Slot Based Merchandising - Bloomreach Experience - Open Source CMS

Slot Based Merchandising

What is slot based merchandising?

Slot based merchandising expands Bloomreach's merchandising capabilities to allow users to configure custom rules for a specific position (or slot) in the product grid. This will enable a merchandiser to guide Bloomreach's algorithm as to where to place specific types of products when ranking. This is a perfect example of complementing machine learning with human curation.

There are two aspects of Slots:

  1. Product Slots: Provides the ability to lock a product in any specific position. E.g. if you lock Product A in Slot #5; Products in positions 1-4 and 6+ will continue to be ranked based on the algorithm.
  2. Attribute Slots (still in development): Provides the ability to reserve a set of slots for products with specific attributes. E.g. Reserve the second entire row for products which have attribute "newArrival=yes".

Merchandisers can use both types of Slot rules to create highly customized assortments and satisfy many different business and brand objectives.

Product Slots

Product Slots can be used to lock a product in a specific location on the product grid. 

Try it yourself

If you want to use product slots, here are the essential steps:

Dropdown

  • Similar to all other Merchandising Rules, Product Slots can be found under Merchandising → Site Search or Categories → TOOLS → Ranking.
  • Click Add New Search Term Rule, which opens the product grid editor.
  • Enter product queries or category name in the search box.
  • Each product has a menu in the top right corner designated by "+" - product slot rule is accessible through this menu 
  • Select "Lock in place" to lock a product in that specific slot OR select "Lock Position #" and select a slot position from the drop down menu. You can lock a product into any slot within the Top 500 positions. A product locked in a slot is indicated with a lock symbol in the upper left corner as can be seen in the image below.

Slot position

  • Hit "Apply" and you will notice a lock symbol in the top right corner to designate the slot has been locked. 
  • A designation of "Internal" is shown in the top right corner of the locked product to indicate that the current rule has locked the product in that slot. Products impacted by other rules will be designated with the words "External"
  • Click the Save button.

Note: Since too many merchandising rules can add latency to the customer experience we have limited the maximum number of slot rules allowable on a single query/category at 100 slot positions (that is, you can lock up to a 100 products into any of the Top 500 positions). In terms of Product Boost to Top operation, we also have the same limitation of "allowable on a single query/category at 100 operations". 

Use the Tabs at the top of the Editor to see all of the Changes applicable to the rule and a Live Site Preview. Here are brief descriptions of each of the tabs:

  • Visual Editor: Provides a glimpse of how the product grid is impacted by the edits you have added with this specific rule. Note: To avoid rule conflicts, the visual editor will also show an external rule (an existing merchandising rule) that cannot be overridden.

  • Changes: Provides a list of the changes made to the product grid as a part of this specific rule.
  • External Changes: Provides a list of the changes made to the product grid that are NOT part of this specific rule. These will usually be pre-existing rules that impact the current query/category being edited (e.g. a global rule would show in this tab).
  • Preview: While the “Visual Editor” is a preview of the current rule being edited, the “Preview” is a rendering of what the final page would look like after all rules have taken effect. It will show you the final result of how the product grid will look on your site. You can also use this to look at a Side-by-Side preview of the current state of the grid and then what it looks like with the new rule.

Visual editor

 

Example: John wants to give the Bungo brand a chance to shine.

Caroline's Shoes is a brand name shoe company that carries a wide variety of women's shoes. One of their brands is Bungo, which is known for the eclectic designs. John is a digital merchandiser for Caroline's Shoes. He would like to introduce Bungo shoes and scatter them among the top products for the "high heels" query. He hand picks a few products from Bloomreach's Insights dashboard and then uses the Merchandising tab to lock one of those products into position 3, 5 and 7. John would like to leave it up to Bloomreach to merchandise the rest of the page. In this case, positions 1,2, 4, 6 and 8+ are all merchandised algorithmically while 3, 5, and 7 are set by John. If any of the products that John sets are not in stock or valid, Bloomreach will merchandise those positions as well.

 

How does Product Slots interact with other Merchandising Rules?

Bloomreach's dashboard has a lot of powerful tools to allow merchandisers to customize product grids. A few examples are Blacklist, Include, Exclude, Soft Boost/Bury, and now, Product Slots. The dashboard has several in-built mechanisms to prevent you from building conflicting rules and to show you these conflicts. For example, the screenshot below shows that a slot is being occupied because of another rule - indicated by "External" in the top left corner. You can click on the "External Changes" tab to review the other rule which is blocking this slot.

External changes

In order to avoid a lot of such rule ambiguity and conflicts, we've enabled Product Slots only at the Query/Category level since this is where we believe it will be most used. (not enabled for Global, Global Search/Category or Broad Match search)

 In general, the order of rule priority is as follows (from Highest to Lowest):

  1. PID Blacklisting/ Attribute Include Only/ Attribute Exclude
  2. PID Slot
  3. Bury to Bottom (PID-based) / Attribute Hard Bury (100 strength)
    (All products influence by these two operations will form a bottom section jointly, the order in this section will be ordered by algorithm score)
  4. Boost to Top (PID-based)
  5. Attribute Soft Boost/Bury
    (Products influenced by these two operations will be applying a multiplier of the attribute and change the final algorithm score, so the end result will be mixed)

To give you an example, if you have locked a Product A in slot #4 which is of brand Armani - then, if I add another rule that Excludes all products on that query for Brand = Armani, Product A would no longer be present in slot #4 since an Exclude rule takes priority over a Product Slot rule.

 

FAQs

1. Difference between "Product Boost to Top" and "Product Boost and Lock"

While rolling out Product Slot project, all prior "Product boost and lock" operation will be migrated as "Product Boost to Top". This section will be comparing the difference between these two operations

  1. Product position: 
    When you boost and lock, the product position is locked on the top of the product grid and the ranking is determined based on the order you place the products in. With Product Boost to Top all products move to the top of the product grid and the ranking among the boosted products is dynamically decided by the algorithm. If you would like the product to be in a specific position, please use the product slot operation (Lock in place).
  2. Visual editor:
     Product boost and lock the position is deterministic, so it mirrors the API output. But for Product Boost to Top the order is dynamic and the visual editor may not reflect the API output. Please use the Preview function to preview the exact API output.
  3. Priority order of  Attribute Hard Bury (100 strength)" in Boost to Top vs Boost and Lock:
    Boost and lock has a higher priority compared to Attribute Hard Bury (100 strength), however Boost to Top has a lower priority compared to Attribute Hard Bury (100 strength). 

2. Why Boost to top and product slot is better than product boost and lock ?

Boost to top allows you to give exposure to the products by placing them to the top of the grid. In addition products are ranked in a way that maximizes revenue based on user behavior, clicks and ATC and conversion of the boosted products, as all boosted products will now have algorithm influence.

3. Migration: What to do if you would like to maintain the ranking of boost and lock post migration?

Use the visual editor for every ranking rule and change the boost to top operation to Lock in place operation. Other than for certain visual merchandising use cases we do not recommend locking too many products. Eg: locking top 100 products as this overrides the ranking algorithm and can negatively impact revenue.

4. How many slots can I have on a page?

Due to latency concerns, currently a user can lock only 100 products into slots. If the user has reached their max, they will not be allowed to save the rule and will be prompted that they have reached the limit on the number of slot rules they can save for a single query.

5. Does this mean I can't lock a product outside the Top 100 positions? 

No. You can lock up to 100 products, anywhere in the Top 500 slots. This means you can lock 100 products from positions 400-500.  

6. What happens if a slotted product goes OOS?

If a product assigned to a specific slot goes OOS, then it will just be ignored and filled with the next available unlocked products based on the Bloomreach ranking algorithm.

Attribute Slots

Feature is currently under development. Please check back here for documentation once the feature has been launched.

 

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