How Merchandising Teams Should Impact Ecommerce Strategy

How Merchandising Teams Should Impact Ecommerce Strategy

When most ecommerce professionals think about the strategy driving their organization, they often think of merchandising as playing a key role along with technology, products, and marketing. Despite this, the people who execute on it and are closest to the critical on-site decisions that shape the customer experience are often stuck doing the menial work instead of the strategic. 

According to Constructor’s 2022 report on the State of Ecommerce Merchandising, merchandisers often get bogged down in logistical tasks like correcting poor search results and fixing typos that don’t make use of their strategic abilities. Burnout is a structural problem for this part of ecommerce organizations. While some merchandisers enjoy the manual aspects of their jobs, many others are eager to use their first-hand experiences with customers to inform revenue strategy.

Ecommerce organizations largely overlook the value that merchandising teams can bring to long-term decision making. By inviting these teams to the table, you stand to gain insights into customer behavior and shopping trends that can be optimized to drive business results. 

In order to maximize the contributions of your team, you’ll first need to understand how merchandisers spend the bulk of their time, why it’s important to include them in strategic discussions, and how to create solutions to give merchandisers more time to focus on valuable strategic work.

Where merchandisers sit in ecommerce organizations

Merchandisers have emerged as critical players in the online retail ecosystem. Creating an attractive product display, optimizing category and search results to fit your brand narrative, managing inventory, and understanding what products should be carried to meet the changing desires of shoppers are all essential to develop an up-to-date, optimized digital shelf that will generate revenue. 

Keeping pace with today’s digital merchandising duties often demands a high amount of manual maintenance and intervention. Around 57% of merchandising teams spend at least 20 hours per week on these kinds of manual activities. They also play increasingly cross-functional roles in their organizations. 99% say they perform a broad range of tasks beyond site merchandising itself, such as digital marketing, site content strategy, and on-site search optimization. 

state of ecommerce merchandising report

But fulfilling these multiple responsibilities comes at a cost. Merchandisers report workload as their top pain point, with nearly half working more than their regular hours to meet their multiple and shifting priorities. Unfortunately, many merchandising leaders overlook the challenges that modern digital merchandising poses to teams. Although nearly half of merchandisers are stressed at work, 77% of team leaders report having no concerns about burnout on their teams.

Why ecommerce sellers should elevate merchandising strategy

The distinction between merchandising and other essential roles (such as marketing, content, and product selection and development) is fading, revealing the potential of merchandising teams to not only carry out your ecommerce strategy, but also shape it. 

The close proximity of merchandising work to the buying journey gives merchandisers a valuable perspective into the factors that can make or break your bottom line. 

Merchandisers manage product displays, write compelling descriptions, and adjust product visibility, all with the creative thinking and foresight that shape ecommerce plans. And they’re not only aware of the importance of their work to long-term enterprise goals, but they also find it deeply satisfying. When asked about their favorite parts of the job, top responses were 1) opportunities for collaboration with colleagues and 2) the strategic impact of merchandising work on the business. 

Merchandisers are already thinking strategically as part of their responsibility to cultivate a delightful product experience. But large amounts of time on rote, logistical tasks limit their potential. Offloading some of this manual weight can support more sustainable workflows and foster the critical insights that you need to drive revenue and conversions.

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How organizations can equip merchandisers to adopt a more strategic role

Elevating your merchandising team to reach their strategic potential demands the support of intelligent and intuitive tech tools to free up their time. AI-driven technology is essential in empowering teams to effectively manage their time and energy in the fast-paced ecommerce environment. 

For example, tools that use natural language processing draw from site search data to produce synonyms. This reduces the time ecommerce teams spend manually identifying and correcting queries with high bounce rates. Machine learning technology can also monitor inventory levels, providing attractive and relevant alternative product suggestions and implementing them without the need for manual intervention. More importantly than all of these, vector search technologies like Cognitive Embeddings allow for matches that are similar in concept and clickstream behavior, even if they don’t exactly match on keywords as was necessary in legacy search engines.

Automating tedious tasks in ecommerce allows your team to focus on more creative and strategic tasks that they enjoy. And our research found that merchandisers are excited about the potential. 

Of those surveyed, 94% had a positive outlook on AI and would be interested in trying out new tech. A majority also reported that automating tasks would help them think and act more creatively to support business goals. (What if, for example, technology made it easier to devote more time to building themed collections pages or targeted holiday promotions that help drive brand value and recognition?)

Ecommerce companies have long overlooked both the growing burden that merchandising teams bear and their natural inclination to strategic thinking. Empowering teams to do higher value work requires time, tools, and technology specifically equipped to address the challenges of ecommerce merchandising. Equipping merchandisers with what they need to reduce burnout and foster collaboration can create an exceptional retail experience that boosts your current and future profits.

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