In another lifetime merchandising was only about the placement of the product on the shelf or the outfit on the mannequin. Merchandisers factored in lighting, distance, and music when considering how to create an atmosphere that makes consumers want to buy. As retail moved online, so did merchandising.
Merchandising, by definition is the variety of products available and the display of those products. When referring to online merchandising, it’s the display of those products that is important.
Therefore, making sure the products are presented in the right way, at the right time, at the right price and in the right combination ensures that consumers are encouraged to buy.
What are the basics for good online merchandising?
- Know your customer. Data is king and when a business can harness the power of data there are wins in sight. Who is your customer? Where did they come from? What did they look at last time? Are they on a mobile? Tablet? PC? Where in the world are they located physically? Use this information to inform product recommendations and the sorting of search results.
- Use what you know. What are your best sellers and which products do well in other channels, but aren’t selling well online. Use this information to showcase your best sellers (but don’t rely on them only, more on that later). Use this knowledge to showcase items. Consider on-site search, banners, product recommendations, landing pages or content to intrigue customers or help them discovery something new. If an item isn’t selling well online, consider options to highlight these in a different way, using User-Generated Content or video.
- Use what you got and go back to the basics. Ultimately a customer wants to understand what they are getting when an item arrives in their home. At the very least, ensure you have strong product imagery. Enhance this with customer ratings and reviews and detailed copy. Also, recommend other products that will complement the initial product purchased.
Looking to the Future
There are a few key trends that will shape the way retailers merchandise online. More than hiring a digital merchandiser, retailers will need to step ahead of the norm to stand out in a overcrowded market.
Shareability is important in today’s marketplace. Consumers want to share and show-off their purchases. Give customers the option to share what they have purchased or what they’re looking at. Consider creating a hashtag in order to create community with your customers who can share and tag their items. This not only creates community, but also gives your brand another channel of communication and publicity. It shows off your product and allows the consumer to help with your merchandising.
Ensure your site is mobile-friendly. Whatever the customer clicks should ensure that you allow the consumer to easily navigate through your site whatever the size of the screen is. When a potential customer finds it difficult to navigate a site or enter information they are more likely to abandon the purchase.
Be Intelligent in maximizing your exposure. Promoting items will not simply be about focusing on top sellers. It’s about maximizing product exposure in a way they is still relevant to the shopper. This is more often than not best handled using Machine Learning technology.
Intelligent, in this context, means relevant; exposing more of the right products to the right people, more often. However, remember the balance between exploiting the top sellers to ensure consistent sales and encouraging further exploration into emerging trends.
The best companies will combine a mixture of behavioural feedback to identify trends and business metrics to ensure promotion of a certain item makes commercial sense. Over time, more relevant products surface above the fold and for the right period of time, bringing extraordinary results.