Call for Papers — Actually, Just an Abstract Would Do

It’s reader involvement time again, this time with a real-world, challenging situation that is crying for some solid answers.

The following email, edited to maintain the privacy of the firm in question, arrived from a regular reader this week. I know that many of you are dealing with similar issues in your jobs, and many vendors are selling tools that address at least some of those issues. So let’s get some recommendations going here, and I’ll share them in future articles.

Here’s the challenge (opportunity?):

I work as a visual merchandising analyst at a major apparel manufacturer and retailer. We are trying to optimize our merchandising of individual product placements and thereby increase conversion.

We have a couple of thousand products in the catalog, and 180 prominent placements that we use to feature products (home page, category pages, etc.). We can measure individual products sales and draw some inferences about placement, but sales are not directly connected to site traffic or placement.

So, to really track 180 products, their placements (both of which rotate at least weekly), and their resulting sales from those placements etc., is very manual and daunting — not to mention trying to draw meaningful conclusions and devise a merchandising strategy that will put the right product in the right place at the right time.

Can you think of a good strategy to link placement, product, and sales together to be able to measure return and devise a strategy to improve results? Or, in lieu of having a tool that will tie these elements together, how would you suggest going about improving our decisions about placing product? (Today merchandisers are working mainly on instinct and replacing products that don’t perform after a week.)

This is a complex problem, and, judging by my own experiences of shopping online, one that few have solved completely. It’s also a perfect example of what we would hope online metrics would be helping us with — putting the right products (information) in front of the right visitors (shoppers) when they want it.

Online measurement vendors, please write to tell me how you would address this issue. Don’t send files and files of information, just an overview of what you’d tell this prospective customer if you met in an elevator (short enough that I can share the information in this space).

Marketers, tell me about how you are dealing with your related issues — what products you use, what internal solutions you cooked up, where you are employing creative solutions to the online merchandising problem.

I’ll share what I hear with all of you in the coming weeks.

If the responses are useful, I’ll keep it up, presenting real problems looking for solutions in this space. To move us all closer to practical, workable answers, let’s open up this conversation to the people who are doing this work every day.

Keep those emails coming!

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