Merchandising and Customer Experience

April 27, 2006 is the online delivery vehicle for the Bloomingdale’s high-fashion, trend-setter customer experience. We evaluate’s customer experience using Patricia Seybold Group’s E-Merchandising Framework, which rests on the four Es: environment, education, emphasis, and excitement. Highly successful ecommerce sites in B2B and B2C effectively employ the four Es we’ve identified. achieves a high score when measured by our criteria.

NETTING IT OUT delivers an excellent customer experience that is consistent with Bloomingdale’s brand and with Bloomingdale’s stores. The experience is driven by e-merchandising and search capabilities.

Using our E-Merchandising Framework, which provides a results-oriented framework for merchants to manage the online customer experience, we evaluate achievements. We give high marks in exercising the key elements of e-merchandising: environment, education, emphasis, and excitement. Its greatest achievements are in the environment and education arenas. Overall, achieves a score of 28 out of a possible 48 points.


What kind of customer experience does your site deliver? Investments in search engine marketing (SEM) will drive visitors to your site, but what happens next? Are you doing the best you can to connect buyers with your products? Do you make sure they can swiftly find all that they’ll need in order to be successful? The technologies to support a great customer experience are here today. What’s the gating factor for most sites? Poor merchandising, inadequate search, and cumbersome navigation.

E-merchandising is the art and science of displaying products and related detailed information on the Web and via email. The purpose of e-merchandising is to help the customer make a buying decision. This Web discipline builds on traditional product marketing and merchandising. Merchandising on the Web takes the form of product presentations, product packaging, and product offers. Ideally, online merchandising is consistent with marketing in all channels. It requires coordination from marketing, product management, creative services, and IT technologists.

Merchandising has come a long way from the early days of e-commerce. Today, the best sites provide a seamless search and navigation experience, tie offers to the buyer’s immediate context as well as his profile, and help buyers through the selection process. The best companies aim at a consistent cross-channel, cross-lifecycle customer experience.

The Patricia Seybold Group has developed a results-oriented, theoretical framework for e-merchandising[1]. It spells out our “four Es” of e-merchandising:

* Environment: Setting the mood
* Education: Assisting with decisions
* Emphasis: Prioritizing products
* Excitement: Changing customer behavior

These four elements work together to inform and persuade the customer through product presentations. In this report, we examine how exercises e-merchandising to offer a great customer experience. We’ll describe practices and achievements, and then award a simple binary score for each criterion: a one if the criterion is met, a zero if not. A score of “not applicable” (N/A) indicates that the criterion is not scored, but purely informational. An example of an informational entry is the number of categories on the home page.


Bloomingdale’s is a Federated brand. Federated Department Stores, Inc. is one of the nation’s leading retailers. Federated operated 866 stores in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico as of January 28, 2006 under the names of Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Famous-Barr, Filene’s, Foley’s, Hecht’s, Kaufmann’s, L.S. Ayres, Marshall Field’s, Meier & Frank, Robinsons-May, Strawbridge’s, and The Jones Store. Federated also operates, and Bloomingdale’s By Mail. Sales in 2005 were $31 million.

Bloomingdale brothers opened for business in New York City in the 1860s, selling hoops for skirts. Over the next decade, they expanded the product assortment and joined the department store phenomenon. Today, Bloomies is a showcase for top designers and the show place for trend-setting customers. Bloomingdale’s manages 36 stores in 12 states, a catalog business, and of course a Web business,

Bloomingdale’s is the top of the line, high-fashion shopping experience for upper income-level trend setters (and early followers). It aims to be, as its tag line says, “Like no other store in the world.” Michael Gould, Bloomingdale’s’ CEO, sees it this way: “Retail is an industry where energy, glamour, and business skill intersect. And no one does it better than Bloomingdale’s.”


Like the Bloomingdale’s stores, offers a wide assortment and varied services. Its categories include home furnishings, men’s clothing and accessories, women’s, shoes and accessories, and beauty, categories that are reflected in Web site navigation. These Web departments mirror Bloomingdales stores, the layouts of which emphasize these five departments, sometimes with separate stores. Services include shopping by brand or by catalog, gifts and gift cards; bridal registry; store locator; email notice of events; credit services, shopping services, shipping and delivery information, account and order status, My Wish List, My Address Book, gift card balance, and store locator. The shopping cart link is presented as “My Brown Bag,” echoing the shopping bags which are used in stores.

Emails from present images used on the Web site, and provide the navigation bar. They also have a link to forward the email to a friend. can’t always support Bloomingdale’s print ads. For example, an ad in this month’s New York Times shows a shoe from Guess, a brand not offered on Items bought online can be returned to a store. supports three of the four key retail customer scenarios: browsing, selecting, and buying. It does not support the using scenario.


The environment, or the context, for the product displays is a key e-merchandising element. Environment sets customers’ expectations for their interactions with the products. Two key environmental influences are site layout and tone, which are established by merchandising, brand marketing, and ...

Sign in to download the full article


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.