The merchandising team at Taylor Stitch, a fast-growing apparel brand based in San Francisco, had a problem. They had a 48-hour window to place the largest fabric buy of their fall season, material for their popular Yosemite shirt line, and they couldn’t reach a consensus about which patterns would drive the most sales. Should they double down on styles that had sold well in the past, or focus investment on newer designs that spoke to the future?

This debate is not unique to Taylor Stitch. Merchants across the retail industry are responsible for creating the product assortments that customers find when they walk into a store or navigate to a brand’s website. These are often multi-million dollar decisions that must be made on short timelines using a blend of art and inexact science. The ultimate goal—to deliver products that customers love and buy.

There has never been more pressure on merchants to deliver winning assortments. Over 50% of new products fail once they reach market, according to sources like Gartner, and over two-thirds of marketing emails contain some sort of promotion in an effort to move excess inventory. This data, coupled with declining comps throughout the industry, suggest that today’s standard operating procedures for merchandising are no longer cutting it. So what has changed?

At MakerSights, we believe that using technology to facilitate a dialogue between brands and their customers is the key to evolving merchandising in the age of the customer. By lifting the veil and inviting consumers into the product development process, brands get direct access to the opinions and preferences of their own customers—critical inputs for making more confident and profitable decisions. The result? Healthier margins and happier customers.

Here are a few things we’ve learned about the positives of embracing customer-centricity in today’s retail environment:

  •  As it turns out, customers know what they want.

    We’ve seen customers correctly identify brands’ winning and losing products ~90% of the time, amounting to a 2-4% gross margin lift.

  •  Customers like being asked their opinion…

    as long as the conversation is quick and engaging. In fact, over 95% of customers tell us that they are interested in regularly sharing thoughts with their favorite brands. The opportunity to weigh in on design and product development helps elevate the customer-to-brand relationship and engender loyalty beyond simple transactions.

  •  Brands drive real sales by inviting customers to partake in the product development process.

    A key benefit of gathering this feedback is that brands can use it to present customers with their favorite styles once products reach market. By re-targeting individuals based on their stated product interests, we’ve seen up to a 5x lift in revenue conversion rate.

So back to Taylor Stitch… How did they ultimately make their fabric purchase? Rather than continue to debate internally, they incorporated the voice of their customer. Through MakerSights, they collected feedback on which patterns and styles held the highest appeal. Pairing this insight with their creative instinct allowed them to make a fast decision – confidently placing their fabric buy within hours.

In a world where customers can buy anything, it is essential for merchandising functions within retail organizations to develop products that speak to customers. At MakerSights we’re making the bet that the best form of evolution is inviting customers to the decision-making table.

Matthew Field, Co-Founder of MakerSights

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