Merchandisers have been fundamental to brick and mortar sellers for decades. The tools of the trade were anything that would evoke the senses — music, lighting, colorful displays, demo stations — and entice customers to buy. They could train sales assistants on what to look for to suggestively sell to the customer, such as body language, questions, and other indicators.

It’s been a tougher road for digital merchandisers, who haven’t had the same tools. Even when technology existed to offer “personalization,” it relied on merchandisers eschewing their knowledge so they could do the tedious labor of manually creating persona segments and rules. 

Rules are great; tens of thousands of conflicting rules? Not so much. Scaling becomes impossible. Persona segments? Well these are definitely limited and do not correspond to today’s shopper expectations. 

For merchandisers struggling to improve revenue per visit (RPV) and achieve challenging profitability objectives (and are tired of the typical gymnastics) — the new Coveo Merchandising Hub is the answer.

Merchandising Challenges

Merchandisers are highly creative thinkers. However, their creativity is often hampered by having to manually set a large number of rules and hack the product catalog to fix things that a great search and recommendation engine should do by default. Or by having to sift through reports to figure out the best way to order products on category pages. Or, missing market opportunities because their request sits in an IT queue.

In interviewing digital merchandisers and conducting quantitative research, we’ve recorded a number of ongoing pain points faced by merchandisers:

  • It takes too long to get promotions onto the site.
  • Personalization tools have been reliant on IT, engineering, and data science teams, leaving merchandisers out of the loop.
  • Large catalogs are hard to manage and most solutions on the market are unable to surface products from the longtail – although 70% of revenue actually comes from the longtail.
  • Constantly reacting to short-term needs such as ‘We have too much stock left, quick set up a special promotion!’ vs spending time on strategy ‘How can we provide a better experience for our VIP shoppers?’ is still the norm.
  • Creating meaningful segments and accurately targeting customers within each is not only laborious but also increasingly less effective, as customers are now demanding 1:1 personalization.
  • Scaling out to multiple geographies while/and accounting for complex audience segments remains manual and time consuming.
  • Understanding what works effectively for customers on the site, better understanding their behavior, and easily extracting the right KPI data for each campaign remains difficult.

What this ultimately means, unfortunately, is that while merchandisers want to focus on promoting new product launches, putting new promotions or personalizations live and generally unleashing their creativity where they add most value, this is hardly feasible.

It’s well known that personalization strategies increase RPV — and are additive. For example, social proof drives 4-5% higher RPV, product badging 2-3% higher RPV, personalized content 1-2% and recs +3-5%. Combining all of these can have a significant impact. 

The challenge has been that merchandisers cannot easily operationalize, adapt, and optimize campaigns — so these improvements are never realized.

Redefining the Role of the Merchandiser

Jump-started by its acquisition of Qubit 18 months ago, Coveo has redefined the role of modern digital merchandisers. The Coveo Merchandising Hub connects Qubit’s easy-to-use workflows with Coveo’s innovative and powerful AI platform.  

This combination empowers merchandisers with a dedicated hub enabling them to become more agile and unleash their creativity. With a hub built for business users, they can quickly deploy the most impactful personalization strategies such as social proof, scarcity, and urgency badging. They can also easily A/B test alternatives and measure results.  

All while reducing manual effort for search and recommendations by leveraging Coveo’s robust AI platform. 

Merch Rules!

One of the very few tools that digital merchandisers have had at their disposal was to apply global “business rules” across the entire product catalog rather than nuanced merchandising rules specific to a campaign or promotion or rather “merchandising rules”. 

We like to think of them as Merch Rules — well, because merchandisers rule!

But for the modern merchandising of today, you need to have the ability to apply your promotions — your “merch” rules on top of AI. This means a simple interface that allows you, for example, to easily add a boost to a promoted brand while benefiting from the underlying AI generated relevant results. 

Full Control of Personalization

The new hub has a merchandiser-centric interface that allows easy management of: 

  • Product Recommendations 
  • Product Badging
  • Product Listings
  • Personalized Content 

So what do we mean by easy? 

Each of these components have been individually designed around a workflow. This allows merchandisers to make nuanced tweaks that reveal deeper insights about their audiences. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Configure Product Recommendations 

The key to scaling recommendations is being able to vary offers by audience, by catalog, and by region. Additionally, successful merchandisers deploy (and test) a mixture of recommendation tactics on each page and across their site (just like Netflix who display a variety of recommendations to customers such as ‘popular’, ‘top picks for you’, and ‘similar favorites’). 

The Merchandising Hub provides the answer to both AI automation and scale but with controls to let merchandisers select, prioritize, and launch  recommendations based on chosen criteria in just a few clicks. This creates an explicit merchandising layer on top of AI.  They can then monitor each variant in the dashboard to determine performance for metrics such as Conversion Rate or RPV. 

Let’s say you have a hunch that returning shoppers might pay more for products. Simply choose your audience, and create an explicit rule to display products of say, greater than $100 on top of your popular recommendations strategy. 

Now check the dashboard to see how well your intuition is paying off!

Deftly Apply Product Badging

Our research shows that product discovery, or anything that changes the relationship a shopper has with your products, vastly outperforms other areas of investment. Product badging has emerged as one of those powerful relationship changers – and thus, an extremely powerful revenue driver. 

By leveraging the Coveo Merchandising Hub, merchandisers can now easily deploy badging strategies across their site from product listings to their basket pages and increase revenue per visitor. It’s very quick to get campaigns live and merchandisers can import a whole product list for specific products to be badged. 

Use the drag-and-drop visual editor to determine priority of a badge; so that the badge of “only 3 left in stock” takes priority over “purchased 5x in the last hour.” 

Oh, and you can easily change the text to “Hurry! Only 3 left in stock!”

Curate Product Listings 

Have a brand within a category that you want to promote? Or specific products within a collection (such as Sale Items)? 

In the past, this was nearly impossible. With intuitive workflows and a drag-and-drop UI, you can now manage all your Product Listings Pages (PLPs) from a single UI. Simply click on a category and decide what you would like to boost, bury, or pin within each listing and by how much weighting. 

Of course, while Coveo AI will still optimize the ranking display of products in any listing page, merchandisers are now able to apply their merch rules on top of AI. 

[Note: You can even badge products on the PLP specific to customers (new customer vs. returning shopper) and their journeys. Dynamic decisioning handles the audience prioritization in the background to automatically render the right badge.]

Deliver Personalized Content 

With Coveo’s Merchandising Hub, merchandisers can rapidly deploy campaigns and promotions with personalized content at any point in the customer journey. This content can be delivered to all visitors or select audiences. 

A decisioning workflow enables smarter audience prioritization, with simple drag-and-drop features and automatic content rendering.  Merchandisers can maximize performance with multi-variant campaigns that test strategies head-to-head by experimenting with which content works best with which audiences. 

A merchandiser can easily select priority of content to be shown when shoppers correspond to multiple audience groups, making it the most impactful. For example: 

1) The shopper is in London but also 2) browsing dresses and 3) is a VIP. 

Full Power of Coveo Automation and Machine Learning 

Now with Coveo’s latest innovations, Machine Learning models can better consider shopper context, intent and behavior when displaying products rankings in real-time during each individual session. Best part? No shopper login is required. 

Also to help merchandisers gain back time and turn their focus on more value added initiatives, Coveo recently introduced the intelligent Facet Generator functionality. This enables facets to be generated automatically and ensures that they are super relevant for each product result set being displayed for search queries. Gone is the time consuming process of extensive tagging efforts or the same generic facets like ‘price’ and brand’ displayed everywhere.

Drive Growth and Profits 

Coveo’s Merchandising Hub provides today’s digital merchandisers with the best of both in the land of art and science. It lets merchandisers lean on AI for the complexity of delivering unique 1:1 and relevant experiences at scale — while using their talent to quickly test new ideas, iterate, and optimize for desired outcomes. 

Being a digital merchandiser has not been easy. But the launch of Coveo’s Merchandising Hub means you now have all the power of AI – while still having power over the AI.

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