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Social merchandising: Capturing and analyzing social data for retail

Retail Analytics Marketing Manager, IBM

At a point in time when many retailers are eliminating the traditional chief merchant role in their organizations, one has to reflect on what that trend may imply. Is the role being eliminated because merchants are no longer needed? What is—or was—the job of those merchants?

Personally, I cannot believe the human touch to merchandising is no longer required. However, that role needs to evolve and move away just a bit from merchants relying on anecdotal or even gut-feel evidence for their tactics in stores and online. Today’s merchants or merchandisers need to leverage the tools available in the marketplace to make far more scientific decisions versus anecdotal ones.

http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/sites/default/files/socialmerch_blog.jpgConsider where one of the hottest sources of decision-making data is coming from—social chatter. Social media analytics has been around in some form or another for several years, and yet there has been a component that has not yet matured. That missing link is social merchandising, which involves connecting the social data sources, analyzing what is captured and integrating those insights into merchandising management systems at the retailer. Real social merchandising should be able to curate unstructured data from internal and external sources into actionable insights for merchandising managers and marketers at department, category, line and item levels.

Merchandising costs represent one of the largest costs in a retail organization and are among the most dynamic that require daily decisions on pricing, product range and supplier. Many retail managers—merchandising, store, supply chain—don’t have a reasonable way to sift through volumes of unstructured data to create a quantifiable view that can guide their decisions. Merchants, buyers and marketers need a consistent, shared and goal-oriented way of handling existing and new sources of unstructured customer-, colleague- or supplier-derived data.

The recently announced IBM Social Merchandising for Retail was created to enable merchants and buyers to monitor the perception and influencers regarding a specific range of products. They can use the IBM Social Merchandising for Retail solution to monitor changes in perception and identify areas to drill into deeper and monitor over time. The solution then allows decision makers to execute tactics at store-level to drive profitable growth in near-real time. Check out Social Merchandising for Retail and share your thoughts about it below.