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Top 5 tips for Merchants’ Digital Strategy

Jointly published by Monica Swendsrud and Simon Brocklehurst in early 2017

It’s that time of year where you’re putting Fall season to bed and the Holidays are looming large.  2016 has been a tough year so this has to go well and pressure is building from stores and from above.  But what about next year’s plans?  What will you need to deliver a successful 2017?  It’s never too early to formulate your strategy: Merchandise, Marketing, Planning and Digital strategy. Suppliers are probably trying to engage in planning so you need to be clear what you are going to do to make 2017 great.

Digital is more and more a focus and everyone is learning together at a rapid rate so here are some of the essentials to developing and delivering a strong plan.

1. Ensure you have a strong overall strategy​

A strong overall strategy is the foundation of your business. The customer experiences your brand across all channels, and at any given moment.If you just get one element of your strategy wrong, then you fail. Take time to understand the holistic market and plan the whole first. What tools will you need to drive your business? How will you deliver the best customer experience? How do you envision the customer engaging with your brand?


2. Your digital strategy must fit seamlessly with your overall strategy

Customers must see your brand as one consistent view. Have a clear vision of this first and then prioritize what elements are most important to focus on in 2017. Ensure every element of your digital experience has been considered: digital marketing, social engagement, featured content and pagination. Then ensure that every executional element reinforces your message.


3. Focus on the customer

Use your understanding of what your customer wants from your range and how they want to experience it. Is it simplicity, choice, style, technology? Remember to give them what they want.


4. Engage internally

There’s nothing worse than your vision of your digital presence jarring with the corporate presence so make sure you are in touch with your technology leadership & digital team early. What is their vision and what are they prioritizing next year? What will you need to support your business?Is there a product launch needing new navigation, a special landing page or application? What will the experience look like across devices? Engaging the appropriate teams now will ensure you execute the merchandise strategy flawlessly when it counts. The more smoothly they fit the more the customer will enjoy their shopping experience and likely buy more.


5. Engage Suppliers

Your suppliers are probably heavily invested in digital, sometimes more than you yourself, so utilize their knowledge and resources. Of course you need to ensure they are objective in their work, however, they will probably bite your hand off to help. Clearly setting objectives, expectations and operational guidelines up front will help here.

You may be run off your feet and looking at a chaotic few months, but you don’t want to start from scratch in January, so a little time invested now will pay off in the long run. Focus on what you can do to provide clarity and then engage your stakeholders to align your plan. Then in January you’ll be off to a flying start to 2017.


Monica Swendsrud is a successful merchant leader with experience spanning over 15 years in the Omni-Channel, Digital Marketing and Online Merchandising space, including Solstice, Fossil Group, Amazon, Victoria Secret Direct and JCPenney Direct. She provides strategic consulting specialized in digital brand development & eCommerce.  

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