Data-informed Strategies

How Consumer-obsessed Brands Evolve Their Merchandising Strategies with MakerSights

Team MakerSights

August 22, 2022

As the traditional seasonal and supply-driven merchandising model leads to more overproduction and lost profitability, smart-to-market brands are turning toward a demand-driven, consumer-obsessed approach. We at MakerSights have learned a lot by working with and supporting several of these organizations during the course of their transformation.

Over the last several weeks, we’ve shared these lessons in a series of posts that break down the five distinct stages of MakerSights’ Modern Merchandising Maturity Model

While every brand’s journey to modern merchandising is unique, the MakerSights’ maturity model tackles some of the most common challenges and stumbling blocks, top data sources and technologies, and key opportunities and best practices. Following the steps outlined in each stage is sure to help bring your brand that much closer to achieving its goal — so now it’s time to see what this looks like in practice.

In this final post of our seven-part series, consumer-obsessed brands like Dearfoams, HOKA, Faherty, Herschel Supply Co., and Taylor Stitch will illustrate what success looks like at various stages of maturity. Get ready to follow in these modern brands’ footsteps!

Stage 1: Dearfoams Informs Decisions with Consumer Data

Dearfoams introduced the world’s first foam-cushioned, washable slipper in 1948 and since then has sold over a billion pairs of shoes and slippers worldwide. To maximize team efficiencies and deliver consistently on-trend assortments, Dearfoams wanted to incorporate more consumer feedback into its product creation process.

The team started with traditional focus groups, but quickly realized that the results were difficult to scale and not representative of the majority of Dearfoams’ customers. It was then that the brand’s Chief Merchandising Officer, Angela Kenney, decided to use MakerSights’ Voice of Consumer testing to better understand Dearfoams’ core customers and aspirational consumers. 

The brand is now able to collect consumer sentiment data at scale pre-season and use it to narrow down silhouettes, prints, patterns, and more before investing resources in developing samples. Not only has this led to a 50% reduction in proto sampling after just a few months of testing with MakerSights, but it has also enabled Dearfoams to effectively appeal to younger consumers and make bold assortment decisions with confidence. For example, by using MakerSights, the team was able to confirm its hunch that consumers no longer want house-only slippers and shift its resources to creating indoor/outdoor slippers only.

“We want to take the consumer on the Dearfoams journey with us, and MakerSights allows us to do that in a scalable way. Harnessing consumer data and shifting to a consumer-obsessed strategy has resulted in tighter, more efficient assortments that our consumers love.” — Angela Kenney, Chief Merchandising Officer, Dearfoams

Stage 2: HOKA Digitizes Milestone Meetings

HOKA is one of the fastest growing brands in footwear, beloved for reinventing the running shoe with their signature large-soled sneakers. When the global pandemic halted global travel and in-person meetings, HOKA chose to leverage the disruption as an opportunity to evolve their team’s traditional assortment development processes.

In the past, HOKA’s milestone meetings served as forums for “big reveals” that were met with substantial, time-consuming pushback. Assortment details and dialogue were spread across email, slides, and other sources, making it difficult to have contextual and focused discussion. Hours were spent debating over differing perspectives, with final decisions often made by the loudest voice in the room.

HOKA was able to solve these issues by digitizing its milestone meetings with MakerSights. Product teams organize and add context to assortments using MakerSights’ Digital Line Review, which also allows cross-functional stakeholders to provide specific product feedback in a centralized manner. This has eliminated “big reveals” and enabled the team to have more focused, productive, and data-informed conversations. HOKA is now able to streamline assortment decisions to build healthier margins while getting to market faster.

 “Digital Line Review has drastically improved the dialogue between regions and made it more dynamic and transparent. This type of collaboration is now central to our team and makes it easier than ever to deliver premier products that resonate with our consumers.” – Hy Rosario, Director of Outdoor, HOKA

Stage 3: Faherty Collaborates with Purpose and Confidence

Faherty is a family-run lifestyle and apparel brand dedicated to lessening environmental harm and helping consumers become better stewards of the planet. As a young brand, most of the company’s merchandising decisions were based on founder intuition and factory minimums. The team was hungry for real-time consumer demand data to more effectively evaluate newness and craft high-performing assortments.

Today, rather than depending solely on gut instincts and opinions, Faherty relies on MakerSights Voice of Consumer testing when evaluating which styles and product details to introduce. Direct consumer feedback, interactive sentiment visualizations, and demand analytics enable the team to quickly and objectively identify hero styles and cut the long tail. This has streamlined the team’s once emotionally-charged milestone meetings by allowing them to have more focused and objective discussions. 

MakerSights helps the brand identify and drop between 50 and 100 cannibalizing or under-performing SKUs per season. “We are now able to create, tweak, adopt, and drop styles based on what we know consumers want, versus what we think they want,” says Caitlin McGilvery, Faherty’s Director of Merchandising. “I feel much more confident going into milestone meetings armed with MakerSights’ Voice of Consumer data. The insights it provides enable me to objectively validate costly and impactful merchandising decisions.”

Read the Full Case Study
Faherty's results with MakerSights.

Stage 4: Herschel Supply Co. Removes Silos Between Product Creation and Go-to-Market

Herschel Supply Co. designs and manufactures quality travel goods, apparel, and accessories. As a direct-to-consumer, eCommerce-driven brand, Herschel’s assortments must each meet the needs of the brand’s diverse and constantly growing consumer segments. But with a goal to create timeless products with high regard for detail, nailing the right product mix without driving overproduction and subsequent markdowns is extremely critical. 

To achieve this, Herschel uses MakerSights’ Line Efficiency functionality to measure the incremental Reach of each new product in an assortment, or its potential to attract new customers and add value to the line. Understanding consumer sentiment and Reach for specific products across segments enables the team to quickly drop styles that cannibalize one another and adopt those that appeal to important niche but fashion-forward audiences.

Focusing on SKU productivity enables brands to appeal to more consumers with fewer products, effectively minimizing margin erosion and markdowns associated with over assortment. “We can now quickly identify potential cannibalization between products, spot experimental colorways or styles or colorways that resonate with our target consumers, and deliver an assortment that aligns with what our customers have indicated they want to see and buy,” says Herschel’s VP of Merchandising, Lisa Best.

“Line Efficiency has transformed how we make critical decisions about assortments. Deciding what gets adopted or dropped has always been based on a blend of art and science between intuition and historical performance. Each product plays a specific role in an assortment, and with MakerSights’ Line Efficiency we are now able to take a more nuanced and strategic approach to decisions than simply ‘cutting the long tail.’” — Lisa Best, VP of Merchandising, Herschel Supply Co.

Stage 5: Taylor Stitch De-risks Major Releases with Incremental Wins

Taylor Stitch is an online men’s clothing company focused on creating sustainable consumer-led products that stand the test of time. As a rapidly scaling brand, Taylor Stitch was struggling to meet growing consumer demands without overproducing. It was also critical to keep pace with evolving trends and minimize supply chain risks by incrementally releasing consumer-led styles, rather than betting on a few major seasonal drops.

This led Taylor Stitch to launch “The Workshop,” a weekly kickstarter where consumers crowdfund potential new products by purchasing them in advance for a discount. Prior to creating samples to showcase in the Workshop and pre-ordering fabrics to meet production timelines, the brand uses MakerSights’ Voice of Consumer testing to predict purchase intent for specific styles and materials. Taylor Stitch also uses this data to gauge consumer preferences and identify top performers for in-line products. This helps eliminate markdowns by allowing Taylor Stitch to quickly iterate on and finalize assortments for high frequency, low risk releases. 

Using MakerSights to test products prior to crowdfunding and development has led to the success of the Workshop, which now accounts for 11% of annual revenue. Finalizing inventory additions and assortments based on real-time consumer feedback and purchase intent has enabled Taylor Stitch to take a “seasonless” approach to product creation. New SKUs are released every week, with far fewer items listed on the “Last Call” section of the brand’s website. 

Read the Full Case Study
Taylor Stitch's results with MakerSights.

Join the Ranks of Leading Consumer-obsessed Brands

The journey to modern merchandising maturity requires continuous effort and dedication. But as the success stories of these brands have shown, it’s definitely worth it — and MakerSights is here to help. 

MakerSights is the only collaborative assortment management workspace that embeds actionable consumer data into product development, merchandising, and go-to-market workflows via illuminating analytics and interactive visualizations. Our customers are smart-to-market, consumer-obsessed brands that are radically reducing economic and environmental waste by streamlining the concept-to-consumer process.

We’d love to talk about how we can help your brand reach the next stage of merchandising maturity. Contact us for a free personalized demo!

Team MakerSights

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