What Is Scrambled Assortment?

Scrambled assortment is a strategy in which a company carries products outside of its primary line of business in order to attract more customers. The logic behind a scrambled assortment strategy is to reasonably serve as many customers as possible by giving them as many options as possible. In other words, a scrambled assortment strategy seeks to offer "one-stop shopping" to customers, fulfilling many disparate needs or desires at once. This strategy differs significantly from normal retailing, which places an emphasis on product quality and price, as well as customer service. Scrambled assortment may be used with both brick-and-mortar and online retailers.

Key Takeaways

  • Scrambled assortment is a strategy in which a company carries products outside of its primary line of business in order to attract more customers.
  • With a broad selection of items or services, different target markets can be reached and satisfied through scrambled assortments, perhaps even capitalizing on impulse buys.
  • A common example of a scrambled assortment strategy would be supermarkets that offer a wide range of non-food products, such as hardware, videogames, cameras, flowers, and more.

How Scrambled Assortment Works

The goal of a scrambled assortment is to cast a wider net to catch customers who may also become interested in the company's primary line of products. With a broad selection of items or services, different target markets can be reached and satisfied. The retailers that employ such a strategy tend to be popular with customers due to their usefulness; they can meet a customer's immediate needs but also allow them to indulge. Scrambled assortment retailers may be more adept at capturing impulse buys

Scrambled Assortment: Retailer Benefits

Retailers like the scrambled assortment method for a variety of reasons. It gives them the flexibility to offer highly profitable seasonal or trending goods and services. Such flexibility also allows them to reduce seasonality and direct competition, as well as the risk of being stuck with a single product line that may fall out of favor. Scrambled assortment retailers may be more adept at changing their focus if it is not successful. 

Scrambled Assortment Examples

A common example of a scrambled assortment strategy would be supermarkets that offer a wide range of non-food products, such as hardware, videos and videogames, cameras, batteries, prescription drugs, flowers, and more. In fact, the proliferation of supermarkets employing this strategy has forced other retailers to follow suit to compete. Pharmacies have been forced to employ the scrambled assortment strategy to compete with supermarkets. As such, many now sell food, electronics, greeting cards, toys, flowers, magazines, and other items that are not related to health or beauty. A more focused example of the scrambled assortment strategy would be a candy store that expands into ice cream, then frozen yogurt, and then to other prepared food items to meet the needs of more and more customers.

Scrambled Assortment vs. Other Strategies

Retailers can employ a variety of strategies to win and serve more customers. They include:

  • Wide Assortment: Aims to have at least one item representing each product category rather than an exhaustive inventory.
  • Deep Assortment: Carries a wide variety of items in a single category, such as multiple sizes, styles, and colors of dresses or sneakers.
  • Mass Market Assortment: Covers the broadest possible customer base, such as a big-box retailer.
  • Localized Assortment: A retailer that tailors its inventory based on its location. Related to seasonality or local interests and habits.