Merchandising & Retail Buying

Starting with the end in mind

Team MakerSights

September 5, 2019

Creating product is a lengthy and cumbersome task requiring input and collaboration from multiple functions. There are many steps along the traditional go-to-market path where these cross-functional collaborators meet to discuss (some would say argue) about what styles to bring to market, what functional features to include, what colors should be global must buys and the cultural differences for each of the consumer sets across the global marketplace. However, it is this last point that can often be left to the very end of the go-to-market process in the form of final line adoption or buy allocations. At this point it is often too late to make any adjustments to account for specific regional and country needs. Brands need to start with the end consumer in mind and incorporate global inputs at each stage along the go-to-market process to be better positioned for success.  

Creatives teams usually have embraced marketplace and consumer immersion at the outset of a design process. They tend to visit energetic cities, explore hip neighborhoods, and surround themselves with culturally relevant influencers in order to find trends and insights that can inform product design. However, their budget likely will limit them to 1-2 visits. How can they be sure that these “local” insights are globally scalable or should remain a regional opportunity? 

Having the ability to test concepts, whether they are color pallets, print and pattern direction, or early product sketches across several international markets can provide critical data to inform them on which styles and SKUs should move beyond the concept phase and be segmented as a global opportunity or a regional focus. 

“When trends hit they are almost simultaneous around the globe, but the intensity with which they hit could be a little bit different per market. Having personalized insights to help inform the extent to which trends will hit any specific area would be incredibly valuable because they're all going to hit the runway and magazines, but the degree with which they catch fire is the thing that could be greatly enhanced with more meaningful insights for global brands.” Lisa Bougie, former GM of Womens at Stitch Fix. 

Furthermore, at Line Input when Merchants or Product leaders determine the composition of a line, there is a big risk if the decision isn’t informed by data. In order to determine the category or sub-category mix for a regional or country level teams should unify on a shared data set. 

The ability to test product (in sketch or CAD format) earlier with the end consumer can inform these functional leaders how to proportion out the line specific to a marketplace. Lisa Bougie, former Stitch Fix GM says, “The inventory mix should be data-informed and can be costly if you don't get it right. These decisions take place well before product is in the design review phase and are essential to optimizing outcomes."   

As the go-to-market process moves into Line Review and Line Adoption, it is often the Merchants job to share the creative inspiration and design rationale for the product line with downstream stakeholders.  More times than not, they are provided with a few mood boards, some video from a marketplace visit, and images pulled from Google to support the thematic.  By empowering these storytellers with consumer preferences through testing product earlier in the go-to-market process, you can put each region’s consumer at the center of the story.  All of this leads to brands beginning with the end consumer in mind and better positioning them to put the right product in the right place at the right time.  

Team MakerSights

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