Merchandising, One Customer at a Time

Endeca rolls out Merchandising Workbench for online flexibility.

Endeca Technologies, which offers information access software, is releasing an online retail merchandising management tool suite.

Announced June 9, the Merchandising Workbench performs a variety of merchandising tasks for use in e-commerce stores.

"Imagine you have a store where hand trucks are running all around and items are rearranged on the fly," said Matt Eichner, senior vice president of strategic development for Endeca. "Now imagine you're the poor merchandiser in this store that is rearranging itself every split second. Where do you put the end caps, and what items do you fill them with?"

Eichner said this scenario essentially describes the difficulties merchandisers face in online retailing, where assortments change with each customer, or even with the same customer depending on how that person clicks through the site. According to Eichner, Merchandising Workbench performs three core activities to help online merchandisers stay on top of their duties: producing the right search results, promoting the right items and triggering special branding.

"You might have an algorithm to help produce the right search results," he said. "The algorithm might combine the highest-margin items with the items most likely to sell in order to increase sales yield. And you might promote a higher-margin item above an item being viewed, or upsell a complementary item."

In the case of special branding, Eichner said Merchandising Workbench allows e-commerce retailers to do anything from placing a special banner at the top of the screen to creating microsites that replicate kiosks or sections of stores that promote certain brands.

"The solution is flexible," he said. "The merchandising strategy for a home improvement retailer is very different from the merchandising strategy for a consumer electronics retailer."

Merchandisers will not be limited to making changes in their online strategy that the IT department can support, Eichner said. "The cockpit is placed in the hands of the merchandiser, so you don't need the IT department to make changes. If you're going to drive a car, you don't need to be a mechanic," he said.

Merchandising Workbench can also track data, such as customer buying patterns, localized product information and consumer preference. It can also aggregate social merchandising content, such as customer reviews for use in online merchandising efforts, Eichner said.

Susan Aldrich, senior vice president of Patricia Seybold Group, said with Merchandising Workbench, Endeca is reclaiming the leading spot it once held as a provider of Web interfaces.

"It brings Endeca back in the race in terms of once again having a great interface," Aldrich said. "They were really lagging, but now they're catching up again."

Citing the Mercado online merchandising console as one of the best available because it focuses on terms and tasks merchandisers use, Aldrich said Endeca has made strides in also focusing on core merchandising activities, such as promoting goods and cross-selling. She also praised the Merchandising Workbench Page Builder tool.

"It's a wonderful tool for laying out new Web pages with minimal training," she said. "You can also create new categories on the fly and easily put them up on your e-commerce site."

Merchandising Workbench runs on the Endeca Information Access Platform, and new modules and extensible capabilities from both Endeca and its development partners can be downloaded from the Endeca Developer Network portal.

Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out's Retail Site.