Sunday, 15 November 2015

Search and searches

Plumen Drop Top Pendant Lamps, Bitossi Lucca Wine Glass Amber, Korres Colour Guava Lipstick, H&M Conscious Coat

A conversation at work got me thinking about the (semantic) difference between singulars and plurals when entered into a search bar. It seems to me that customers who type, say, lamp instead of lamps, are closer to the point of purchase - they 'want to buy a lamp'. Customers who search for coats rather than coat, on the other hand, 'want to see all your coats', they're only beginning to consider buying something.

So I tried to find out if any retailers were treating singular and plural search terms differently. I looked at six retailers of both lamps and coats. On the whole, I found that search results for singulars and plurals were identical. In a few cases, bad listings were returned for the singular and/or plural. And I found only one instance of different, good results for coat and coats - here the singular brought up more statement, more expensive pieces.

 There are some products that you would be more inclined to purchase in multiples - say wine glasses - and some products that are generally referred to collectively - lipstick, for instance. For these items, I found one retailer with different search results for the singular and the plural. For wine glasses, more expensive results were returned than for wine glass, and some beer glasses were shown.

Then I tried to decrypt some Google results for lamp/lamps, coat/coats, wine glass/wine glasses and lipstick/lipsticks. I also looked at some more specific search terms - metallic lamp(s), duster coat(s), nude lipstick(s), stemless wine glass(es).

The results varied a lot - in terms of how many retailers were returned (and if any news stories or google images, for example, were displayed), in terms of which retailers were returned, regarding whether there were Google Ads, regarding whether there was Google Shopping... But I couldn't really draw out any distinguishing characteristics of singular/plural searches. It was just too vast.

This is just something I have been pondering though. I'm by no means knowledgeable about this area!

Anyway, I have been meaning to post for a while. My role at work is changing at the moment. While it's changing, I might not post for a bit, and when I do start writing again, the topics of my posts might be different. Just to let you know.

Hope you had a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

London Design Festival - Multiplex, Tom Dixon's Department Store

We went to Multiplex on Saturday, Tom Dixon's temporary department-store-of-the-future, part of the London Design Festival.

It was in a cavernous space, The Old Selfridges' Hotel, lighting was low and the walls were lined with silver foil. The departments comprised homeware (of course), fashion, accessories, beauty, food and drink. The atmosphere was calming and yet engaging, it really seemed to encourage conversation with the brands that were represented.

Some of the brands and some of the merchandising that caught my eye were:

Haeckels - You couldn't fail but notice their 'polytunnel' spa with planted porch, and, in fact, it encapsulated several important influences on their brand: a love of the coastal botanicals found near Margate and the science used to compound these botanicals into natural fragrances and skincare.
The cosmetics were displayed simply, each given sufficient space to stand out. Perfumes stood on top of wooden boxes marked with the GPS co-ordinates of the location where they were inspired, and the date and meteorological conditions when they were inspired.
As a whole area, it worked wonderfully!

Obataimu - This fabric-focused, concept-led, slow-fashion brand had an ingenious display in a corner of the department store. The two walls had not been used to display clothes, instead a video from their factory was projected onto the long wall, with some beautiful stills affixed to the left, and some infographics were positioned on the smaller wall to the right. The clothes were hung on two levels, parallel to the walls and extending almost their length, forming an enclosed, intimate space within the department store. 
Dresses from the Wabi Sabi collection (which 'indulg[es] individuality, impulse, statement and process') and other standout pieces, were in placed in hotspots to encourage customers to interact - reach up, touch the fabric and so on. The Shibui collection, inspired by witnessing people snatching shut-eye on the Tokyo tube and developed with sleep textile innovators, was mainly displayed on the right.
Finally, in the middle of the space, there was a selection of interesting books, to engage and give a homely feel.
Obataimu also have an excellent website.

Gelato Meccanico - How merchandising would be applied to a 'café-setting' isn't something I have really considered before, I can't claim very much knowledge of it all all, but I adored the presentation of Gelato Meccanico's ice creams! As we entered Multiplex, we were given a miniature cone that we could take to the food department to receive a free ice cream sample. As we queued, we admired two beautiful manual gelato churns. In cream enamel, natural wood and copper, these provided an insight into the performance and authenticity that seem important parts of this brand. A series of infographics explained the science behind the churns. Five or six flavours, some classic, some more inventive, were served from lovely chrome chillers.
And after that, my little scoop of honey and rosemary was absolutely delicious!

Tom Dixon's products really lend themselves to merchandising. An island of candles, a tower of gifts, in burnished copper and brass, naturally draw shoppers across for a closer look.
I repeatedly found myself pulled towards striking light fittings as well - Dixon's, and those of a New Zealand design house, Resident - and guided from department to department by light.

Multiplex is on until 18th October. If you can look in, it's really worthwhile!

First collage (clockwise from top) Tom Dixon Tank Jug £95, Brew Stove Top £125, Scent Diffuser Earth £85, Cog Candelabra £200, Large Scented Candle London £80, Plum Cocktail Shaker £95
Second collage (clockwise from top) Haeckels Eau de Parfum GPS 26'3"E £160, Exfoliating Seaweed Block £18, Seaweed/Geranium Hand Balm £18, Seaweed/Sea Lavender Lip Balm £15, Seaweed/Carrot Seed Facial Serum £65, Candle GPS 26'3"E £50

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Month in Online Merchandising : September

Seasalt Bowline Jacket £140, Des Petites Hauts Bibli Cardigan €159, Clarks Orla Andie Boots £180, Sambonet Terra Cotto Saucepot £52 at Heals, Wild & Wolf Enamel Bowls £27.50 at Baltic Shop, John Lewis Nordic Carafe £12 and Tumblers £4 each

It's September and already all-go with us. Here are my 'undo-able' to-dos for the month:

As we start to build up to the month of December, I've a long list of pages to optimise. I'm starting with really key pages now: pages of products that are integral to customers festive activities. Depending on what industry you're in that could be gifts, items for entertaining, decorations, party-wear... Then, I'll do some more tangential pages and return to core areas in a month or so, to make them fresh and even more relevant, and to look after any new products.
This year, I already have the end of December at the back of my mind as well - how pages can be adapted to meet the very different demands of the Winter sales period.

I haven't managed to make much progress on my compendium of great merchandising ideas - I think I need to set aside an hour or two each week for recording anything I've spotted, browsing for more examples etc...

We are wanting to review our 'review processes' soon too: take a look at what it is we currently esteem to be a success and how we measure degrees of success. Merchandising can achieve lots and lots of different things - improving sales, improving product views (and I say improving not increasing because sometimes you might not be going after volumes), increasing profit, creating a particular aesthetic-impression (one consistent with bricks-and-mortar stores, for example)... And you can measure in lots of different ways - you can consider individual products, you can consider pages as a whole, you can consider areas of pages (e.g. the effect generated by the first three rows, or the top right-hand product).
The processes we have in place now are good, but it's important consider other options or improvements.

Well, have a lovely week. I'm hoping to write some more about the first of my to-dos - to give a bit of an insight into how I'm thinking when I'm merchandising at the moment - so hopefully, it won't be too long before I post again.

Mari x

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Berlin II - Web Merchandising Case Studies and Examples

Plip, the Umbrella Man by David Sire and Thomas Baas 14.90€ (from Gestalten), Premiata Sneaker 142.10€ (from 203€), Umasan Y-Shirt 179€, Lumi Venla Pouch €89

I was back in Berlin last week (see my first post about Berlin here) and visited Bikini - a 'concept mall' in a striking '50's building overlooking the city's zoo.

I loved it - I could have marvelled at the architecture and browsed the fashion and homeware brands for hours! And in adjoining buildings, I could have taken in a film at the Zoo Palast cinema, recharged at the 25Hours Hotel or even rented an office!

Looking at their website, as a virtual tourist, I found a clear list of shops and an informative page devoted to each. Some photographs might have made me even more inclined to visit. A clear floorplan was helpful though.
On the attractive homepage, a couple of newer shops and restaurants were highlighted.

The 'What is Bikini Berlin?' section gave an impressive level of detail on the history of the Bikini complex. (Out of interest, Bikini comes from a nickname given to the mall building in the 1950's - its two tier architecture reminded locals of swimwear!) There was also a well-hidden link to an online shop selling mall merchandise.
This page was accessible through two top bar links.

An Events and a Blog section provided reasons to keep returning both to mall and website. Services gave you all the information you needed about location, opening hours, restaurants and possible tours.

The collage above shows some of the items that grabbed me.

Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Month in Online Merchandising : August

(Clockwise from top left) Ilcsi Apricot Gel Mask (from £30, Mango Textured Cotton Blend Dress £59.99, Ilcsi Sour Cherry and Blackthorn Gel Mask (from £30, Embossed Enamel Bowls from £8.95, A Lot on Her Plate recipe book £25

August is a slightly strange month. The run up to Christmas is extremely busy in retail, so you feel you should be taking some holiday now - it's sunny, it's the last time when you're really completely free to take time off, and you need to build up a reserve of energy for the months of September, October, November and December. And yet, a lot of people seem to take multiple, short breaks, maybe because, though comparatively it's less busy than September, it's not quiet - there are always meetings to attend, projects to work on, etc. August feels as if it's a month of coming and going.

In the midst of this transience, here's what I have planned:

- Some forecasting for seasonal offers/promotions - Halloween, Christmas, New Year...
- Making sure my pages chime with the tones of late summer - with the desire to picnic, or to dine al fresco, to cook with summer fruit and veg, and buy fresh flowers, to camp (at festivals, or somewhere more remote), to daytrip, to do implausible things like attend outdoor, nighttime film showings!
I'll be prioritising products that are practical for these sorts of activities, materials that are colourful, airy and light or hard and cooling.
- At the same time, trying to make certain pages more autumnal, with a focus on more muted colours, shades towards russets and plums, denser, cosier fabrics and so on. Items that are useful if you are lounging at home - reading, watching something, cooking - or if you are outdoors in slightly cooler, crisper weather, will be given more attention.
- Some competitive shopping and making a compendium of any interesting range presentation ideas I find.
- Throwing a launch party for a strategy I'm involved in communicating to my colleagues.

Hopefully, I'll manage to snatch enough time!

Well, have a great week!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Fabrics - Web Merchandising Case Studies and Examples

Scion Kamili, Shoji and Meiko fabrics, Medwinds EV dress £99 (from £150), Kusmi Genmaicha and Sencha Fukuyu tea £15.40 each, Muji Hakuji Porcelain Teapot and Cup £9.95 and £2.95

Like everyone, I suppose, I sometimes feel my job is pretty tricky.
To put things in perspective, I decided to have a look at some sites selling products that seemed inherently particularly hard to merchandise. I've always thought that fabric would be difficult to work with - colour and pattern pulling you in different directions (would colour be my main concern if I were buying fabric for some new curtains? or would it be pattern? it's very difficult to say), the risk of it becoming monotonous if you use only detail-shot thumbnails in your galleries, the high chance of not properly showing texture, or smaller, more delicate patterns, of you don't use close-ups...

I found several sites merchandising fabrics really well however, among them Scion.

If, from the arrestingly, engagingly designed homepage (as you scroll, the page pans down for you in a really enticing way), you navigate to the fabric department, you're met with an overview and room-setting image links to sixteen collections. The collections are listed alphabetically and clicking opens up a description of the inspiration and intention, and a thumbnail of each pattern. The arrangement of these thumbnails is alphabetical and the colours seem to have been chosen to be aesthetically pleasing - you have two earthy, natural dye tones next to one another, two faded grey shades together, etc.

The collection pages start with the description again and more beautifully-styled room-setting shots, each with bubbles you can click to reveal the names of the fabrics. Wallpapers in the same collection are also quite prominently linked.

After this you see the pattern thumbnails as above. Or you can click on 'colourways' to reveal the patterns, interestingly not arranged alphabetically this time, in every available colour. Here again, I think attention had been paid to the flow of the colours, particularly where one pattern ran into the next - an inky block print was next to a repeating, blue and red patch design, etc.
Alternatively, you could click on a thumbnail to view product details, an image in a room setting, alternative colourways and some complementary products.

From the fabric department page, you had a second option of viewing thumbnails of all fabrics (all patterns in all colours) at once. Here you could sort alphabetically, by recency, or by colour. The default ordering was definitely not alphabetical and I felt there might have been less deference to aesthetic-effect (more of an emphasis on best-sellers perhaps). Clicking a thumbnail revealed the same product details as before.

Overcoming the difficulties of merchandising fabrics, this was a really nice website, displaying really beautiful materials. I've incorporated my favourites from the Wabi Sabi collection into the collage above.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Month in Online Merchandising : July

Here are a couple of crisp shirts and chic sunnies, to keep and look cool this summer:
Uniqlo Premium Linen 3/4 Sleeve Shirt £19.90, Chinti and Parker x Net Broderie Anglaise Shirt £150, Alexander Wang Cropped Short Sleeve Poplin Shirt £109 down from £182, Jigsaw Alex Sunglasses £60, Anna-Karin Karlsson Rose Rouge Glasses €495, Eleven Paris Lusilver Glasses £79

And here's what is top of my to do list this month:

- Having done sale, it now has to be undone. Any layouts that were changed will revert back to their initial state, or be reworked completely.

- I am continuing to think about what's coming after summer. The transition from holiday back into the workplace, school or university will be at the top of many retailers' agendas - from fashion, to beauty, to food.
I would like to look at sales this time last year and build layouts around best sellers/better sellers (by this I mean products that sold much better than in earlier summer or later autumn). If there have been range changes, I will have to look at comparable products, of course. And if there are any opportunities for relevant content, I will work with colleagues to produce it. 
I am also preparing a promotion - helping to decide where and how it will be communicated, and forecasting accordingly.

- We have an issue with the delivery dates offered for a handful of our products at the moment. I am having to take on a detective role to ascertain why and to ensure our customers receive an accurate date, as close as possible to the day they order, no matter what they order.

- A lot of products will be added to the range at a certain point over the next couple of months. There are various reasons for possible delays, so I am trying to confirm that particular, key products are visible/purchasable promptly.

- We are working up to the launch of a new strategy that will guide the country for an extended period. I am lucky enough to be partly responsible for some local implementation, so I am trying to ensure that the most relevant product galleries/department pages are strategically aligned. I am also organising events and activities to communicate the strategy to the other members of our team, whether or not they will be working with it directly.

That's been quite enough to be getting on with for the last few weeks - it might keep me busy into August even!

Hope you've had a great month so far!