In retail, deciding on a product assortment strategy is extremely important. You need to offer a mix of products that will attract your target demographic, and also take into consideration multiple relevant factors.
Product Assortment and its Facets
A product is any item of value that you offer to your customers for sale. This an item that the customer wants and is willing to pay for. Retailers can offer many different unrelated items for sale, or they may focus on a specific product category and offer many variations within that.
Whether you are a small drugstore or a big box store or an exclusive showroom for high-fashion apparel, you need to decide on the type of products you want to stock and the varieties you want to offer. A product assortment has dimensions, it has width and depth, and also length. Another facet of an assortment planning is consistency.
Product width is the number of product lines you are offering, For instance, Coca Cola sells soft drinks, juices, and mineral water, so it has a product width of three. In other words, it has three unique product lines.
General retailers may offer many items for sale, for instance, a small local drugstore will offer a wide variety of products, from food items to toothpaste to soft drinks and stationary. A specialized retailer like a store that sells paints will focus on offering different types of paints like latex paints, enamel paints, acrylic paints and painting accessories like brushes and rollers. They will not have much width in their assortment.
Product Depth is indicative of the variations within product lines. Again, in the instance of Coca Cola, they offer many different types of soft drinks like Coca Cola, Sprite, and Fanta. This is the depth of the product line – soft drinks.
A general retailer might not have many choices within a product line. Your local drugstore may not offer many variations in toothpaste flavor, sizes etc. A Big Box retailer like Walmart will however, offer many products and also multiple variations within each product, as they have the resources to do this.
A specialty store like one that sells paints will have a good depth. They may only sell paints and accessories, but within each paint category like acrylic, latex, or enamel, you will find a wide choice in colors, shades, and so on. Typically, specialty stores have more depth than product width.
The total strength of the product assortment is the product length. Under each product you have different varieties, all of which come together to constitute the product length. Taken in the context of your whole product assortment, the product mix length is the width multiplied by the depth. For instance, in a simplified view of Coca-Cola products, if we take it that it offers three types of products and offers 20 products under each of those product lines, then the product assortment length of Coca Cola will be 3 x 20, that is, 60.
Product consistency implies the close interrelationship between the different products on offer. Generally, a specialty store will have a much higher consistency then a general store that sells many varieties of products. A paint store sells only paints and paint accessories. They offer different types of paints, colors and other painting equipment. However, these are all interlinked and are all products and accessories required for the art of painting.
Your product assortment is this entire mix of products in your shop. It encompasses the product width, depth, length and consistency. Deciding on your assortment planning strategy primarily depends on what you sell, your target customer base, and your budget.
If you are a general store you will probably focus more on width – many different product lines – rather than depth. Specialty stores like paint stores and apparel shops will focus more on depth, as they want their customers to be able to choose from a wide range of materials, colors and brands.
Product assortment strategy for brick & mortar stores also has to take into account factors such as available floor space and fixtures, in order to optimize the assortment and meet customer expectations. Studying historical data of customer transaction patterns, product movement, competitor strategies and performance, the current market trends and so on can help you make the best decisions on your assortment planning. A good retail merchandising software like Intelligence Node’s Inoptimizer can also help make this process easier for you.