January 10, 2002, 12:00 AM

NRF Expo: Merchandising to Maximize Profits in a Multi-Channel Environment

A panel will discuss how to merchandise in different channels and which are the most effective techniques in each channel.

Unlike merchandising in a store, where experience can guide decisions, merchandising on the web is still a trial-and-error affair. Many online retailers are still trying to figure out what induces shoppers to click the buy button. This panel discussion will dissect what has worked and hasn’t worked for online retailers.

Lauren Freedman of the e-tailing group will lead a panel discussion at the NRF Annual Convention and Expo: Online merchandising strategies: Merchandising to maximize profits in multi-channel environment. The presentation will begin with the latest results from the e-tailing group’s ongoing quarterly survey of retail sites as well as researchers’ experience with site features ranging from search to community. In fourth quarter of 2001, the survey identified among other trends a growing number of site consolidations and the increased presence of manufacturers online.

Survey results will be followed by discussion with panel members on how they arrived at their respective merchandising strategies, what`s been successful and what hasn’t worked, and what features and functionality have made the biggest contribution. “We’ll also talk about how they measure their strategy’s success, and for those who are multi-channel, what works from that perspective,” says Freedman.

Panel members discussing their marketing strategies include representatives of Target, Estee Launder, 1-800-Flowers.com and eBags. Peter Cobb, vice president of marketing for eBags, for example, says he’ll address a series of short-term online initiatives that have produced big spikes and higher conversion rates for eBags over the past year, which helped drive the two-and-a-half-year-old company to its first month of profitability in December 2001. “These include the things we do to increase conversions on the site once people get there and market research we do on the fly,” Cobb says. One example of what worked: a pop-up window drove a conversion rate 15% higher among those who saw the feature versus those who didn’t. The pop-up feature stayed on the site, says Cobb, but another innovation that eBags tested, a flash animated home page, was dropped when it drove only half the conversion rate among first-timers as its standard home page did.

Freedman, Cobb and the other panelists will be speaking Monday, Jan. 14 7:45 to 8:30 a.m. in Room 1E15

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