Do You Have a Digital Merchandising Strategy

June 28, 2016
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

How Kimberly-Clark and Rubbermaid boost commerce with product content.

As a busy mother of a newborn, Helen had precious few minutes to go online and order baby wipes. She knew the national brand well and quickly went to their product page on her favorite online store but was disappointed to find scant details of the product she wanted. Were they hypoallergenic? Did they contain dyes? How did other moms rate them? She saw an advertisement for a private label brand and clicked over to find testimonials from other moms, key features, clear benefits and detailed product specs that easily convinced her to buy the private label.

Marketers can improve their digital merchandising by gathering, maintaining and distributing detailed product information across many digital touchpoints, said Jennifer Polk, research director, Gartner for Marketing Leaders. “As consumers opt to browse the “digital shelf” more often and the marketing role in digital commerce evolves, digital merchandising presents a leadership opportunity for marketers,” she noted.

See Related Article: The Four Traits of the Digital Commerce Marketer

Organize the back of the house

Similar to the “back of the house” kitchen that powers any great restaurant, marketers should engage brand managers, product teams and merchants to design and execute a digital merchandising strategy. First, on the data side, marketers should evolve from sending product information by spreadsheet and email to using global master data management of product data to organize and distribute structured and unstructured data both internally and externally. Second, marketers should make sure consistent data and relevant, compelling content is shown in marketing campaigns, online product catalogs (including retailers’) and on product pages.

Delight the front of the house

While the food that comes from the back of the house must be stellar, the dining experience and service is what makes great food become an exceptional meal. Consumers expect compelling and comprehensive product content as part of the customer experience. Some brands play a dual role as both manufacturer and retailer, but many brands continue to rely on retailers to engage consumers.

According to Ms. Polk, brands and manufacturers should establish a direct relationship with consumers to engage them along the buying journey, help them make buying decisions and gain valuable consumer insight along the way. While this can cause channel conflict, working through those challenges with channel partners is critical to engaging customers throughout the buying joruney. The Huggies (a Kimberly-Clark brand) website in Australia is one of the country’s leading resources for baby information because its content is helpful to parents.

Optimize for better results

As brands get both the back and front of the house running smoothly to establish or expand digital commerce initiatives, marketing should leverage product content to optimize their efforts.

This will enhance customer engagement, sales and commerce results. Three areas to focus optimization efforts include:

  1. Personalize for different buyer personas through customized catalog management
  2. Use guided selling and configuration tools like recommendations, ratings & reviews
  3. Improve cross-channel usability through a mobile-enabled site or responsive design

When marketing owns the digital merchandising strategy, digital marketing improves because marketing assets incorporate consistent, compelling and comprehensive product content. This in turn makes it easier for customers to complete transactions. For example, when Rubbermaid incorporated product ratings and reviews in its direct sales channels and marketing campaigns it saw a 10% lift in voucher redemption when reviews were present in ads, 10% incremental increase in revenue per visit and 5% boost in average order value.

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