September 6, 2006, 12:00 AM

How Oliebollen.com uses analytics to move holiday inventory

A web-only retailer of children’s apparel and toys, Oliebollen LLC uses its web analytics application to predict customer demand, extend its holiday selling window and get better terms from suppliers, president Margaret Schankler says.

 

A web-only retailer of children’s apparel and toys, Oliebollen LLC uses its web analytics application to predict customer demand, extend its holiday selling window and get better terms from suppliers, president Margaret Schankler tells Internet Retailer.

A standard toy industry practice is for suppliers to grant better terms, including pricing and mix of products, when a retailer commits several months ahead of time to a large amount of inventory, sometimes within a specific group of toys, Schankler says. “But how can you predict your Christmas season six months ahead?” she asks.

The trick, she says, is to figure out how to sell enough products early in the slow, pre-holiday season to meet suppliers’ goals and win discounts and favorable payment terms. Working with its web site designer, Enlighten, and WebTrends web analytics, Oliebollen gets an early look at pre-purchase shopping behavior, including browsing, cart-adds and wish list activity. “That gives us a much better ability to predict trends and understand the customer mindset instead of just purchasing behavior, which is what we used to rely on,” she says.

Schankler learned, for example, that shoppers show more interest in European brands than domestic ones earlier in the season, apparently because they believe the former will be more difficult to re-stock while the domestic products will be more available. So she has moved ahead promotions of European brands, adding to her confidence that she can move her targeted amount of inventory and win better pricing terms from suppliers.

The strategy, Schankler adds, has helped Oliebollen.com’s sales grow 20% year-to-year.

 

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