1. Know your brand promise
Before starting on the assortment expansion journey, retailers need to take a step back and think about their core brand promise. What do customers expect when shopping with the retailer, both in terms of products and the experience? Which products are core to the retailer’s offering? By looking at the merchandising strategy and identifying where potential gaps could be filled, retailers can then look to add products that align with the company’s goals and create a natural expansion that will reduce customer confusion.
2. Understand both the competition and existing customers
The next step is to take a look at the other retailers in the space and identify why current customers might be persuaded to buy from them. What do these retailers offer, and which products are the most attractive? Exploring a competitor’s assortment will provide a deeper understanding of products that will be valuable to the customer and provide valuable insight for the retailer’s own assortment expansion strategy.
Additionally, assortment expansion presents an opportunity for retailers to really get to know their existing customers and find out what might be missing from their current offering. As a result, a better brand relationship can be facilitated, which, in turn, can encourage repeat purchases or referrals. Understanding what products might complement an existing purchase or what a customer might have previously visited an ecommerce site to buy, but couldn’t, will ensure the assortment expansion strategy is built with the customer and their expectations in mind. For example, if customers are buying a blender, they might be interested in mason jars or a smoothie recipe book.
3. Find adaptable suppliers
Ensuring the CX is maintained when expanding assortment doesn’t stop once it has been decided which ranges it would be best to expand upon or which new products to add. To deliver an excellent CX, retailers need to ensure they partner with adaptable suppliers that are able to comply with unique processes that are central to the brand promise (for example: shipping orders within 24 hours or providing accurate estimated delivery dates) in line with customer expectations. Additionally, retaining visibility and control throughout the product delivery process is essential to ensure customers aren’t at risk of being let down by an order that arrives late or hasn’t been fulfilled to expected standards. For a consumer, there is nothing worse than ordering a carefully chosen birthday present in plenty of time, only to wait at home during a delivery slot for an order that doesn’t arrive. In this situation, no matter how pleased the customer is to have a wider range of products to choose from, they will still likely remain disgruntled.
To be effective, an assortment expansion strategy must work hand-in-hand with a CX strategy that is consistent, reliable and capable of transforming casual customers into long-term brand loyalists. A strategic and successful assortment expansion strategy involves much more than simply adding new products to the website, as not only do consumers expect retailers to provide a near-limitless array of product options, but they also expect a consistent and high-quality purchase experience.
Assortment expansion holds strong revenue growth potential, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of poor CX. Consistent communication, convenient shopping and dependable service quickly earns customer trust and enables a brand to convert online inventory into real customer satisfaction.