Merchandising Basics for Beginners

The genesis of this post is a long-standing debate with my colleague on a topic that can be safely put as “Marketing Vs Merchandising”.  To begin with, I feel  that there cannot be a debate/discussion on Marketing “Vs” Merchandising because the latter is a very important subset of the former which also consists of several arenas including pricing, promotion and sales lead generation. If I were to present an analogy, consider marketing division as a human body and the different marketing functions as its organs that operate on their own to keep the human body up and alive! so you see now a debate on kidney Vs Human body is kinda ridiculous.

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who is the brain you ask?! well…most often it is the marketing head of the company 😀

But the best part of any discussion is the information exchange that happens (sometimes to win a pointless argument) and this time I got to learn about the merchandising basics that will help you close the gap between marketing, sales and operations that sadly work in silos in most organizations!

Merchandising is defined as the act of promoting the sale of goods, especially by their presentation in retail outlets. The keyword here is presentation. Not to sound shallow, but the presentation of products, goods, services, offers, sales reps, furniture and displays inside your store is a testimony for the standard of your store.

Related image OR  Image result for merchandising retail

So watch out for these merchandising basics to make your store look like picture 2:

#1 STORE LAYOUT 

Spending a lot of time with the store layout to figure out the most optimum store setup is highly recommended in the case of new outlets. 3D layout and dry runs should be done before you actually start setting up the store units. This step can make or break the entire shopping experience in your store for the customers. During the dry runs where you approach the store from the eyes of the customer…figure out the high visibility areas, congestion areas, navigation challenges, placement zones which would be best for the store.

store layout
example of store layout for a pharmacy

the grades A,B and C in the payout are a part of the “Visibility Grading”. A being the most visible areas followed by B and C. Again, this here is the final layout which was finalized after a lot of permutation & combination of the display unit arrangements.

#2 MERCHANDISING SEGMENTS

Merchandising segments are defined to maintain the uniformity or uniqueness of each product category and hence maintain the overall look and feel of the store. merchandising segments are also mean to make the in-store shopping experience of the customer a lot more convenient. Let’s continue with the pharmacy example…so there will be broad product categories like skin care, hair care, feminine care, eye care, OTC medicines, vitamin supplements, baby care , etc. For a merchandiser it is very important to different each of these product categories in a visible manner so that the customer knows exactly where to find what.

Also, each merchandised segment should be have a line of connectivity for the customers to move from one product category to another without even realizing it. so having wall units for skin care, hair care & feminine care in a continuous line will make more sense than skin care, baby care & vitamins.

#3 STORE DISPLAY 

It is what it means! make your store look good…for which all the efforts are being made. But here are some sub points that will simplify your understanding of the display in a store:

  • Counter display – Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) should be displayed at the counter. The area of the counter display is graded as a high end visibility area in the store and are meant for handy products that might slip out of a customer’s shopping list. e.g chewing gums, candies, hand sanitizers, wipes and so on.
  • Free Standing Display Unit (FSDU) – or a Floor Stand is an integral part of  store display.  Utilizing floor display in a correct manner not only increases the likelihood of impulse purchase but also the willingness of shoppers to switch between brands.
  • Window Display – It is important to keep window display area tidy at all times as this signifies your store reputation. Do not stock up products in front of the window display as it portrays a disorganized viewpoint of the store. But window display is crucial for promotion material to entice the customers.

#4 LEVEL PLACEMENT 

There are few important things to consider when placing products on the shelves, such as:

  • Placing your most profitable items at eye level
  • Placing products for children and pregnant women at eye level
  • Placing your popular or targeted products in between eye and knee level of visibility

#5 PLANOGRAMS 

Once you have decided which products are to be placed on which shelves basis the best visibility plan, it is important to consider how the products have to be arranged on the shelves too. A planogram is a visual diagram, or drawing, that provides details on the placement of every product in a retail store. These schematics not only present a flow chart for the particular merchandise departments within a store layout but also show which aisle and on what shelf an item is located.

while I have tried to superficially touch upon the basic merchandising practices, there is a lot more that goes into making a store look flawless and customer friendly. But these pointers will definitely lay a strong foundation in your learning about merchandising and will surely make your views count in “merchandising Vs. marketing” discussion 😛

 

 

 

 

 

Step-by-step guide to keyword research for any business: 3 minute read

“One should be able to control and manipulate experiences with an informed and intelligent mind” – Sylvia Plath 

This quote should be every content marketer’s motto and it surely fits well in the context of this article. Research (which is often considered the lackluster part of marketing) is the key for businesses to make informed and intelligent content for their target audience. with the advent of SEO, we can now peep into the minds of consumers and see what they are searching for in your niche. And it is exciting times for businesses, to say the least, to stay informed and develop content that will definitely NOT go unnoticed.

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I believe this subject is agreeable to most, but a recent discussion on an online forum made me realize that Keyword research is not always an easy actionable in the to-do list. The breaking point could lie anywhere between How to begin? to what to select? from the inundating excel sheets.

While there is no cookie cutter approach to keyword research but here is simple step-by-step guide for beginners to help ramp-up your content.

Case in Point – Zeina who is a budding interior designer has a slightly neglected blog. She wants to know what the potential customers  are searching online regarding interior designing services and use the keywords and phrases in her website content for better search engine ranking.

 

This is how she would do it…

1. Choose possible keywords to start with 

While Zeina doesn’t know what exact terms people are searching online, she can take a a guess what the searches might be like. So she decided to start with the following:

  • Interior decoration service
  • Home interior tips
  • Latest interior decoration trends
  • Office interior designing

Putting the starting keywords in a spreadsheet will help maintain the clarity and organization of the proceeding steps. With the initial step done, Zeina is good to go to the next step.

2. Determine the score of your keywords

She can use Google Keyword Tool to search about her selected keywords first. She will now evaluate her keyword choices basis the following parameters:

  • Average monthly searches – shows the average number of searches for this keyword and its close variants based on the targeting settings and date ranges that you’ve selected. You can use this information to see how popular your keywords are during different times of the year
  • Competition – shows how competitive ad placement is for a keyword, specific to the location and Search Network targeting options that you’ve selected. The level of competition – low, medium or high – is determined by the number of advertisers bidding on each keyword relative to all keywords across Google

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As you can see,three of her keywords fall in different categories of avg. monthly sales and competition. For global market topics it is essential that the average monthly search should be at least 100,000 which  means that particular topic is in high demand.Therefore she can cross off the first two keywords as they are low-volume ones. The third underlined topic is a widely searched one but is also is high competition type which means there is already a lot of content available for this and it  will be a challenge to highlight hers.

So, she should be looking for High average monthly search & low/medium competition keywords in the next step.

3. Discover other related keywords

The best part of using Google keyword planner is that it will suggest a whole of related keywords similar to your search. a thorough research of related keywords and their score is critical and is the step 3 of the process.

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After multiple words pairing, mix and matching Zeina could research 5 keywords that had high average monthly searches as well as low competition. She entered the following streamlined keywords in the spreadsheet along with the competition and search scores;

  • house decoration
  • room design
  • interior design
  • house designs
  • interior

4. Check the trending data on your keywords

Now that Zeina has shortlisted the most preferred keywords for her blog basis keyword research she can now check what the projected outlook of the shortlisted terms.

Google Trends is a free tool to research the projection. she started with “room design” and “interior design” to start comparison in Google Trends:

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clearly, interior design is a more trending search term in comparison to room design and therefore will get a better weightage. Similar comparisons of two or more keywords will provide a relative comparison of keyword importance for Zeina’s blog.

5. Keyword research in social media environment

Zeina knows that researching social media networks for the keywords is an equally important exercise to know how, when and in what context are people using these keywords in their social media conversations.

she uses twitter to search first. In her search for the keyword “house design, she realized that this term was used mostly in architectural context and involved architecture expertise rather than interior designing!

She then runs the same test in Google+ and Facebook to see more such trends on the keywords while she is noting her findings in the spreadsheet.

After these 5 simple steps, Zeina is left with a detailed research of keywords that will allow her to filter out the best ones to start with. Including a similar research on competitors can give her an added advantage to make her keyword selection competitive.

Again, keyword research is NOT a one time thing that guarantees life long success for your content. A continuous addition of relevant keywords and  keyword performance review is required to sustain the performance of Zeina’s blog.

 

Like Zeina, I hope you can also get cracking on some engaging content for your business using keyword research!

 

Digital Marketing for beginners: Tips and tricks to get you started!

Digital Marketing Tips for Beginners. Starting shouldn’t be frustrating. Inside you’ll find 7 of the hottest ways to market your brand online. Failing to follow these steps could cause disaster in your business. Start Today!

via Digital Marketing for beginners: Tips and tricks to get you started! — When Women Inspire

Chatbot Content Strategy: #5 tips to nail your chatbot content

Brands need to speak to their customers…I mean literally. And chatbots have made this requirement a necessity for  brands to be a human-like part of their customer’s social circle. I have read it more that often – chatbots are the new marketing trend! agree (to some extent) but the complete statement would be something like this – chatbot is the new channel to continue the trend of personalized/customized marketing . I feel its very important to differentiate the channel and source to be sure of the cause and effect. 

I am uber excited as we (read our company) are joining the bandwagon and it is my part to develop kick ass content for the chatbot. And as I am in the process of doing that, this blog could not have come at a better time than this. So, here’s my take on the #5 essentials to create great chatbot content.

#1 What a chatbot is NOT?

Are you still stuck with the following definition of a chatbot?

“A computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.”

Come out of it already! Step 1 of awesome chatbot content is to forget the mechanism behind it. Because if we are trying to humanize a machine language here, it will be almost like a human but not it. It is rather important for the chatbot content creator to take time and absorb the fact that he/she is not just providing mannered one liners to please the customer but is actually driving the conversation! when you realize that it changes the whole game. One very good example of this is Adidas Women UK – https://www.messenger.com/t/adidasWomenUK

This chatbot leads the conversation by giving you all possible options and does not really wait for you to punch in the request. As a result the conversations are not redundant, the experience is not a typical service desk one and you look forward to keep in touch.

#2 Show your Personality 

Not yours, your manager’s or the CEO’s personality….But your brand’s personality. If you are or were a marketing student, you’d remember the exercise of giving human attributes to brands like Coca Cola (happy/friendly), J&J (caring), BMW (perfectionist) and so on. Like me if you asked yourself why on earth are we doing this?!…behold, we finally have an answer (eeehhhaaaaaa). For noobs, read here about Brand Personality – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/brand-personality.asp 

It is very important to take into consideration your brand personality when developing the chatbot content. Break out of the hackneyed tones of being overly friendly and pleasing (does not mean you be displeasing) but try out other befitting personality types like funny, witty, well informed, playful and spunky to name a few. JWOWW or Jenni from the reality show series Jersey Shores has infused her vivacious personality in the bot – https://www.messenger.com/t/JWoww  and its a superb way to connect.

#3 Don’t drag, put your best foot forward

People in services industry will relate to this. There are multiple services, for multiple requests, at multiple locations, during multiple times…you get the picture? It can be very tedious to frame all possible conversation scenarios and then make fitting content for each of them. For such cases, be sure not to overload the bot with content and make the conversation a long series of clicks for the customer. It is a must to streamline your offerings and areas of expertise for chatbot as a channel like you do it for other digital or traditional channels.

Also, try to add value to your customer’s life by focusing on what they are really looking for. Case in point, if you are a retailer with 50 branches in a city don’t make your bot a location finder for obvious reasons!

#4 Complete the circle

Don’t just market, also sell.

Scenario 1

customer – tell me about the current offer

bot – Our current offer is 30% direct discount on all beauty brands. you can avail the offer at all our branches and online, valid till end of the month. 

Hope I have answered your question, would you like to go back to the main menu?

Scenario 2

customer – tell me about the current offer

bot – Our current offer is 30% direct discount on all beauty brands. you can avail the offer at all our branches and online, valid till end of the month. 

Follow us/ Subscribe to never miss an offer update

Make the most of this offer now and get shopping online on www…

See the subtle but huge difference in the possible outcome of the two conversations?! Make sure the content is not just an information center but a resource that will benefit both the customer and the company.

Also, here are some amazing statistics to support the business profitability aspects:

Learn how chatbots can help your business be more profitable

  • 47% of consumers would buy items from a chatbot. (HubSpot, 2017)
  • 26-36 year olds are willing to spend up to £481.15 with a business via a chatbot interaction. (ubisend, 2017)
  • 37% of consumers would rather buy items via a company’s Facebook page than their website. (HubSpot, 2017)
  • Chatbots are expected to save banks between $0.50 and $0.70 per interaction. (Foye, 2017)
  • 45.8% of consumers would rather communicate with a business through a messaging app than email. (ubisend, 2016)
  • Chatbots could save businesses up to £6 billion per year cross industries. (Juniper Research, 2017)
  • 34% of executives say the time they freed up using chatbots allows them to focus on deep thinking and creating. (PwC, 2017)

source: https://blog.ubisend.com/optimise-chatbots/chatbot-statistics 

#5 Visuals before words

A debate on Human Vs Bots, bots will get a point for having visual content which (in today’s times) speaks louder than words…much louder. Here are some eye opening stats that prove visual content is the way to go;

  • An estimated 84 percent of communications will be visual by 2018.
  • An estimated 79 percent of internet traffic will be video content by 2018.
  • Posts that include images produce 650 percent higher engagement than text-only posts.
  • People are 85 percent more likely to buy a product after viewing a product video.
  • Posts with videos attract 3X more links than text-only posts.
  • Tumblr’s active user base has grown by 120 percent.
  • Pinterest’s active user base has grown by 111 percent.
  • Instagram’s active user base has grown by 64 percent.

source: https://medium.com/marketing-and-entrepreneurship/16-visual-content-marketing-statistics-that-will-wake-you-up-59c4c0b80465

This blog and my chatbot content exercise took a lot of dedicated effort and research. I am keen to know if this is helpful and you thoughts for further discussion.

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HOW GRUBHUB ANALYZED 4,000 DISHES TO PREDICT YOUR NEXT ORDER

For someone whose survival depends on food delivery services, I found this article extremely fascinating. I’ve always admired data diggers who make mounds of numbers and excel sheet columns understandable but Grubhub’s story is on another level. One line of the article describes their challenge so well – “Grubhub had 14 million menu items and the only thing they had in common was that sometimes people ate them”

https://www.wired.com/story/how-grubhub-analyzed-4000-dishes-to-predict-your-next-order/?mbid=social_twitter

How to Write a Marketing Plan: A Comprehensive Guide [w/ Templates] — NCMA

Written by: Sarah Brady Preparation is key. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Whether you are chopping down a tree or executing an integrated marketing plan, the steps you take ahead of time to lay out your plan and […]

via How to Write a Marketing Plan: A Comprehensive Guide [w/ Templates] — NCMA

Integrated Marketing Communication: Part I

I feel Integrated Marketing Communication as a concept is like the movie Inception. You feel like you know what it is about but you always want to double check before explaining it to someone else.

So, What is Integrated Marketing communication (IMC)?

It is the use of marketing strategies to optimize the communication of a consistent message of the company’s brands to stakeholders. Coupling methods together improves communication as it harnesses the benefits of each channel, which when combined together builds a clearer and vaster impact than if used individually. IMC requires marketers to identify the boundaries around the promotional mix elements and to consider the effectiveness of the campaign’s message.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_marketing_communications

But if your mind is still spinning like the totem with questions like what, why, how…the quote below by Philip Kotler will save you for sure.

Image result for integrated marketing communication philip kotler

It will be a crime to add anything to his explanation about IMC but I’ll suggest you read, re-read and read aloud the statement for it to reveal the different layers of reality in it.

As a marketer I try to upskill myself and be up to date with new trends, practices, case studies, success stories and ideas to be able to really contribute to what I do.  And this statement was like a self realization journey when I questioned myself – how often do I make a marketing plan with the customer’s view point in mind?!

Every time when a marketing communication missed including a channel where my customer was expecting to see me (as in the brand/s I work for) it was NOT an integrated marketing communication from my end.

<sigh>

So, I have decided to take up this small activity to understand better a customer’s view point of the marketing process. I will observe, question and note the different channels a customer resorts to, trusts and prefers while making a brand choice. Do watch out for the Part II of this blog and do let me know your thoughts on this topic.

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I’ll be back