A successful merchandising strategy means meeting the needs of your customers. More than that, it means establishing, in their eyes, a clear vision of who you are and what your business is about. Your product assortment goes a long way towards informing this.
Product assortment, also know as merchandise mix or assortments strategies, is the variety of merchandise you have for sale. It can be broken down further into:
- Product breadth, the variety of product types that you sell. A big-box store has a wide product breadth, in that they can sell everything from groceries to video games to home appliances. Conversely, a specialty store, may only sell video games or appliances (or anything else) and has a small product breadth.
- Product depth is the variety within any one product line. For instance, a shoe store with a shallow product breadth may only sell one or two brands of shows. A shoe store with a wide product breadth could sell 5, 10, 15 different brands. Couple your product depth with a diverse pricing strategy, to suit the needs of the diverse types of customers you serve, considering how much they’re likely to spend
Meet Customer’s Expectations
The key takeaway here should be that you’re meeting your customer’s expectations. Too high of a product mix can not only take up your potentially limited shelf or storage space, it also risks your customers having an unclear idea of what your business is all about. A scrambled assortment can be harmful to your brand image.
It takes research and analysis to find the ideal product assortment. Understanding your types of customers and how they perceive your business is only the first step. You have to meet their expectations. And, more than that, you have to anticipate their needs and cater to that. Know what they want from you before they even do, anticipate their future needs based on their habits, and present not only product assortment that they’re looking for, but products they didn’t even know they wanted.
So how do you get there?
Clearly Define Your Brand
What does your brand mean to your target customers? Well, who are they? Are you the only place in town that caters to a very specific product or need? If you aren’t, you need to consider what makes you different, how you can meet your customer’s needs better than your competitors and what you can do to stand out.
And if you are the only business that caters to a niche, it means you really need to understand the needs of your customers. Specialty retailers shouldn’t just sell the basic items. Really get to know the trends in the industry; know the add-ons, accessories and related items that your customers are going to be asking for.
Which brings us to the next point:
Pay Attention To Trends in your Merchandising Strategy
You’re the expert in your field, so you should already be well-versed on the trends in your industry. But also take into account overall trends in buying habits, in consumer culture and other things affecting businesses on a national or international level. What are customers going to be asking for? What can make you seem on-trend, cool, or with the times, and therefore a trusted authority to meet their needs? How will this affect your product assortment?
Observe Customer Behavior
Online or in-store, what are your customer’s shopping habits? What products do customers spend the most time with? Are there certain colours or sizes that sell-out faster than others? If so, consider stocking a greater product depth in those varieties.
What products are often bought together? More than just selling a product, you want to be (as much as possible) a one-stop-shop to meet your customer’s needs. If you sell tools or garden supplies, think in terms of the entire project your customer is going to be working on. Cross merchandising works. To oversimplify, don’t just sell a hammer. Sell a hammer, and nails, and a measuring tape, and tools too. Extend this thinking for your product mix, and anticipate the entirety of your customer’s needs. Or as much as you can manage with your space and inventory.
It’s a bit of a tightrope to walk, ensuring you’re catering to your customer’s needs while still having a well-defined brand. But by doing your research, understanding your customers, anticipating trends product assortment can help you be sure you’ll be a valuable service. Balance this with a product depth and clear brand strategy that reflects your values, you’ll help your customers while increasing sales and help your business to not only stand out, but thrive.
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