“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Barbara Connors, director of brand media, 84.51°.
There is no denying the profound impact that personalization is having on the media landscape.
There is, however, another pivotal impact of the personalization engine that has not yet received much attention.
We are at the precipice of a dramatic convergence of marketing and merchandising, and it will significantly change both the way companies engage with their customers and how they organize and incentivize their internal departments.
We can begin to see this occurring by looking both at the organic behavior changes within our customer base and with a critical eye to the shifts occurring within our own organizations.
The first signal of this convergence is seen in showrooming. Consumers have been the first to indicate that the lines between a marketing experience and a merchandising experience are blurring. As ecommerce has grown, multiple industry research analyses have revealed that customers browse multiple devices for information but most ultimately still make their purchases in store. We’re now starting to see the reverse happen.
Research now shows a common path through which customers visit physical retail for the benefits of tangible, in-store experiences, but then make their final purchase online. Aside from the obvious lesson that our customers’ path to purchase is becoming increasingly circuitous and difficult to predict, they are showing us that the definitions of experiences that are discretely marketing versus merchandising are fading.
Second, within successful organizations, marketing and merchandising are innovating themselves toward one another in the digital ecosystem. The marketing industry’s development of programmatic advertising, household targeting and dynamic creative is enabling brands to deliver highly relevant messages to the customers most important to them, whenever and wherever they want to be engaged.
Simultaneously, merchandising departments have been heavily experimenting and investing in ecommerce, enabling brands to leverage predictive analytics to deliver a highly personalized shopping experience.
This convergence offers tremendous opportunity to use personalization to deliver a superior customer experience. More importantly, this convergence demands it. However, most companies are struggling to find the best way to capitalize on the behavior that customers are already starting to exhibit and the complementary innovation that has developed within often-disconnected departments.
This is highlighted both in organizational design and in department objectives. Existing organizational structures are evidence of ecommerce’s place on the front lines of this struggle. Companies are often confused about where these teams belong, sometimes aligning ecommerce departments with marketing, other times with merchandising, and even isolating these teams in a mysterious “digital” business unit.
While often leveraging the same data, technology and science, these teams often struggle to reconcile conflicting objectives of marketing vs. merchandising to collaborate effectively.
Common ground exists in the value of the customer. A company’s core asset is, and always has been, its relationship with its customers. Bringing together marketing and merchandising gives companies the ability to connect with their customers both at the point of inspiration and the point of purchase in unprecedented ways.
Companies that leverage the same personalization strategies across both will seamlessly deliver the right experience for customers across the path to purchase, meeting them where they are wherever they might be their journey.