Accord­ing to the National Retail Fed­er­a­tion (NRF), the aver­age shop­per plans to do 36% of his or her hol­i­day shop­ping online this year – up 33% from last year! What are you doing to ensure that these purchase-minded shop­pers are going to have the most rel­e­vant and effi­cient expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble on your web­site and com­plete their busi­ness with you rather than your com­peti­tor? We’re now well into our sec­ond decade of sell­ing and buy­ing prod­ucts online, it’s time that dig­i­tal shop­ping expe­ri­ences deliv­ered more – both for the shop­per and the retailer. It’s time for informed, intel­li­gent tar­geted merchandizing.

Mer­chan­dis­ing is a well-established, even fun­da­men­tal aspect of retail mar­ket­ing. It com­prises the many activ­i­ties sur­round­ing the efforts to accel­er­ate a poten­tial buyer through the pur­chase fun­nel to the point where money is exchanged. In a recent white paper writ­ten by Sue Aldrich of the Patri­cia Sey­bold Group enti­tled “Suc­cess with Best Prac­tices for Tar­geted Mer­chan­dis­ing”, Sue sums it up by say­ing, “Mer­chan­dis­ing is the prac­tice of max­i­miz­ing sales by lever­ag­ing prod­uct design, pack­ag­ing, pric­ing, dis­play, and most impor­tantly, selec­tion.” Cor­po­ra­tions spend tremen­dous amounts of money and time work­ing to put the right prod­ucts, infor­ma­tion or incen­tives in the right place at the right time to inspire a pur­chase – whether it be a large-ticket item or a spon­ta­neous addi­tion to a buyer’s shop­ping cart.

Although a fair amount of sci­ence has emerged from the col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence of mer­chan­dis­ers, in the offline world, there is always an unavoid­able ele­ment of inef­fi­ciency involved when mer­chan­dis­ing strate­gies are deployed. Because few specifics are known about a cus­tomer, a mer­chan­diser needs to cast a pretty wide net in hopes of attract­ing poten­tial buy­ers who are pre­pared or inter­ested in the prod­ucts or offers pre­sented them.

Tar­geted mer­chan­dis­ing is a form of per­son­al­iza­tion – the cre­ation of a unique sequence of rel­e­vant dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences, tar­geted to an indi­vid­ual or like-minded group of peo­ple to inspire them to progress towards a pur­chase or some sim­i­lar suc­cess event. But whereas we think of per­son­al­iza­tion as being of pri­mary ben­e­fit to the vis­i­tor or shop­per, turn the tables and think of tar­geted mer­chan­dis­ing as deliv­er­ing per­son­al­ized expe­ri­ences in a way that not only sat­is­fies cus­tomer goals, but opti­mizes the expe­ri­ence for the mer­chant as well.

In the dig­i­tal world, the details and data avail­able to a mer­chan­diser open up sev­eral oppor­tu­ni­ties to remove or min­i­mize the inef­fi­cien­cies of mer­chan­dis­ing to a largely generic audi­ence. The data that an online retailer has access to from a dig­i­tal ana­lyt­ics prod­uct such as Adobe Site­Cat­a­lyst or a multi-channel ana­lyt­ics prod­uct like Adobe Insight, can infuse online mer­chan­dis­ing efforts with loads of intel­li­gence regard­ing online cus­tomers’ and prospects’ inter­ests and intentions.

Com­bin­ing this intel­li­gence with prod­ucts like Adobe Test&Target, Adobe Rec­om­men­da­tions, Adobe Scene7 and Adobe Search&Promote, mer­chan­dis­ers are now capa­ble of deliv­er­ing tar­geted con­tent, mes­sag­ing, cross-sells and offers to the anony­mous, yet highly pre­dic­tive pro­files that ana­lyt­ics data pro­vides. Tar­geted mer­chan­dis­ing is all about lever­ag­ing these uni­ver­sal pro­files – that sig­nal implied and expressed inter­ests and inten­tions – to present cus­tomers with timely and rel­e­vant con­tent and offers. For exam­ple, with the lat­est release of Adobe Rec­om­men­da­tions, mer­chan­dis­ers can arrange that a shop­per who is view­ing a spe­cific brand of shoes will see tar­geted prod­uct rec­om­men­da­tions for only shoes from that same brand. The prod­uct will even help you deter­mine where on the page those rec­om­men­da­tions per­form the best.

So as shop­pers start hit­ting your site in these cru­cial weeks to come, think “tar­geted mer­chan­diz­ing” and remem­ber these three sim­ple things:

  • Don’t assume that what works for one shop­per works for all
  • Let your met­rics guide the rel­e­vance (and flex­i­bil­ity) of your merchandising
  • And, most importantly…pay atten­tion to shop­per intent and deliver per­son­al­ized dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences that meet your mer­chan­dis­ing objectives.

For an excel­lent overview of tar­geted mer­chan­diz­ing best prac­tices, click here to down­load a copy of Sue Aldrich’s paper, “Suc­cess with Best Prac­tices for Tar­geted Mer­chan­dis­ing”.