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Blogging Live: Merchandising Workshop-- Opening Up eCommerce: Innovations in Customer-Focused Merchandising

Posted on July 16, 2008 by Vanessa

The presenters for this session were Laura Evans, Executive Director of Retail, Resource Interactive and Steve Kahn, Vice President Internet Marketing, DSW (Paraphrased)

Laura Evans of Resource Interactive spoke first.  She explained that she would be taking us through some of the innovations that retailers have had to make over the last year to improve their eCommerce experience.  They recently did this such thing with  In launching the new DSW website the two companies partnered to make this site more engaging to customers.

Some of the key features they wanted to use in building the DSW website were:

  • New and successful merchandising trends
  • Solution selling
  • An engaging product story
  • Customer generated assortments
  • mCommerce capabilities for on demand selection

Solution selling is all about providing results to a consumer in whatever fashion they may be looking for it. This can be done in many ways, one of which is grouping complementary products so a complete solution is created for the customer.  Use lifestyle photos to convey the usage or the category of the product.  Give detailed product descriptions and when appropriate take the information from the product package and use it in the description.  An engaging product story refers to bringing a product to life this can be done with 3-D images and videos.  She gives an example of how does a good job of utilizing videos throughout categories, and the videos are used to inspire the customer and educate them.  She adds that we should merchandise by product attributes so that customers have multiple ways of finding the products they are searching for.  She then challenges us to think about how customers shop when they go in to a store, she adds "they don't see a list of products when they walk in, they see products and merchandised entries" she explains that we should be giving customers the option of finding their products through visual wayfinding and not just words.  Customer generated assortments are ways in which the customer can become the merchandiser and product advisor.  She gives examples like which allows "self proclaimed product connoisseurs" to choose a few product options and then ask the community which product they should purchase.  She also features which allows consumers to pull together their own outfits.  They wanted all of these things to be present in the website and she is going to let Steve Kahn take over to explain what they did.

The DSW Story

DSW had very little (in fact Steve said no) direct business.  They found that 70% of sales came from their customers already in their loyalty program.  They took the information and presented it to the board so they could get funding for a website.  The board agreed to meet but they wanted to know what DSW thought they could do better than current online shoe retailers.  They decided that because of their ability to listen to current and non-current customers, their ability to focus and utilize their current members, their brand, their business partners and their industry expertise they could do a few things better than other current online shoe retailers.  They came up with 7 different things they could do better and mapped it out to the board, but he focused on 3 during the session.  They also presented their aptitude for understanding their current business, competitive analysis and potential vendors.  The last piece before presenting to the board was the detailed financial plan.  The three items they decided they could do better and focus on were:

  • Presentation
  • Channel Integration
  • Loyalty

These differentiators are key components to the new website.  Presentation and immaculate images are found on every product detail page (in fact I think I heard the crowd aaahhhhhed when he did a demonstration of the images on their product detail pages, they really were fantastic).  Channel Integration deals with their ability to partner with vendors, warehouse, and use current relationships to add the online channel.  Loyalty comes with the program that they already have in place with members.

Two Caveats to this Presentation

  1. He gave everyone in the audience a coupon code to save on a purchase on the website or in store (very cool).
  2. I was brazen enough to ask him about the Zappos lawsuit at the cocktail party and he was kind enough to answer openly and honestly, but asked for the respect in not blogging about his response so that is all I am going to say!



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