The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

What Are The Top Three Social Media Signals That Will Change Assortment Planning? Part One

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It was only a few years ago that all of us were trying to figure out just how social media could ever add genuine value to retail. I mean, how was a medium where college kids informed us of their beer pong victories someday going to provide a real opportunity for retailers to get smarter about the products they bring to market?

Fast forward a couple of clicks on the calendar and here we all are, from tweens to octogenarians, some of us documenting our every move and thought. The amount of information available is staggering. And today, you’d be hard pressed to find a merchandising solution that doesn’t try to glean product and preference information from this mountain of data on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest in some fashion or another – whether in a useful way or not.

But the need is real. In fact, if you read our most recent merchandising report, Assortment and Planning: Changing Times, New Opportunities, you know that one of the things we advise all retailers to do is focus on the relationship between digital domain browsing and physical domain purchasing. Gone are the days when prior sales serve as the only prediction for future demand, or when markdowns and promotions were easy solutions for when a consumer trend was misread. With consumers’ digitally enabled paths to purchase, gleaning demand from past sales isn’t good enough – retailers must pay attention to what’s happening now in the digital domain to anticipate what consumers want and how they want it. For consumers, it’s just shopping (redefined). For retailers it could mean a whole new go-to-market strategy,as they shift from a purelyproduct centric planning approach to one that puts customer shopping behaviors in the middle planning process.

We also note that most retailers don’t give non-transactional digital indicators of demand as much importance as they should. The fact is that moving from a purely product-centric approach to one that considers new customer-centric non-transactional demand signals from the digital domain is a huge change for all retailers that affects the very basics of the retail operating model.

So the question really becomes, what are the most valuable signals out there we should be paying attention to right now? Are there signals coming from social media that truly actionable – right now – in determining your product mix? And if so, if you had to pick three, what would they be? Drop me a line here, and I’ll be back in next week’s article to share my thoughts – and yours!

Newsletter Articles January 27, 2015
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