Retailers have invested in ecommerce strategies due to lockdowns, shutdowns or even a change in consumers’ shopping behaviors. But what will level the playing field for you and allow you to thrive and compete with the big brands?
Today, advanced technologies such as AI for search, merchandising and personalization, have helped small businesses to establish an ecommerce store, deliver a great customer experience, and provide consumers what they want, when they want it. It also has allowed many retailers that were primarily brick and mortar to easily shift to an ecommerce retail strategy.
Technology offers the kind of intelligence that amplifies the creative work of expert human designers and merchandisers to instantly predict intent. And it’s driving higher conversion rates, greater average order volumes and a boost in brand satisfaction. Here are four ways merchants at SMB retailers can leverage new automation technologies to modernize merchandising strategies:
Instantly Read and Act on Every Signal
Shoppers aren’t always clear on what they’re looking for, and there simply isn’t time for human guesswork anymore. Modern merchandising must use technology to instantly read the clear signals that get product displays closer to the buyer’s intent. These signals include geography (U.S. vs. Canada, warm vs. cold climates, etc.), time-based events (limited arrangements for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day), and previous experience (sales and search). This information, when harnessed quickly by AI technology, can get the presentation of products much closer to buyer needs before they skip to someone else’s screen.
Dynamically Define and Alter Collections
Collections in categories like summer fashion, back to school and “on sale” remain a powerful merchandising technique in all types of commerce. Collections help merchants sell experiences (vs. products), align with emotions and logically help buyers sort through large amounts to speed and simplify shopping.
But collections only work if they match buyers’ needs, and can keep up with digital dynamics. Using automation and AI, you can now create collections with better information, such as what products sell together most frequently, and adapt them on the fly to quickly make pairings before a buyer bolts. As new products arrive, others sell out, and new patterns emerge, AI can update collections without human intervention. Instead of waiting for a human being to make changes, they can simply be alerted to the changes and modify them based on actual performance.
Match Merchant Needs with Buyer Opportunity
Merchants are running a business. With updated data, collections can now better and certainly more quickly match business needs. How much inventory do you have? Too much or too little? Is there a sales bundle you can use to push product add-ons? How about automatically sending an alert when inventory is low on a particular SKU to push buyers to convert? You can pair a loss leader with a high-margin product to draw customers in and still earn the right profit. All of this is possible at digital speed, with the right data and AI automation.
Augment Your Experts to Move Faster, Smarter
In ecommerce, everything is measurable. That information makes both algorithms and humans smarter. Professional merchandisers who once relied on decades of experience, creativity and no shortage of slow, experimental guesswork, now have automation and digital data to augment their craft. You can quickly validate hunches or experience with data. You can create new, data-informed, creative pairings and presentations of products, based on what’s trending and happening at the moment. You can quickly test and adapt new pairings and not wait for the next season.
Although technology shouldn’t take over everything, it can automate tasks to reduce friction and create room for humans to shine. By helping merchants control the shopping journey, AI technology gives them the time and knowledge to dig into specializations and build the most meaningful experiences for their customers.
Zohar Gilad is CEO of Fast Simon