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Conclusion – August 2016

OVER THE COURSE of this IRUK Top500 Dimension report on Merchandising, we’ve noted the emergence of a data-driven approach that’s changing the way retailers show their wares. It can be seen in the personalisation that recommends specific items to one person but not to another, and it can be seen in the AB testing that ensures one website banner is favoured over another.

Rajesh Kumar of adidas Group, quoted in our strategic overview feature (page 8), believes that today merchandising is both an art and a science. The art is found in the details – the importance of getting imagery and product information right, and of showing products in a way that inspires customers. The science is found in the data, where merchandisers are now finding new clues to customer behaviour and preferences.

It’s tempting to let the science sweep all before it, changing the way traders show their products to customers on the basis of how shoppers browse the website and, in future, move around the store. But even the most data-driven businesses still see the need to retain the basics that define the art of merchandising. That gut instinct as to how items should be displayed and described to potential purchasers is an important part of how we relate to the customer.

Perhaps, though, when data is used to bring the personal back into businesses that operate at scale, it is being used in a very human way that recognises the importance of the individual to large-scale retailing. What’s important, according to Jonathan Wall and Sam Perkins of Shop Direct, interviewed for this Dimension Report, is the customer. Recognising his or her needs will be a primary focus for merchandisers whose craft is continuing to evolve at pace. How they achieve it will doubtless change, but we predict that those basics that form the art of merchandising will stay constant for the foreseeable future.

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