By Chris Marti, Senior Product Manager | May 16, 2019 | Blog |

“Rethinking Merchandising”™ is a blog series where we share insights and discuss topics most important to today’s visual merchandisers and space planners.

Sales don’t just happen by accident. They are orchestrated in the myriad details that define a customer’s experience, from window displays to promotional signage to localized product assortments. So, how do you know if you’ve done it right?

Every organization has different criteria for measuring the success of their visual merchandising. The volume of planograms produced, sales goals, compliance reports and feedback from stores all give an indication of how well plans are designed and executed.

While these are all important metrics, there’s another facet of success that isn’t as quantifiable or tangible as promotion reports — customer experience.

Ask yourself these questions for every planogram you create:

  • Can customers find what they’re looking for in store?
  • Are my plans accurate for every store, every time?
  • Have I created a localized, personalized customer experience?
  • Can my organization scale to meet the increasing cadence of promotional changes?

Did you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions? If so, then it might be time to take a fresh approach in how you (and your company) measure merchandising success.

Keep customer experience top of mind
In today’s retail environment, the customer is at a constant advantage. As a customer, imagine you’ve just seen a promotion online for a special deal Nike is running this week on a pair of sneakers. You go to the nearest Nike store to take advantage of the sale, but when you get there, you can’t find the shoes or any signage advertising the promotion. If you can’t find what you came for, there’s a good chance you’ll walk out empty-handed.
When a store’s merchandising plan doesn’t reflect the marketing materials a customer sees on other channels, it gives a negative impression of the brand. Too many bad impressions over time can cause irreparable damage to brand perception.

Inaccurate plans can also hurt customer experience and tarnish the brand. A retailer’s worst nightmare is when a store needs to call HQ to report that the latest set of planograms are inaccurate or don’t match store fixtures. Inaccurate plans create inefficiency in stores, which takes resources away from the central task of helping customers and making sales. But it happens all the time. Our recent survey found that stores receive inaccurate planograms 48 percent of the time.

Work across your organization to provide store teams with the information they need to successfully place products and promotional materials. Approaching merchandising this way enables you to be a steward of your brand’s identity, not just a cog in the supply chain wheel.

Scale to keep up with the pace of localization
Hyper localization — delivering store experiences tailored to the particular needs of your customers — is one of the driving forces in retail today. And, like many industries, retailers are finding ways to integrate and leverage AI and big data analytics into their decision-making processes. Deep data insight can have a huge impact on creating highly-targeted, localized assortments for stores, not just by region or city, but down the specific neighborhood in which a store is located.

And that creates exponentially more work for visual merchandisers. For example, if you work for a big box retailer, and Vendor A needs 30 localized assortments this week in the sports aisles of your stores, you, the visual merchandiser, are left with thousands of additional planograms to get out each week.

Hiring more visual merchandisers to meet the increasing volume isn’t an option. The only way to scale is to embed new digital capabilities into your planogramming tools. When you can scale planogramming using the latest technology, you free up time to focus on the larger strategy of your plans. After all, you don’t want to spend all your time planogramming slight variations on the aisles and ignoring strategic displays like endcaps.

Success in visual merchandising is a combination of things. Visual merchandisers are tasked with delivering constant changes to stores, ensuring accuracy and scaling to the deep data insights that are made upstream with AI and machine learning. By investing in digital solutions, you will have the time and resources to focus on experience-based retailing and detailed displays that consumers crave.

We’d love to hear how you measure success in your merchandising plans.