Merchandising is the term used by ONLINE MARKETING men to denote all those sales promotion activities which aim to generate the customer's interest in the product or service other than conventional press and television advertising or the use of Public Relations. The purpose of merchandising is to bring product and customer into the closest possible proximity in order that the attributes of the merchandise may become fully apparent and, in so doing, sell themselves.
THE PRINCIPLES OF MERCHANDISING
It is no exaggeration to say that merchandising is the basis of the modern concept of marketing. Yet its principles are as old as trading itself. The pedlar who travelled from village to village in Norman times, presented his wares by inviting his clientele to see, touch, hear or smell the goods he had to offer. The market stall holder, through the centuries, has practised the art of merchandising by encouraging his public to examine closely his merchandise, to pick up items and test them: knives for sharpness and strength of blade; silks for fineness and delicacy, cloths for weight and firmness of weave.
In our more sophisticated age, we have seen the same principles of merchandising exploited with success by such stores as Woolworths and Marks and Spencer, pathfinders of the self-selection method of retailing which has become paramount today. Merchandising techniques have been developed as an aid to the retailing of practically every class of product. Much of the success of ONLINE MARKETING now depends upon one's ability to find novel ways of getting one's goods into the hands of potential users.
The greatly extended use of merchandising techniques has been caused not only by the implementation of ONLINE MARKETING theories. There has been an important practical consideration which has coerced both manufacturer and distributor to adopt new methods of presentation. During the past twenty years there has been a steady rise in the cost of labour in retail distribution coupled with increased difficulty in attracting a sufficient number of men and women to work in retail shops and stores. The quality of the labour force of the distributive trades has diminished whilst its cost has escalated. As a result, personal sales-manship in retailing is fast disappearing in many trades. Thus, means other than the persuasive ability of the shop assistant must be found to sell goods to the public. The result has been the rapid development of merchandising as a means of reducing the shop-keeper's dependence upon the selling skill of his staff to a minimum.
The modern self-service store was born of merchandising out of labour shortage. Supermarkets can be operated almost entirely without skilled labour. Staff is needed only to replenish the display racks with merchandise drawn from the storeroom; cashiers, aided by adding machines, check the goods purchased and collect the money. No personal selling of any kind is required.
There are still many retail trades, of course, in which personal selling is paramount. Whether, this will change in the future one can only conjecture. It seems likely, however, that the experience of self-selection methods which is currently being learned in the foodstuffs, hardware and pharmaceutical fields will ultimately be applied to an increasing number of other trades.