BrainTrust Query: In Pursuit of Shopper Relevance, A-List Merchants Shine as ‘Curators’
at this year’s Global Retailing Conference was “Inspiring Innovation,” and
while the speakers addressed this from various perspectives, one striking parallel
emerged in their remarks: the modern merchant’s role as curator who delivers
added value to shoppers.
“Curating great product is certainly something we are all about,” Michael
George, CEO of QVC, told the gathering of 400 retail leaders in Tucson, AZ. “We
view ourselves as a trusted editor of product assortment.”
chairman of flash-sale fashion website Gilt Groupe, added, “We
sell coveted goods and experiences that are simple, fast, fun.” Her firm’s
interactions with shoppers are highly personalized, she said, beginning with
careful item selection and manifest through the daily emails that deliver a
unique mix of offers to each member.
“It is curation — we’re not about selling everything; we’re
about selling great things,” Ms. Lyne said.
Curation in merchandising
is a provocative notion, borrowed (I think) from web culture and blog-aggregators
like the Huffington Post and Drudge
It refers to the value-added service provided when professionals take on the
responsibility of selecting content for the benefit of the visitor.’
dictionaries boil down the definition of curator to “one who
we most often associate the term with the person in charge of a museum or a
collection. But why not a store — or a blog — or a product design
Martha Stewart described her firm, which employs some 500 people at
its New York headquarters, workshops and design center, as “a creative
think tank for living,” where the team identifies lifestyle artifacts,
interprets them, and reproduces them for the broad group of shoppers at Macy’s
and Home Depot.
“We [the team at Martha Stewart Living] really are our best customers
and our best editors,” she said. “We are always looking and trying
to really center on our interests. So the products that we have at the Home
Depot — those
are all products that we need and want.”
Crate & Barrel is perhaps
a bit less inward-focused in editing its assortment but it too takes its role
as a lifestyle guide seriously, according to Barbara Turf, CEO and president. “We
are relevant at Crate & Barrel when
we become one of the top two emotional choices for customers who are shopping
Here’s further evidence that the mechanisms of
online retailing and the web have penetrated and influenced merchandising.
Walmart.com uses a healthy dose of technology to present a personalized mix
of product to online shoppers, said Raul Vasquez, its EVP global e-commerce
development. Could we consider this methodology to be a form of automated curation?
relevance, curation — not to mention a bit of personalization
and targeting — listening to these talented retail executives convinced
me that these code words have become central to the modern merchandiser’s
vernacular. They define a discipline that transforms mere quality into superlative
value. Curation, you might say, is king.
Discussion Questions: How well does the concept of curation fit with the traditional role of merchant or the more modern role of the shopper marketer? How does it manifest in terms of assortment, strategy, shopper relevance? Is curation relevant to your daily business priorities?