Live from ACCM: Marketers Spill Merchandising Secrets

Orlando, FL – The secrets to merchandising your Website to sell more are actually pretty basic, according to Margaret Moraskie, vice president of e-commerce for women’s apparel marketer cataloger/retailer Boston Proper.

In the Monday ACCM session titled, “Merchandising Secrets that Sell More Product Online,” Moraskie told attendees that “common knowledge isn’t always common practice. For our customer, as she scans the site, she’s transported to another world. We want her to have one experience, regardless of channel. We’re channel agnostic.”

Boston Proper mails approximately 55 million catalogs annually to an affluent customer base between the ages of 35-55, Moraskie said. “We merchandise the way she shops,” she said. “We give her what she’s looking for. What is effective is usually simple. The catalog has become an amazing advertising vehicle for us.”

E-mail has also been effective for the company. Moraskie said Boston Proper customers receive three e-mails per week, emphasizing top-selling styles and in-stock merchandise.

When it comes to merchandising, you must be able to make adjustments, she added. “Plan and present product. Assess early results. Adjust presentation. Modify or maximize. Repeat the process.” Above all, be true to your brand and connect with your customer, she said. “Give her what she wants and she will shop.”

Meanwhile, Brad Wolansky, vice president of global e-commerce for outdoor gear and apparel cataloger/retailer The Orvis Co., said noted that his company started out 152 years ago as a fly fishing outfitter. Now Orvis offers men’s and women’s clothing, fishing equipment and accessories, gifts and home products, pet products, hunting products, and vacations.

“Our breadth of assortment makes us unique,” Wolansky told attendees. “We have to convey everything everyday to everyone on our home page.”

Catalog/retail customers can visit the Orvis Website, he said, and receive more information or enhanced interactions with products. “It has to give something extra, something better than the other channels,” he added.

Secrets that sell more product online? According to Wolansky, here’s how to get IT and management support for projects. “Identify an opportunity to drive more sales online. Create a clear and succinct statement that lays out the goal and describes how the idea will increase sales and/or reduce costs.” This is what Orvis refers to as IFB, or an “I firmly believe” statement.

But, Wolansky added, “you need to prove the IFB with a test,” and that test must be for a limited time and easily turned off if necessary. “This way the test can’t hurt the organization.” Report on the results of the test and, if the results are favorable, ask for the sale. “Spend this to get that,” he said.

Wolansky said some examples of recent projects that increased online conversion rates included a private Labor Day Sale event, like item substitutions, personalization previews, and a catalog quick order overhaul. The private Labor Day sale was an e-mail campaign inviting customers to take advantage of a sale offered only to e-mail customers. If they spent $150 or more, they would receive a free watch. Order conversion for this e-mail campaign was 41% higher than the company’s e-mail average.

Wolansky’s secrets to launching projects that drive online sales are:

* Clearly define an opportunity and establish goals and how to measure success.

* Simply state that you believe by doing X, you will receive Y benefits.

* Demonstrate how the project will benefit the bottom line through sound forecasting.

* Don’t define a solution to IT; define the problem

* Test if possible and roll out gradually so bugs are worked out before full deployment.

* Ensure business rules adapt to projects and don’t hamstring them.

* Analyze result thoroughly to understand benefits and/or challenges to success.

* If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, abandon it.

* Do it again every year.

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