Merchandising at the Strategy Table
Cheryl Berenberg, Web Merchandiser
Cheryl’s career started in buying and planning for retailers like Macys, Brooks Brothers, Lacoste, and Coach. When Coach ventured into ecommerce, she made the online shift, overseeing and creating their merchandising strategy. Since moving to Chicago, Cheryl has put her superpowers to work for family-owned businesses like Mark Shale and Missouri Star Quilt Company.
JoAnn Martin, VP of Marketing
For ecommerce teams to be as successful as possible, merchandising needs to have a seat at the strategy table.
In this episode, you’ll get to hear what this actually looks like in practice. Cheryl gave us a firsthand account of her work at iconic handbag retailer, Coach. Starting out in their buying and planning division, Cheryl was asked to help the company venture into online sales.
At the time, ecommerce was still new territory, which makes Cheryl a pioneer in web merchandising.
Since becoming a merchandiser, she’s never looked back. She’s worked for big retail players and scrappy startups alike. Today, she sees web merchandising and ecommerce content as a way to become a silent sales associate and customer advocate.
How does she make that happen? Tune in to find out.View / Hide Transcript
[00:00:00] JoAnn: [00:00:00] Cheryl. I am so excited to have you on today. Can you give us a brief introduction of yourself and a little bit about where you’ve come from?
[00:00:08]Cheryl: [00:00:08] Sure. I’m Cheryl, I have been in merchandising in some way for about as long as there’s been e-commerce I think so I started before e-commerce was really a big thing. I was, Living in New York. And I was doing buying and inventory planning, and I was working for some of the big retailers out there.
[00:00:31] Macy’s. Lacoste. Brooks brothers. And then I was working at Coach and they asked me to move into their eCommerce and direct to consumer business. you know, really starting a merchandising strategy for their online content. And that’s how I got into eCommerce and I basically never left. So when I moved to Chicago, I continued doing it for some businesses out here.
[00:00:54]and I’ve worked in lots of different industries, whether it was fashion and apparel gifting crafting you name it,
[00:01:01]I’ve kind of covered the gamut.
[00:01:04]JoAnn: [00:01:04] I love it. So when they came to you and said, let’s move you into digital, we’re going to go e-commerce, what got you started in merchandising? What made you want to take the leap?
[00:01:14]Cheryl: [00:01:14] well, because they asked me, so when you, when your vice president says, Hey, I think you should do this. What do you think you say, “Oh. Okay. That sounds great. But it was all, it was flattering and I was excited to do it. And honestly, I mean, it was really. New enough that, I said, Oh, we have, we have a website? you know? And, and
[00:01:37] it’s funny looking back on it now, because I am such a huge online shopper too, to think, Oh, does coach have a website? It’s it’s like comical now, but, but at the time that’s what it was. And it was really an exciting opportunity. It was actually under their umbrella of new businesses at the time.
[00:01:55] It wasn’t even, yeah. It’s own, you know, department at that point. And to actually come in and be a part of this team, who was doing such an exciting thing, you know, I had been part of their retail division where it was so established and that was what was exciting. I was getting to take this knowledge that I already had about the business and about their assortment and say, how do we translate that? And how do we work together? You know, I think , that was an important piece of the puzzle too. How do we take that knowledge and how do we build that teamwork that was already existing and apply that to what’s going on online? Because at the end of the day, you’re still working with the customer just in very different way.
[00:02:39]JoAnn: [00:02:39] I love that. So what made you stay in merchandising through the years after that?
[00:02:45] Cheryl: [00:02:45] I just really love it. I love that engagement. it’s very, automatic. You know, with the right analytics, you can tell what the customer wants. All the time. And I think there is such a marriage of art and science to it. So you don’t really get bored.
[00:03:05]Like I said, I come from inventory planning. I have a very analytical mind, you know, So I love being able to put numbers together and see what works, but there’s also this great creative side to it because you’re still wanting a site that looks really great because that’s what appeals to a customer.
[00:03:24] I always say I’m the customer’s advocate at the end, you know, that’s really what it’s about. It’s about, you want the customer to have this great experience
[00:03:34] . So how do you do that and what are they telling you to make that a great experience? And I think that’s always fun. No matter what industry you’re doing it for.
[00:03:45] JoAnn: [00:03:45] Yeah. As you’re looking at your metrics, your analytics, really understanding how your website’s performing, what are some of the things you look for in understanding what would make that customer experience great. What would make the customer really happy as they’re navigating your site?
[00:04:00] Cheryl: [00:04:00] Well, I mean, the end result is always your revenue, right. And your conversion. but I think when merchandising specifically, there is, you know, some more specific analytics that tell you if you’re doing the right thing, you know, besides conversion, obviously. I always think digital marketing brings people to your site, but it’s up to merchandising to make sure that you’re working with them properly to make sure that they are bringing them to the right pages of the site and that you’re coordinating properly to say, “Oh, you’re bringing them to this page of the site: is that page ready for the customer? Are we giving them an aligned experience?”
[00:04:41] So once they get there, are they liking what they see? Are they on that page for the right amount of time? Are they adding those products to the cart? So add to cart is a big one, you know, are we showing them the right related items?
[00:04:54] What’s our average order size and what’s the UPT looking like?
[00:04:58]Some of those specific metrics, I think within that overall, ‘What’s the conversion? What’s the revenue?’ become really important to the specifics of the merchandising experience.
[00:05:08] And, you know, also looking at things like, heat maps on the site and understanding your homepage analytics. You know, how far down on the page are they going?
[00:05:16] Are you getting them the right information at the top of the page to engage them properly? What’s the structure of the page? And, are you making it easy for them? Are you giving them enough consistency? You know, the navigation, all of that good stuff.
[00:05:31]JoAnn: [00:05:31] I love hearing people talk about it really passionately. and it’s clear that you spend a lot of time thinking about this and thinking about the experience.
[00:05:40]Before the call, you indicated that you’ve brought on merchandising as a new craft in some companies that you’ve worked for.
[00:05:47]For companies that maybe have relied on marketing to bring people to the site, but are new then to the idea of merchandising the site to fulfill that experience. What advice would you have for those companies, but also for people hired into those roles as first merchandisers in a company?
[00:06:04] Cheryl: [00:06:04] Yeah, I think, sometimes companies and rightly so, they’re thinking about how do I get the customer? So they’re thinking about their marketing. They’re thinking about their email initiatives and their social initiatives. And they’re thinking about their reach, they’re thinking about how are they getting those people, and let’s just get them to the site.
[00:06:24] And that’s awesome. And then merchandising is almost like this luxury. of like, Oh, now we can, now we can make it pretty. so, you know, it’s not just about. Oh, we have to make the site look great for the customer. There’s a lot of workflow behind the scenes that really needs to work properly.
[00:06:46]Because if the marketing team it is out there putting together beautiful emails and great, videos for YouTube and doing all of this amazing work. And then sending the customer to a site that’s not well merchandised or sending them to pages where that product is maybe sold out, or they didn’t coordinate with the buying team to see if there was enough of that to really market it properly.
[00:07:16] Um, you know, we’re, we’re not having a great experience. And so a lot of times. I’ve come in as kind of the hub between all of those departments to say, let’s coordinate, what do we have to do to step back from that, to start planning these things in a timeline that’s going to work. And then how can I start bringing in our tech team too, to say what’s missing for our site that we might need.
[00:07:42] It could be something as simple as. Yeah, we need to do this initiative and maybe that product’s not going to be in stock long enough. We know we’re only going to have enough probably for, you know, the first day of that. So can we get some messaging to say, add it to your wishlist so that we can start tracking demand so that we know how, how much more to buy.
[00:08:02] Next time we do something like this, you know, and just start bringing those pieces together. And I think that’s a lot of what merchandising is. Beyond just the, Hey let’s sequence this in the right order or let’s make sure the pretty colors show up so that it looks like a great page when you get there.
[00:08:21] I had a manager once say to me, “It’s a discipline.” of merchandising and he meant it, you know, in a couple of different ways.
[00:08:29] Like we have to discipline ourselves that it’s, it’s not this kind of wild West of getting to the site we have to start coordinating. We have to work together so that as a company, We can get that experience for the customer to seem seamless.
[00:08:45] JoAnn: [00:08:45] Yeah. so in that process of coordinating all of these different teams and departments. And, as someone on my team would say, herding the cats in the company as, as you’re launching campaigns, um, what advice would you have for someone in that role in terms of. Communication setting expectations.
[00:09:06] Assuming this might be a new exercise or new discipline in a company, a lot of marketers wouldn’t necessarily think, Oh, I need to think about the experience after the fact and, think about how a product might be displayed as compared to how it’s displayed in the marketing campaign, that seamless experience concept.
[00:09:25]What advice would you give for communication across those departments?
[00:09:29] Cheryl: [00:09:29] Listen.
[00:09:32] JoAnn: [00:09:32] That’s great advice.
[00:09:35] Cheryl: [00:09:35] Listen, twofold, listen internally, listen to the other departments, listen to what their needs are and also listen to the customer, you know? So listen to the departments, listen to how far out do the buyers need to buy the products to start really properly planning what our marketing initiatives are going to be.
[00:09:59]When can we start planning what that homepage content is going to look like and what email strategies and social strategies we can do to support that. When do we still have time for them to go back and buy more if there’s some great campaign that we want to go after. Start listening to the tech team about how long it might really take to implement something super cool that everybody’s excited about on the site.
[00:10:24] You know, really listen and start coordinating ahead of time. How long is it going to take to launch something for the Christmas season to make that in time? When do they really start buying for that peak season?
[00:10:38]I’ve worked in places where peak season for Christmas starts mid-October. I’ve worked where it starts Thanksgiving. I’ve worked in places where it starts in July because they’re making products and they’re giving them to people by Thanksgiving. So, so you really need to listen to what the customer wants and then you have to work backwards from those timelines.
[00:11:04] So I think that’s the biggest thing. And when you’re new and especially if it’s a new role coming in and just being like, this is what we have to do, doesn’t always go super great.
[00:11:16] JoAnn: [00:11:16] Yeah. Can you remember an example and I won’t make you call any brand or person out in particular, but what’s an example of something that went horribly wrong because no one listened or just communication breakdown in general.
[00:11:30]Cheryl: [00:11:30] you know, there’s always examples of that. I can think of a time where I was working, somewhere and we were as a positive putting together ways of working crossfunctionally across teams and putting together new teams, taking people from departments, and saying, okay “we’re all gonna work together implement new things on the site.”
[00:11:53] And. , we were trying to put something on the site and we were not all in agreement about how to implement that customer facing and how that would work. And, we went with the loudest voice because, there was just a lot of, you know, we couldn’t come to an agreement and, we didn’t really feel great about how it launched and we ended up not being able to use it because we couldn’t get data out of it.
[00:12:24] The worst things that you can do is put something on your site that you can’t get data out of to know if it’s effective or not. And the customer can’t use it well. You know, if the customer can’t use it and you can’t know if the customer’s using it, you didn’t win.
[00:12:39] So you have to start over and that’s a waste of work. So, you know, that was one that didn’t go great. So we have to redo it.
[00:12:46] JoAnn: [00:12:46] Yeah. So I could tell by listening to your talk, you’re very into measuring results as I would hope most merchandisers are, and I assume from that there is an element of iterating on it success. So you don’t expect that you’re going to, launch a new initiative and within two days, see, your KPIs are through the roof and everyone’s celebrating, popping champagne, and you call it a day.
[00:13:10]If you were going into a company. And they’re asking you to start a merchandising team, you’re hiring up your team. what are the first KPIs you’re going to put into place for that team to determine success? And then how would you lead them to iterate toward hitting those broader goals?
[00:13:34] Cheryl: [00:13:34] I think they’re all the same KPIs that we’ve been talking about. So depending how you’re structuring your department and what the company is, it still comes down to, your UPTs, your time on the site, your conversion, your add to cart. Depending again on the structure there’s times where I’ve had teams, where we’re literally building the site, it’s a startup
[00:14:00] so it’s about what is the structure of the PDP? And are you effectively streamlining that process and making sure that the standards are being met on every page? So when the PDP content is launching, is your bullet points for your copy being hit? And are you getting all your standards for your photo imagery in there?
[00:14:26]So it could be those kinds of things too, besides just your Google analytics metrics.
[00:14:33] Part of web merchandising too is not just the Google analytics side of it or your CMS, reporting that you’re getting, depending on what platforms you’re working on, but also your product selling and understanding what penetrations of your business you are doing.
[00:14:49] And sometimes, kPIs could be working with your product team to say, are we hitting our goals for certain product categories in terms of penetrations to the business?
[00:15:01] If it’s an omni-channel business, like when I was, working at coach or when I’ve worked at some other businesses like that, where you do have the opportunity to compare to retail channels, you can look at your online business and say, Oh, well, this category is selling better or worse online versus stores.
[00:15:20] Why is that? What am I doing differently online versus stores. And is that a good or a bad thing? Is that something I can affect? Can I change that? And so if you have a team that is responsible for certain segments of your business, that’s also a piece that’s important and something to be held responsible for.
[00:15:39] JoAnn: [00:15:39] Yeah. So I’m going to take you back in time to you mentioning, taking coach online. So everyone’s very familiar with coach and the brand and the handbags, et cetera. What is it like taking such an iconic loved brand online into a brand new channel. What did you learn from that? What was the experience?
[00:16:03] Cheryl: [00:16:04] Well, I mean, at the time, you know, I was already working there for a couple years, but you always feel, I think anywhere I’ve worked, really, it doesn’t matter if it is a super well known brand or not I think. I’ve always thought this way and I hope that anybody who works with me or for me, feels the same, like you have such a brand loyalty to it, no matter what it is.
[00:16:27] And so I, felt like that, like you just want pure success. You want it to be awesome. And I think that synergy of what does this look like online and how do we make sure it’s as awesome as when somebody walks by a coach store?
[00:16:48] I remember one of the first things that I started doing was working with one of my leaders in the retail division who oversaw the store windows and working with her every month and had weekly meetings by the end saying, okay, what are you putting in the store windows? I want to make sure I’m mimicking that on a homepage. Let’s make the homepage like the windows so that we can have that synergy.
[00:17:16] And so we started doing that and we would sit together when we were, doing the buy and making sure that what the retail stores were buying, we were supporting online too. And maybe we would buy different penetrations because we were seeing our business shift as we were analyzing, you know, what was working online versus what was working in stores.
[00:17:36] But we would always make sure we had some kind of assortment strategy that aligned so that we were supporting each other.
[00:17:42]JoAnn: [00:17:42] I love thinking of a homepage, like a department store window. Over that time, did you see that customers behaved differently when interacting with that window? As you’re trying to mimic the in store experience and the affinity that people feel for the coach brand, was there a point where it kind of forked and you started realizing that web was very different and that experience had to be different, or did you find that consumers actually just kind of kept a parallel path in terms of how they related with the shopping experience?
[00:18:13]Cheryl: [00:18:13] The one thing I do remember is that we started seeing a lot deeper penetration in, that very top pinnacle fashion product. You can put, the sizzle that sells the steak, as they say, you show that kind of one super fancy thing in the window that would get people to walk in, but not necessarily the thing that they would buy… online they’d buy it.
[00:18:39]JoAnn: [00:18:39] Interesting. Why do you think that is?
[00:18:43]Cheryl: [00:18:43] I mean, I think impulse buying is a lot easier online. Don’t you think?
[00:18:49] So it’s like click buy. Okay. Done. So I think there was some of that. and I think, you know, when you think about shopping in a store, You’ve seen the mannequin and you kind of usually want that.
[00:19:04] So online it’s, it’s that similar feeling like you see the outfit, you see the thing on the home page, that lifestyle image draws you in and you buy that.
[00:19:14] JoAnn: [00:19:14] I love that. I’m always, both jealous and not jealous of people who work for brands who have fans. I think launching. Launching, something like that is a very different dynamic when you have just customers. As opposed to having fans who are very personally invested in what that brand does.
[00:19:36] And so you see that happen a lot when a new brand either goes online or tries a new channel or a new identity in some way, has a new voice… that there’s a very mixed response if it’s a brand that people are very bought into where they’re like, what have you done with my brand I’m a fan of? There must be so much pressure owning that when fans are just hanging on everything you do.
[00:19:59] Cheryl: [00:19:59] Yes. So you think about coach, which I would too, those are, you know, like all the New York companies that I worked for, or, you know, even here, once I moved to Chicago, I worked for a company Mark Shale, which was very well known in the Midwest. It’s a luxury retailer. They certainly had a very diehard customer too, and my most recent company, I was working for a company called Missouri star quilt company, which they sold, quilting supplies . So quilting, fabrics, sewing needles. All of those kinds of good things.
[00:20:31] Talk about a loyal customer. You wouldn’t expect it. Oh my goodness. These fabulous customers, just so loyal and very thoughtful and vocal. And out there following, the face of the company and the heart of the company, a woman, Jenny Doan.
[00:20:55] She does YouTube videos where she teaches just people how to quilt and they follow and they talk. And if you do something that they love, they will let you know and something you don’t love as much, also let you know, in the best possible way, like in this sweetest nicest way. But talk about like feeling an obligation to not screw up anything that I felt even more there than at someplace like Coach.
[00:21:24]JoAnn: [00:21:24] That’s such an amazing experience to have!
[00:21:27] So let’s shift and look forward a little bit into the future of merchandising. The future of e-commerce. And start with who out there do you think is doing an incredible job? Whether a brand or just a general retailer in terms of pushing the envelopes on what merchandising means and how they engage with their customers on their sites.
[00:21:52] Cheryl: [00:21:52] Oh, that’s such a hard question. but I’ll tell you is where I look every day. And I don’t know if this is that they’re pushing the envelope so much, but just a site that I think consistently does a good job is, Shopbop. Do you ever go to that site? So I just, what I love about that site is they have so many SKUs and you just feel like they don’t.
[00:22:22] They do such a good job at consistency in their navigation, in their PDP structure, in how they launch products every day, you can go to that site every day and you know exactly what to do . It gives such great consistency for a repeat customer that you can go to new arrivals. You can go to new today. You can just go to new and it gives a repeat customer reason to come back every single day.
[00:22:52] But it also gives a new customer a very easy way to get familiar with the site and for a site that carries so many SKUs. I think they do such a good job and even. Today with them having to make changes to how they do photography. They still manage to have a very consistent feel, which I think helps, any customer navigate a site.
[00:23:18] And I really admire that about the brand. So when I’m at different companies and I’m often trying to start building consistency is how we lay out the site or start thinking about navigation, and the taxonomy in a better way. I will often use that as an example, because I think even if you’re not in the apparel or accessories business, just thinking about that structure in such a clean way, really helps the customer and guides them.
[00:23:46] JoAnn: [00:23:46] I love, I love what you say about. The fact that they have so many SKUs, but it feels like they don’t, it seems like that is a critical achievement for a site merchandiser, because everything you’re doing is trying to guide that person to the product or products that they need that inspire them, that they want, that they’ll ultimately purchase.
[00:24:10] Cheryl: [00:24:10] Absolutely.
[00:24:10]JoAnn: [00:24:10] To do that without it being confusing though, can sometimes be very difficult, right? Because some sites that have a lot of SKUs, but feel like they don’t also feel like mazes where you find something and they can never find it again. How do you balance that between guiding someone to something relevant versus hiding things that might be relevant if that makes sense?
[00:24:34] Cheryl: [00:24:34] No it does. And I think that that is such a true statement. I’ve, come to companies where the navigation is such that they have categories that the customer has no way to access.
[00:24:51] You need to be forward thinking like something that I often work with product teams about is if you were thinking about going into a new product category, then we’ve got to talk because if I don’t have a place to put it in our navigation, it’s probably not going to sell the way you want it to.
[00:25:12] It could have a great launch because we can get great marketing support. But if I don’t have a logical place to put it on the site, we can’t be sure that the customer’s going to get to it again because they have literally no way to get to it on the site unless we market it. So if we put it in an email, they will buy it, but then the next day they can’t get to it because it’s not in the taxonomy
[00:25:38]So it all comes back to ‘What does your taxonomy look like? What’s your filter ‘structure look like?’ and you know, search should be a support. It shouldn’t be the way that they use your site.
[00:25:54]JoAnn: [00:25:54] I always think about, different kinds of shoppers and when it comes to search or navigation or merchandising, or even driving direct to landing pages, through marketing campaigns, all of these different channels, supporting. In some ways, different kinds of shopping experiences. and my favorite visual for that is, thinking about the difference between the way I grocery shop versus the way my husband grocery shops.
[00:26:21] My husband will have a list. It has little check boxes next to everything. He knows exactly what he’s looking for and he will leave the store with nothing more and nothing less. That person uses search, right? Because they know exactly what they’re looking for and they’re going to type it in and they’re going to find it and they’re going to add it to their cart.
[00:26:36] And they’re not even going to look at anything you’re recommending along the way. Blinders are on. I’m the person that I got my coffee and I’m wandering through the store and I’m like, Oh, those noodles, like interesting. And I throw it in the cart and I ended up at the end and I don’t even know if I have ingredients to make one cohesive meal, but my cart is full.
[00:26:56] That person is going to browse through your navigation. They look through your category pages and they’re going to kind of find things that feel right to them at the time. And so I think it’s so important to your point to have those different ways that a shopper can navigate and find what they’re looking for.
[00:27:13] Especially like the browser shoppers are the ones that are going to buy the mannequin outfit from the window. They’re more impulse buys and they’re going to probably end up spending a little bit more money on the site. So your AOV has benefited from impulse shoppers.
[00:27:27] Cheryl: [00:27:27] Exactly. Exactly.
[00:27:29] JoAnn: [00:27:29] But I love that approach of working with your buyers to have that kind of mindset in the strategy phase.
[00:27:36] It’s not just that merchandising the site is an afterthought for the company.
[00:27:40] Cheryl: [00:27:40] Yes. Yeah. I, you know, I found that that is a much more successful way to go about it. That’s not to say it always happens that way, but it’s just a lot better when it says.
[00:27:54] JoAnn: [00:27:54] I mean, every company has like the ideal version of a process and then the way the process actually works when boots hit the ground.
[00:28:01] Cheryl: [00:28:01] Exactly. And then it’s usually a combination of both. Right? and you know, that’s okay too.
[00:28:06] JoAnn: [00:28:06] Exactly. So I asked you about what you think about a site that’s doing things really, really well , on the flip side, what are some things that you feel a lot of merchandisers miss that they should be thinking about when they’re looking at their site strategy?
[00:28:24] Cheryl: [00:28:24] Well, I think we touched on it and I think. One of the big things is just that not forward-thinking piece. I think that part about just thinking about today, just thinking about what do I have to do right now? Because I’ve got this product and just got to get it out there. And I got to sell this to the customer, and you’re not thinking about how might my assortment expand, how might my customer focus, evolve?
[00:28:57] You know, what are going to be the next demographic of customer I hope to go after, or, you know, next segment of, of product that I’m going to go into. It’s not to say that that’s going to be what happens. And that’s totally fine. Like you’re going to shift, it’s going to pivot. It’s going to totally change.
[00:29:18] That’s normal that’s business. Everybody’s prepared for that, you know, but I think just not even thinking about it is where things often can go awry because then you’re building a site that you’re not setting yourself up for success. And you’re also not structuring anything for your customer to kind of give yourself some bandwidth to expand, you know, and I mean that internally too, for your internal workflows.
[00:29:48] Sure. You might just be a few people to start off, but to not even thinking about how that might look as you grow and what that might mean. You know, to your efficiencies internally. I think that’s where people can sometimes go wrong.
[00:30:07]so what you’re talking about it seems like really is that merchandising has much more, uh, leadership vision in the company than it might in a lot of companies today where you often see.
[00:30:23] I don’t know if that’s true, but I like to think so.
[00:30:25] JoAnn: [00:30:25] I’m we’re going to start the trend, right? Where, where, where are our chief merchandising officers out here?
[00:30:32] Cheryl: [00:30:32] Because, you know, I think we touched on this in the beginning. I think that, companies have sort of seen it. I said it this way before, because somebody said it to me once as almost like a luxury instead of a necessary part of the business. Nobody sees customer outreach as a luxury, nobody sees making sure you have emails or social these days as you know, a luxury.
[00:31:00]I see merchandising not just as the actual product and how the product is sequenced on the site, but the content and, you know, the whole flow of the site as merchandising. Why is that any less important when the fact is that when they get there, they’re actually spending more time there and that’s where they’re actually spending their money?
[00:31:18] The tech team? That is certainly not a luxury, that’s super, super important. They need a business arm working with them too, to help guide everything that they’re doing. To me that needs a seat at the table, just like everything else, to all have equal weight, to really be as successful as possible.
[00:31:39]JoAnn: [00:31:39] Yeah, it almost sometimes seems like if someone who’s thinking about the site experience doesn’t exist… all of this money is being invested in marketing. And so you’re throwing money at paid ads. You’re investing in social. You’re hiring influencers, and then you’re kind of funneling customers through like, a, ‘alright, now figure it out’ experience on the site!
[00:32:04] But if you just tweak that conversion knob slightly, it almost all pays for itself initially because you’re already spending on marketing and getting people there. Like now the focus is really on fine tuning the conversion to get the most out of what you’re already spending.
[00:32:20] Cheryl: [00:32:20] Exactly. And that’s often a conversation that I’ll have, we’ll talk about traffic and conversion and I’ll say, okay, well of course marketing is going to have a huge hand in traffic that comes to the site and I need to make sure that that conversion number stays up assuming that they are getting qualified traffic to the site.
[00:32:46]Now, of course you always see, you know, conversion slightly come down and you get it, huge uptick in traffic, but it’s, it’s up to us to be working together to make sure that that happens, you know, and if there’s no capture for that traffic, then it’s not going to be as effective.
[00:33:06]JoAnn: [00:33:06] As a marketer, that’s a lot of how I think about a website as well. And it seems like it’s a no brainer for marketers though. Being in the technology world, you wouldn’t send someone to your site and then there’s no way to contact sales or talk to someone at the company or watch a video demo of the product.
[00:33:27] And so seeing that kind of advance and become more sophisticated in eCommerce as well, where there’s so much investment in looking at the minute details of conversion on the site is really exciting.
[00:33:40] Cheryl: [00:33:40] Absolutely. Absolutely. The more, technology that there is and the more ways there are to dig through your site and look at different things, you can see so much more about what the customer’s doing and you can see every little thing that they’re doing. It’s like following somebody around your store and watching them touch things.
[00:33:58] So you get to know so much more about what they’re doing.
[00:34:02] JoAnn: [00:34:02] In the least creepy way possible.
[00:34:04] Cheryl: [00:34:04] Of course,
[00:34:07] JoAnn: [00:34:07] You’re you’re the sales rep who’s like peeking out from behind the jacket
[00:34:11] Cheryl: [00:34:11] exactly. Without that annoying, like, Hey, do you mean?
[00:34:14] JoAnn: [00:34:14] Yeah. I’m just browsing.
[00:34:17] Cheryl: [00:34:17] Yeah, exactly. Please leave me alone.
[00:34:21] JoAnn: [00:34:21] I love it. So, so hypothetical. And I’m going to massively, over-simplify your job here for a second.
[00:34:30] Um, so, so let’s say that that scenario does exist in a company. I’m sure there are a lot of people listening who are thinking, Oh my gosh, that’s my company. We’re spending so much on marketing and then we’re not catching what we need to on the site.
[00:34:44] If you’re coming in and advising them, what’s the first thing you tell this person to look at when they want to turn that conversion rate knob?
[00:34:53]Cheryl: [00:34:53] I mean, it really depends on the business at the very base level, though. I would probably start with what is your marketing team doing? Like, what’s the strategy? Like, are you having daily emails and where are the emails going on the site every day? Are those pages ready? I mean, literally that simple, like are they going to PDPs that are in stock because I hate to say, but I’ve worked at companies where that has not been the case. Or, have you built a landing page that is, understandable and easy to buy those products, add to cart and check out?
[00:35:35] You know, I’ve been places where they’ve had beautiful landing pages that they’ve sent the customer to that, you know, we’ve had these brilliant creative teams that have built gorgeous, gorgeous pages. And the add to cart button is kind of way below the fold and hard to find. And Oh, we kind of didn’t think about that part.
[00:35:57] And it’s a great page and customers think it’s beautiful that they learned a lot. And bye! so, Yeah, it’s really, it could be things as simple as that. And did everybody know, that that was going on that day? Were the buyers aware to make sure that the product was in stock? So it could be sometimes as simple as that.
[00:36:23] JoAnn: [00:36:23] It’s such great advice though, because I think a lot of times, I mean, myself as a marketer, I do this and merchandisers do this. You get into the day to day of activity and tasks and getting stuff done that you need to get done. And it almost feels like making any major change has to be this huge endeavor.
[00:36:43] And sometimes it is just going back to the basics on things and saying, if I were shopping on my site and I followed this email onto a landing page, would I buy the product? What is that experience I’m getting and, and simple little UI tweaks or descriptors can make a huge, huge difference in that experience.
[00:37:05] I love the going back to basics advice.
[00:37:08] Cheryl: [00:37:08] And sometimes, you know, you’re all working so fast too, because that you, you forget the simple. Hey, did anybody check the inventory on that the night before the emails going out? Because you’re working so fast or you don’t have great workflows in place because you just haven’t had time. So there wasn’t that step of, you know, it would have been great if we had this creative done a few days ago, so that there would have been some padding in here that somebody could check the inventory to make sure that it actually came in on time and that it’s here and we’re good to go.
[00:37:41] You know, how many times has I’m sure anybody in any company had that like 10:00 PM, uh, you know, I just checked that link and that thing’s not here. What’s going on? So simple things like that, just working in time for your checklist is sometimes the best thing you could do.
[00:38:00]JoAnn: [00:38:00] I love it. so one final question for you as we close out, What are you looking forward to in your industry? Is there something, when you look out over the vast seas of e-commerce and all of these wonderful merchandisers out there doing their thing, what are you most looking forward to see shift in your industry?
[00:38:23]Cheryl: [00:38:23] I mean, I think the evolution is what’s always exciting, you know, seeing where this has come from, from when I first started to where it is now has already been super exciting. You know, seeing it start from it’s baby steps to the fact that we are having this podcast about it is pretty amazing.
[00:38:50] So I mean, to me, that in and of itself is great. And just seeing the evolution of how merchandising is not just about fashion. I think when this first started, you always just thought about apparel and accessories and really it’s about anything you buy online. could really be anything because it’s B to B. There’s so many things that really require a hand in what that site looks like and what that customer experience looks like. And I think that evolution tied with so many things that you know, as technology evolves and the more things that we can get data on and the easier analytics become…
[00:39:46]I think that combination really opens the flood Gates for the more and more we can do.
[00:39:52] And, you know, I think certainly with everything that’s going on in the world today, online shopping becomes more and more important and that’s, not going away either. It’s a good thing in at least moving technology forward, if nothing else.
[00:40:06] JoAnn: [00:40:06] It is an exciting future and I love being a part of it. I love watching it. And Cheryl, I have loved having you today. It was an absolute blast talking to you. Thank you for sharing your expertise, sharing all of your experience. If people want to find you online, how can they find you? Connect with you?
[00:40:26]Cheryl: [00:40:26] Well, I’m on LinkedIn, so that’s always a great place to find and connect with me.
[00:40:30] JoAnn: [00:40:30] Awesome. Thank you so much.
[00:40:31] Cheryl: [00:40:31] Thank you. This was really great. I enjoyed it so much.Hide Transcript
Highlights Worth Hearing
Why marketing needs to be aligned with merchandising
KPIs that go beyond Google Analytics
Taking Coach online: from storefront window to homepage
How taxonomy can make or break a product launch
Increasing conversions can actually be simple
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