eCommerce merchandising strategy is an often overlooked aspect of running a successful eCommerce website. Online merchandising is the part where you decide which products to sell, which ones to promote, and how to enhance your catalog for maximum sales.
Many eCommerce sites start by uploading their entire product catalog and expect customers to search, find, and buy the products. However, like a conventional brick and mortar store, a robust online equivalent requires proper merchandising to help customers make buying decisions.
The first part of online merchandising is, of course, to know what products to sell in the first place. This is pretty straightforward if you are producing your own products, but if you are selling multiple brands, it may require some more thought.
The second part of online merchandising is about how to present these products to visitors of your eCommerce store. What will you present and how will you present it in the best possible way.
It's to provide online visitors with an experience that mimics those of a retail store. How can you direct customers towards the right product, get recommendations, promotions, and of course, help them make the right buying decisions?
Of course, physical sales interaction is much more personal, and you can adjust your approach very fast by reacting to each customer's behavior.
But this is also not scalable. You won't get the same data and the experience for the customer is potentially not as convenient as browsing and ordering something from their home.
Online, you have more tools available to merchandise more effectively. A/B testing, product recommendations, analytics, and marketing automation.
Let's look at some tips on how you can improve your online merchandising.
You want to show an online shopper the most relevant product, but you may also want to show products that would yield better returns for your business in terms of margin, or that you know are selling better.
This means when you are promoting products on your site; you want to have the flexibility to decide which products should show under certain conditions to increase conversion and revenue.
Of course, there is a fine balance between showing the customer what they want' vs. what you want them to buy.
When a user searches for a specific product, for example, "Canon PowerShot SX420," you want to show this product as the first result, given you have it in stock, but you can always add a top seller in the list.
One more excellent practice is to merchandise your products based on trends or seasonality:
Especially for returning visitors, it's essential to show new products when they come back to the site. You will require a strategy not to confuse customers based on the frequency of visits and their past behavior.
If you are rotating your featured items daily, you will want to make sure that customers can easily find the products they looked at a couple of days back.
You could use retargeting on your site, or showing a "recently viewed" option.
When promoting products, you will want to collect as much information about the individual customer as possible, especially if you can tap into customer demographics, such as age, location, gender, or even interests.
You can then change the presentation of products based on the individual. This can be a very powerful tactic when done right.
When listing products, you can consider adding additional products based on their similarity, showing accessories, or alternative products. It's important to clearly distinguish between up/cross-sell results, as someone who is looking for a photo camera and only sees accessories could be annoyed.
Take a look at how Amazon organizes its product listing:
You can already see that the product listing page of your eCommerce store is going to have the qualities of a top-notch salesperson, by guiding and recommending a variety of products that match your interest.
Your product details page should be rich in content and answer all possible questions the customer could have, but at the same time lead to a sale. This means we need to have a smooth customer experience and utilize some of the things we discussed in our article on how to use Psychology to increase eCommerce conversion.
Showing variants and different editions of the same product could be a good idea. Imagine you are selling a mobile phone, and it is available in different colors, sizes, specs, etc. Customers should be able to choose an option quickly and not have to navigate to another page.
A lot of times, you hear people recommending to add "Related or Similar products" on a product details page. Is this the right place to put them? Do you want to confuse the customer at this point by showing more options, when they are potentially one click away from making a purchase? Or maybe only show this when they scrolled to the end of the page?
Remember, you can test this and then make the right decisions.
Keep in mind to not only offer related products to the customer at this stage but think about bundling products together, to create up-sell opportunities.
Pro Tip: Don't forget to optimize your product detail page for SEO
Having rich and engaging content for your products solves a couple of issues.
First, it can help you to boost your SEO ranking. It's already challenging to compete with the big players online when it comes to SEO, but crappy content doesn't help with that.
Secondly, your customers will notice the quality of your content and start appreciating the same. Primarily if you are operating in a specific niche, you want to make sure that you are providing users with unique content.
Interactive tools can also be helpful; I recently bought a pair of glasses online. On the website, I was able to take a video of myself, try on some goggles, and customize the frame. This process gave me more confidence that the result I will be getting should be fitting me and looking not totally out of place.
eCommerce merchandising is not an overly complicated concept as it mainly mimics the real world online. The more challenging part is to configure your eCommerce site properly to have all this automated. Especially when you are selling an extensive catalog of products, you want to ensure that your product information is set up in a way that makes online merchandising as efficient as possible.
Read the rest of the articles from this eCommerce Business Setup Series:
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