Business Imperatives – Online Apparel Retailer

Online retail is about flexibility and value. A product/solution/tool which provides flexibility to the merchandiser and best value to the end consumer would be the perfect way. When you decide to build an online store it would be precious to consider the following business imperatives.

  1. Excellent Merchandising Tool
  2. Easy to Maintain (interdependent) Systems
  3. Intuitive and Functional Storefront UI

Excellent Merchandising Tool

Flexible Product Hierarchies
If you are the one who is from a business environment of maintaining globally relevant Product Hierarchies – you would wonder why “Pants” would fall under “Super PANTS” category as well as ” APPAREL > PANTS > …”. Obviously product attributes never dictate what should be the arrangement of product catalog. Product catalog is a constantly changing definition based on trends and is always customer influenced. Merchandisers require that flexibility to customize the way products are searched and displayed.

Promotions & Flexibility
Promotions are a lifeline of brands especially those which cater to value conscious customer segments. It is what keeps customers coming BACK. It is what makes it A STEAL. Ability to quickly and flexibly create customized promotions and deals matters in order to grab that attention in the virtual world which is strewn with coupons and offers everywhere.
I may want to offer free shipping to my loyal customers only if they use a specific tender and have selected ground shipping to XYZ.
I may want to disable all my coupons for the time period I am offering this “EVERYDAY NOON DEALS”
I want to be able to offer free shipping to my Loyalty customers but only if they are my PLATINUM card holders. Else a shipping minimum is a must.

Entice – Engage – Shop
Arranging and changing ‘STORE HIGHLIGHTS’ & SHELVES In the store – is a routine activity in the physical world but in the virtual world it has to be faster and more flexible. Merchandisers among other things need the ability to quickly setup THE landing page around new product launch or modify existing ones. The product/solution should support ways not only to render interesting content but also ways to ENGAGE, ENTICE the customers and provide INCENTIVES to shop. If I see a pre-order which is sold out – it might get me(the shopper) to think – “This got to be good!”. Sold Out cases is not always a bad it? The key is to decide when the product is made available. You take too long – you earn a bad reputation – You make it available too early you fail to generate that extra interest which was hoped for. The most important aspect to keep the customer engaged is not always social media but inventory availability. A smart shopper often waits for the deals and assumes a good inventory status – making her – grab the opportunity.If she steals – SHE WINS and YOU WIN too.

Easy to Maintain Systems

Managing Business Data better
Single and manageable version of truth about business data like inventory, products, sale orders, returns and refunds.

  1. Inventory Data Like : – OnHand, Pre-Order, Back-Order
  2. Products Data Like:- Variants, Styles, Archived Styles, Duplicate Styles, Product images etc.
  3. Sale Orders & Returns Data Like:- Open Orders, partially fulfilled orders, fulfilled orders, Returned orders and Settlements.

Using Consumer Facing Data Better
To evolve as a strong consumer-centric retailer. It is important to leverage the data you gather about your customers usage behavior. Never ever you can let this useful bit cut loose. After all that is one of the greatest advantage of selling online. Customer Engagement Data (Ratings & Reviews), Customer Service Feedback data are also critical as they represent direct communication which is greatly enabled through online commerce. It makes sense to deploy vendors which help mine this useful information. Trust me they are your best allies.

Define Roles Better
Ownership of storefront data (primarily site content) and managing product/system configurations could be the overlooked aspect of maintaining storefronts. For example managing Marketing Assets is better done by a separate team than the technology guys who maintain and configure the solution. Marketing Assets (banners, Images, styles, alternate images, lay down images, 360 degree view images, ramp videos etc.) require a different skill set to manage as against maintaining an import of store feed data or that of a search synonyms repository. Your reps are better off helping customers find their orders and order statuses if they understand the fulfillment process.

Intuitive Shopping Experience

Last but not the least it is important to develop a storefront page design which is highly intuitive, creative and yet functional. This helps the team focus on taking and FULFILLING ORDERS instead of helping customers place those orders. A bad design – erodes the brand loyalty sooner than you can expect. The ease of doing business is what UI does in the online world. Some of the most relevant UI imperatives are

Say It So Rule!
Clearly layout the discounts, whether it is a promotion message in view, the promotion on a specific variant or the promotion on entire order or shipment – it ought to be told with clarity and consistency across the purchase process.

  • If the customer gets 20% off only if they use a certain tender – say it so upfront on category pages or banners.
  • If the customer gets an effective discount of 50% on each SKU in a bundle – say it so on the banner and on the shopping bag.
  • If you have an “NOON DISCOUNT CARNIVAL” – lay out those discount details at each stage of the shopping flow. Remember the customer might come back in the evening to buy the product added to the bag during the NOON.
  • If you have an updated discount offer on the saved item in the shopping bag – say it so.

Clearly Explain Shipping Rules
If you ship international – you might have restrictions related to specific destinations because of ‘Nexus’ which exists. Also items which you do NOT ship 1-BusinessDay could be told way before the customer heads to checkout.Shipping rules may get complex at times – the rule of thumb is to inform your creative as much to your implementation partners who build the systems for you. This helps creative agencies to consider for informative texts, error messages, overall dialog with the consumer during the purchase process.

Make product recommendations relevant and sensible.
Product recommendations make sense only when a customer is just evaluating but not when he does ‘Checkout’. Making it relevant when he is not checking out requires a clear personalization rules approach. To build your personalization approach the existing consumer data becomes really useful.

Make Product Search Highly Intuitive
No one knows your products better but if you know the way customers know your products – that is the key to relevant search results. Relevant customer search results should increase the chances of a purchase by 70%. After all you cannot throw out “RIP” as a part of search result set when a customer searches for “PINSTRIPES”. A strong product/solution knowledge again aids in setting up the right configuration here.



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