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”.

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