced back in 2013.


This is what the "life of an item" is all about. The item roared out of the gates, and became an instant winner.

Even winning items begin to "die". The graph depicts the slow death of the item. After about 18 months, the merchandising team inexplicably kills off the item, and monthly demand drops by about 60%.

Then, the merchandising team realizes that this item shouldn't have been killed off - they "reintroduce" the item for the start of 2016, and the item begins the normal process of "dying off" - with the merchandising team formally killing the item last summer.

But in the process, a year of normal progression was "lost" because the item was killed off.

These are the mistakes that I keep seeing in my project work.

Why do I keep seeing these mistakes?

I'm not sure.

But I think modern analytics has something to do with it. Show me how you would identify this problem in Google Analytics? Or Adobe, for that matter? Is IBM's Watson calibrated to identify these problems for you? Is your Merkle-hosted customer data warehouse set up to deliver a real-time warning when the merchants kill off a winning item?

Here's another interesting quirk about this item. The purple color in the bars represent "telephone" demand ... i.e. demand directly caused by catalog marketing. By the time we get to Spring 2016, almost no demand is from the phone ... meaning that this item was utterly de-emphasized from an offline marketing standpoint. Not sure who owns the "catalog" in this case, but Marketing needs to stand up and defend winning items so that catalogs and email campaigns perform well. I don't see a lot of Marketing Leadership these days - the voices that used to stand up for merchandise seem to be gone, or seem to have reallocated their voices to defending the performance of digital campaigns. And that leads to a question - of what good are digital campaigns if the items that perform well in digital campaigns are de-emphasized or are killed-off?