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Using Data to Build Your Best Ever Assortment

Assortment analysis is the secret weapon behind retail's best offerings. Discover how retailers are using market data to understand the retail landscape.
Using Data to Build Your Best Ever Assortment | EDITED

One of the hardest things in retail is sending out new product without a real sense of how it’ll sit in the wider market. And without full-market visibility, it’s tough, if not impossible, to get around. You could say it’s like trying to piece together a puzzle without an image to go on. Or trying to park a car, blindfolded.

One of many reasons I get excited when I see retailers making product decisions using real-time data on the entire market, is watching how effective they are with new product when the blinders come off. In an industry where you’re only as good as last week’s sales, it’s a game changer.

We’ve heard time and time again from our own customers that the Assortment Analysis in EDITED is the absolute best tool to detect trends, discover new brands and spot gaps in their own and competitors’ assortments. We’re always thrilled to hear it too, because that’s exactly what we built it to do. And I should probably mention that as an EDITED retail analyst who spends most of her day using the software, I agree.

Know the State of Play With Top-Level View

Let’s strip it back a second. For the uninitiated, assortment refers to the mix of products a retailer is selling. That mix is made up of different categories. From a top-level view, across an entire assortment, they’d be major categories like tops, bottoms, dresses and footwear.

Something I’ve discovered is that comparing how competing retailers weight these categories is a great place to start looking for, and uncover, real insight.

For example, you might assume Forever 21 and H&M give similar weighting to each of their top-level categories. But set up a quick product assortment breakdown using EDITED and you’ll see that’s not quite accurate. Both fast fashion retailers’ biggest category is tops, but the second biggest category at H&M is bottoms, whereas at Forever 21 it’s accessories.

A breakdown of H&M and Forever 21's assortment, ready at the click of a button.
A breakdown of H&M and Forever 21’s assortment, ready at the click of a button.

Those differences in emphasis will affect everything about the way the two companies retail. The price architecture, promotional tactics, visual merchandising and communications will all be impacted. If you’re in the fast-fashion market, you’d want to know about that, right?

Retailers also change category emphasis seasonally. Outerwear grows in late summer and early fall, swim ramps up in February. One of the things I love about our Assortment Analysis is how easy it is to see the subtleties in the seasonality of products, as well as detect when a competitor introduces a new category. (Boohoo lingerie anyone?)

What’s more, with clever filtering you can slice that data to get to even deeper insight – like seeing which products in an assortment sold well, where the big discounts are happening and what the key categories for replenishment are.

Make it Relevant to Your Role

Top-level product assortment is a fantastic tool at a strategic level. It’s also used by our customers on marketing teams to inform their promotional campaigns. But the majority of apparel professionals using our software are buyers and merchandisers with a laser-focus on one or more specific categories. For those category-pros, we’ve done special things!

Each of our top-level product categories can be broken out further, into specific garment types. So if ‘dresses’ is the top-level category, you can split it out into body-con, cami, maxi, midi, floral… and many more.

This is when the power of Product Assortment really steps up a gear. Our customers are able to understand exactly how any retailer breaks out each category. This is the way new trends can be detected and market gaps identified.

Take jeans, which sit in the ‘bottoms’ category, for example. Much has been made lately of the demise of the skinny jean and the increase in wide styles. I had a dig around earlier selecting boyfriend, skinny and flared/wide leg styles to show the exact weighting each of those trends are given at different retailers. It quickly revealed that skinny is still the dominant style across the value, mass, premium and luxury markets.

A breakdown of the weighting given to different jeans styles.
A breakdown of the weighting given to different jeans styles.

It also showed that fashion-forward luxury retailer Net-a-Porter gives skinny jeans the least emphasis. This is something that will trickle down through other market levels and might eventually have a big impact on what jeans retailers stock. Using data like this really helps our customers optimize their own offering at the best time for their market.

Hyper-Customizable Views in Dashboards

Data is only useful when it’s relevant. That’s why we built intelligent filters that allow EDITED users to create a view of the market specific to their needs. We call these custom filter combinations ‘dashboards’, and once they’re saved, you can jump straight in and pinpoint what’s going on at anytime. You can even get a dashboard to alert you when something changes within it!

Understanding the category emphasis retailers put on different brands.
Understanding the category emphasis retailers put on different brands.

In Product Assortment, these filters help us do some pretty neat things. Of course, it’s possible to look at the entire market if that’s your thing. But you can also drill down into product specifics at a selection of retailers, and further still by the brands they stock.

So what’s really cool here is you can use this to understand how department stores stock clutch, shoulder, tote and cross-body bag styles from Michael Kors, Tory Burch and Coach. Or you can understand the weighting of Adidas, Nike and Puma running shoes compared to shorts, bags and t-shirts at sports retailers.

We don’t like to say the sky’s your limit. Let’s think bigger than that.

Want to talk to us about Product Assortment, or any other feature of our software? We’ll happily walk you through a demo. If you’re already an EDITED user you can log in here to view the latest Product Assortment updates.