Transforming How the Merchandiser Works with the New Paradigm in Digital Workplace
As a merchandiser, I care about the revenue and the margin of my products. Which are the right products and how do I sell more products, more quickly?
I recently met with the VPs of Merchandising from two large retail brands. I interviewed them about the day-to-day challenges their teams face. Specifically, I asked them the following: “What does a typical day look like for someone in a merchandiser role?” One organization has organized buying and promotions under the merchandising team. The other organization is more fragmented, in that “buying” and “customer relationship” (as they call their promotions team) are handled by separate teams.
One VP of Merchandising works at a company that was originally founded with and built on physical stores. I asked him to share his main challenges. He answered, “Too often, things are manually driven, which slows down the time to market.” In addition, he shared that quality and consistency of data are big issues in merchandising. For example, if sizes are not harmonized across metrics (XL or 36 or 54) and countries (Italy vs. Germany vs. Canada), this impacts decision making. He added, “If our analysis was based on incomplete assumptions, it would be a risk.” He then said, “with Informatica we are able to save 50% of the time we used to spend preparing for supplier meetings. This is because we have access to high quality data that can be easily viewed in a single glance, rather than having to manually search for answers.”
Working with Suppliers and Vendors: “You do not get what you ask for”
Whether you focus is on long tail strategy or exclusively online one, vendors are sadly continuing to provide catalog data in multiple data formats (CSV, XLS, XML etc.). “You do not get what you ask for”. Suppliers often simply don’t attribute any importance about formats. Which is surprising, since to me, this is key for their sales success.
- Fixing bad product data before it adds chaos to the business, is one of the goals of buying teams in merchandising departments/teams. The people I talked to, clearly wish to “enhance productivity” and “reduce the time needed to deal with data”. The big goal continues to focus on outsourcing more to suppliers and responsibilize them when completeness of data is concerned.
- Collaboration: Often, in retail organizations, product data lives in multiple locations. Merchandisers have to work with multiple teams to ensure consistency. But very often rules and processes are either in place and not enforced or simply not existent at all. My team has to daily look at spreadsheets and different apps, digging and hoping to find the relevant Information they need to complete their tasks
Product Categorization is a painful task, but it has a huge impact on ecommerce, accounting and marketing
Picture this: You are expecting 50 new products for your category on Tuesday morning. Their correct categorization is highly critical.
- It is critical to be found on ecommerce sites. An iPad can be listed under phones, cameras, tablets and more.
- Managing hierarchies is also key for accounting and analytics.
- For marketing campaigns managers need to know which products should be used for which campaigns to leverage all for cross-sell or upsell promotions.
- If you are approving new suppliers or if you are accountable for hierarchy structures and assignment, the new User Interface paradigm directs you to do the right things. Driven by tasks and workflows a tailored interface presents itself, resulting in improved productivity.
What innovative companies are doing is linking their social, search, media marketing and listening data to their PIM application. They perceive these as product information attributes. For example, if a smart phone is linked to a variety of search terms such as camera, “fablet” or personal assistant frequently, it may actually be incorporated into the taxonomy or metadata. Best seller status may also have this attribute. For the merchandiser, this helps to understand the product story beyond just a catalog view. It takes your product information app from a management and publishing tool to an insight tool.
The new Paradigm in the Digital Workplace is Changing the Game
Information overload is one of the key challenges, responsible for frustration, slow business processes and deficient decision making. In simple words: another web shop makes the deal and you don’t.
The new generation of product information management apps for merchandizers offers all processes and information in one interface. Dashboards and task-inbox show the right employee what he or she has been tasked to do when they start work on a Monday morning. For example…
- Which supplier are new?
- Which products were newly added?
- How complete is both supplier and product information?
- Are they ready to be distributed to your sales channels and sold to customers?
- How can I streamline the communication and collaboration with internal and external parties?
One example for a individual screen of merchandiser which is transforming how s/he works.
Wishes for the future of merchandising
VPs of merchandising aim to work on establishing a higher level of data quality and an efficient automation of business processes. Those actions will result in faster product introduction and establish rock solid decision making with far better analytical capabilities. Now, as to the future of retail organizations, one of my interview partners said:
“Relationships between all business areas will help to be more agile and connected for the best level of customer experience. People and information processes have to be connected.”
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