Products make or break eCommerce storefronts

Product Management

There are a number of variables that can affect the success and profitability of a retailer, ranging from active marketing and brand management to behind-the-scenes order and warehouse management.

For physical stores, the mantra has always been “location, location, location”. However, with customers now shopping on all channels –
in-store, online, mobile…, there is one element that is now more important than ever – product offerings. Merchants need to have the items their customers want, and these goods need to be in-stock, ready to ship and easy to search for.

Fiona Dias, current chief strategy officer of ShopRunner and a former executive at the now-defunct Circuit City, recently spoke about the importance of product selection and management at Retail's Big Show 2013, the annual convention held by the National Retail Federation (NRF). Online and multichannel shopping is quickly becoming the de facto way that consumers buy products. Because of that, having the items and goods they so desire has become pivotal to success.

"[With mobile and web shopping,] your customer may never make it to your store," Dias asserted at Big Show 2013 panel, as quoted by the NRF's blog. "The reason you stand out among a sea of competitors is product."

Taking lessons from the best

Dias pointed to two eCommerce giants as examples of how product management impacts online success. The first was Amazon, which established a strong foothold in the sector by offering a vast assortment of products that essentially dwarfs all other competitors. Despite that, however, Amazon seemingly never has stock or delivery issues that might hinder other retailers with a similarly deep catalog of products.

The other was Nordstrom, which eschews deep catalogs for a tightly knit selection of beautiful, high-quality goods that go together. Nordstrom offers shoppers a unique buying experience and caters specifically to its niche market through its selection of carefully picked products.

Both of these retailers followed the same basic guidelines that enabled them to succeed online and in-store. To follow their lead, merchants need to focus on three areas. First, merchants need a clearly articulated product management strategy designed for multichannel shopping. Second, retailers must understand their target audience and their needs. Finally, they need to analyze any competitive barriers that may prevent their product strategy from coming to fruition.

Remember the new mantra: “products, products, products”.

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