Arun Arora and his partners at R/GA Retail Lab came to the recent National Retail Federation show to discuss how Staples, the company for whom he serves as SVP and General Manager of eCommerce, built its new eCommerce website around the idea of Asymmetrical Marketing. In asymmetrical marketing, a retailer groups together unrelated products to tell a story about how that grouping of products can fulfill a shopper’s needs and goals. Think about what you see when you walk into a retailer like Whole Foods. When they sell beer and cheese together along with other party snacks, they are suggesting a great story to the consumer. They are also augmenting the Whole Foods brand by showcasing the retailer’s excellent curation skills.
Shoppers may buy more when presented with this type of merchandising. Need proof? Just look at how shoppers are reacting to Polyvore and Pinterest, where disparate products are represented in a grid. According to Gartner research, 59% of consumers made a purchase after seeing a Pinterest pin board. Polyvore drives 20% of all social media merchandising online—even more than Pinterest.
Staples is doing this in their weekly ad and by grouping products together into new solution-based categories of products like home security. To date, the retailer has combined 800 SKUs into just three categories.
They’ve done the same in store as well with asymmetrical marketing being used to improve on the traditional aisle with simplified, more compelling product placement. For the Sharpie range, Staples created an island that highlighted a few key products and make the rest available by an integrated monitor. That’s for a single brand. The concept works for unrelated brands as well. Staples created break room and facilities room mock-ups that put products into a context that may spur additional, related purchases from office managers.
Staples’ approach has worked. Since October 4th, 2013—the day the new site went live—the company has seen a 100% increase in conversion. By using an asymmetrical approach, Staples has achieved their goals of increasing revenue while simplifying the website, reducing the number of SKUs.