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On the Horizon: Show Different Items to Different Shoppers

The following is intended to outline our general product direction. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract. It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle's products remain at the sole discretion of Oracle.

This week, we have a guest blog from Milan Hulík, one of our product managers in the personalization team. Personalization focuses on initiatives and features that help site merchandisers reach out to specific shoppers.

In this blog post, he's going to look forward to a feature that is currently in development: customer-specific catalog. Also known as customer segments, this feature lets you show different items to different customers. This is particularly sought-after feature for B2B sites, as they frequently have items or product ranges that they want to be made available to only one or two customers.

He's going to take you through the feature, and then at the end there is a request for feedback: if you're interested in taking part, feel free to fire off an email to the address at the bottom.

Introducing Customer-Specific Catalog

Do you have a business where you need to customize your site's inventory for different customers?

Customer-specific catalog is a feature for commerce sites that will allow merchants to split up their customers and provide them with selective access to catalog items. Common use cases include:

  • Manufacturers who produce items only applicable to specific customers (eg machine parts)
  • Businesses who personalize items for individual customers (eg uniforms)
  • Retailers who want to show curated products to only their VIP shoppers (eg early access to new product lines)

In all of these cases, there is no out-of-the-box solution, but customer-specific catalogs can change this.

It will introduce and enhance three core concepts:

  1. Segmentating customers into groups
  2. Segmentating inventory items into groups
  3. Mapping customer segments to item segments

Let's take a look at what these changes will mean.

Customer Segmentation

There is currently a feature in NetSuite called groups. You can set up a group to be a set of employees, contacts, customers, partners, or vendors. Within your business, typical use cases include using them to send a group invite to a meeting, or to grant access to specific folders in the file cabinet. But they can also be used for customers.

To segment your customers, you simply need to create a new group and select the type as Customer. From there, you can create the group dynamically (based on the results of a saved search) or statically (manually selecting the customers).

For web stores, we are going to introduce some new features to customer segments — one of them is system-defined customer segments. These are virtual groups that exist by virtue of its members sharing one of the following characteristics:

  • All users — all customers
  • Guest — customers not currently logged in (including those who are recognized)
  • Logged-in customers — customers logged in to the web store

Otherwise, you can continue to segment your customers using standard NetSuite features, such as by saved search. For individual or small groups of customers, you can create individual static groups for each of them.

Item Segmentation

You should already be aware of commerce categories, which is one way of segmenting your items. They enable you to create a hierarchical structure, breaking down your inventory into logical groups. However, these groups are not necessarily personal to individual customers or customer groups.

Imagine the scenario where your business customizes uniforms. Your customers are all businesses who might buy the same base items of clothing, but you stock each customized item as an individual SKU in your catalog. In this scenario, it would not be appropriate to show the full catalog of customized products to every customer. In other words, we should not show Business A the customized shirts, hats, lanyards, etc, for Business B — they should only see the ones for their business.

Commerce categories cannot account for all this, which is why we're introducing a new concept that will enable you to:

  • Add an item to multiple groups
  • Include items in groups based on various criteria (eg vendor, location, price, product type)
  • Assign a set of items to a group by choosing members individually or by a saved search
  • Control which customers see that group through the use of mapping

These new powers will be included in a new feature called item collections. Item collections will not have a hierarchical structure like commerce categories; they are also not item groups, which are used to sell multiple items (such as assemblies and kits) as one item.

The above image shows a wireframe of what it could look like to manage an item collection in the NetSuite UI. Note in this example, it shows a static collection of items, where the merchandiser has manually selected what items to include.

Segment Mapping

Once you have segmented your customers and your items, you need to determine which groups of customers can access which groups of items: you have to create segment mapping. To empower merchandisers, this will be possible in numerous places in the NetSuite UI:

  1. Customer group record
  2. Item collection record
  3. Commerce category record
  4. Customer segments mapping (a new page specifically for this task)

The customer group record will contain a new sublist, where you'll be able to select from existing item segments and map them to the customer group you're currently editing.

Similarly, when editing an item collection or commerce category, you can use the customer segments sublist to map a segment to it.

Finally, we're going to add a new page to the UI that will show you a complete picture of all your customer segments maps.

This wireframe shows what it could look like to manage customer segment mapping. For example, we could have checkboxes for the system-defined customer groups (based on whether the shopper is currently logged into the web store), as well as the option to include your custom customer groups.

Your Feedback

At NetSuite, we are driven by our customers' needs. Getting feedback early is key to ensuring we are building software that fits those needs. As this feature is still in active development, we are reaching out to any customers (technical or non-technical) who are interested in this feature. If you'd like to help shape the future of this feature, get in contact with us by sending us an email at customer-segments-feedback@netsuite.com.