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Ecommerce merchandising: what it is and key strategies

Aug 16, 2022 - Ty Collins
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Because of the number of online sellers out there, it can be tough to win over clients even if your ecommerce business sells the best products available. Luckily, ecommerce merchandising can help you redesign your store's online presence to make it more appealing, increasing customer retention and conversions.

What is ecommerce merchandising?

Ecommerce merchandising is the process of strategically displaying products on your site to increase discoverability and conversions. If you imagine your website and digital content as the window to your online store, ecommerce merchandising is the way you position content in the window to catch shoppers' attention and leave a lasting impression.

A successful ecommerce merchandising strategy is built around four key pillars:

  • Brand identity, which covers how you display your brand — including visual elements like your logo, style and color palette — to provide a consistent, unique, and memorable experience
  • UX/UI design, which focuses on the ways visitors currently interact with your site and on improving its design for more intuitive navigation
  • Curation, which is the practice of collecting products with similar attributes, empowering the customer to filter their searches so they can easily find something that perfectly suits their needs
  • Personalized recommendations, which encourage customers to continue shopping on your site by showing them products they might like based on their previous orders

How ecommerce merchandising helps online stores boost conversion rates

Familiar and memorable merchandising gives customers a deeper sense of security. Since they don't know what a product is like in real life until after they've made the purchase, your merchandising provides reassurance that you're providing the most accurate and comprehensive website. This is especially important in ecommerce because people are always wary of a scam when shopping online.

It's also a quick way to build a relationship between the customer and your brand, encouraging them to make a purchase and keep coming back for more. Since many online shoppers simply open tabs of similar products and close the ones that don't immediately appeal to them, capturing their attention for even a second can be key to getting a conversion.

Ecommerce merchandising musts that actually works

Try out these simple strategies if you're not sure where to start with your online merchandising.

1. Create a killer homepage

Your homepage is your storefront window. It's the first part of your site that a new shopper will visit, and catching their attention quickly is the only thing that's keeping them from closing your page and checking out a competitor's store. That's why you should spend a lot of time making sure your homepage's visuals pop.

Since most new visitors will see your homepage first, make sure it includes:

  • Your mission statement
  • Images of popular products
  • A link to your About Us page
  • A way visitors can sign up to your email list and learn more about your business
  • Any current promotional offers
  • CTAs that encourage customers to buy something

2. Strategically group items into collections

You can cross-sell your products if you group them together according to relevance. For instance, if you sell electronics, you can collect accessories like headphones with phones and charging cables. You can get creative with your categories to offer a unique shopping experience. For example, if you sell clothes, you could group items based on themes, like pop culture or waterproof. These collections help you curate your visual merchandising.

If you have a wide variety of products and want to add collections, consider the product attributes customers might want to filter them by. Remember to feature top-selling collections on your homepage so you can encourage people to find out more.

3. Draft detailed product descriptions

Detailed, high-quality product descriptions give customers a clear idea of what a product does and how they might use it. This improves the customer experience and reduces friction by saving the time it would take to Google whether your product is likely to actually meet their needs.

Your product description can also underscore what makes a product unique. If there are a lot of competing products, the description is your opportunity to let people know what makes it the best. You can even present common situations where the item will be useful, showing them that they may have a greater need for it than they realized.

To help build this sense of need:

  • Use bullet points to highlight features
  • Focus on your product's benefits
  • Use active words that make the shopper imagine they're using it (for example, "scrub away all the gunk" is more engaging than "wash a pan")
  • Cut out unnecessary, flowery words and phrases that don't add authentic value to your description

4. Use enticing product images and videos

Since customers can't actually touch or hold a product when they make an ecommerce purchasing decision, product images and videos are crucial. Try to give your products a consistent look and feel to build a brand image.

Pictures are a great, simple way to show people a product. Employ different angles that give the customer a better idea of what it looks like. You should also make sure all product images are high resolution on a neutral, non-distracting, well-lit background.

If your product comes in multiple colors or with different add-ons, include a picture of each option. Customers should also be able to zoom in on each image so they can get a close-up view of the product.

If you use product videos, you should make sure that these are also available in high quality — luckily, even most phones today can shoot in at least 1080p. Try to keep the video short, only displaying the product and one or a few of its key uses. You can also post the videos you like most on your social media pages.

5. Showcase your social proof

People are more likely to buy your products if they see other people using them and liking them. In fact, a recent survey found that 98% of people believe that reading product reviews is essential when making a purchasing decision. If you get a five-star review that you think illustrates the value of your product or shows that people love using it, post it on the product page.

Another form of social proof involves showing people using your products. As a person starts seeing more people around them using your merchandise, they become more likely to try it out themselves. One way you can encourage this on social media is by reposting photos customers post with your products — after getting their permission, of course. This encourages more people to make similar posts, increasing your presence on social media.

6. Don't neglect SEO

Search engine optimization plays a major role in bringing traffic to your website by incorporating keywords into your pages so search engine algorithms know to recommend them.

Keywords are the search terms that you want someone to type into a browser to find your page. By including keywords in your copy, you let search algorithms know they should list your page if someone searches for that word or phrase.

You have to pick keywords people are already searching for, though, if you want to get a lot of clicks. The main keyword for any product page is usually the product name, but here are some other tips to find frequently used keywords:

  • If you Google your keyword, the Related Searches and People Also Ask sections contain quite a few popular related search terms you could use.
  • Google Trends is a tool that shows you how many people have been searching for a specific keyword over time, and it also suggests similar trending keywords.
  • If you track your competitors' ecommerce sites, you can get ideas for keywords from the ones they use on similar pages.

7. Use your analytics

Ecommerce analytics may feel exhausting to look at, but this data is your best way to understand your strengths and find room for growth. For instance, if you recently activated an ecommerce inbound marketing strategy as a campaign, you can check how many impressions your materials made and the way people interacted with them understand how you drive traffic to your ecommerce site.

Some valuable information you can collect includes:

  • A breakdown of the sources visitors find your website from
  • Visitor actions on your website over certain periods of time
  • Your most-visited pages during high-sales periods
  • The devices people use to visit your store

Information like this helps you better understand your target market and may even show you new segments of the population that you should target. Analytics can also help you find the best price points for different products and understand how much inventory you need to keep in storage to meet demand. Data is the best tool to help you figure out how to maximize your reach and revenue.

8. Make a customer journey map

A customer journey map shows all the contact someone had with your brand before they become a customer. For example, this journey might include stops at your social media pages or a review on a third-party site. Since a customer journey could include any of these touchpoints in any order, a strong ecommerce merchandising strategy ensures a consistent, positive brand experience at each touchpoint.

To draw your map, list all the touchpoints that your customers and potential customers find you through. Then, list the customer actions they perform at each touchpoint, like clicking a link to your homepage or giving you their contact information. This can help you understand what customers are looking for so you can tailor their experiences at these touchpoints accordingly.

You should also try to take the customer journey yourself. That way, you can find pain points that could cause prospective customers to lose interest in your brand before reaching your website.

How traditional and omnichannel merchandising differ

If you're a traditional retailer, you may feel like there's no major benefit to switching to an omnichannel approach. Here are some of the ways in which these two types differ, though, so you can make a more informed decision.

Traditional

Traditional, in-person merchandising can access all of a shopper's senses — sight, touch, hearing, smell, and sometimes even taste — within the shop premises. This opens up more opportunities for creating a consistent brand image, like using a unique fragrance in all physical stores.

People also have the freedom to customize their shopping experiences at traditional stores. For instance, if a computer store offers multiple models to test out, a shopper can try the functions they use most on each one. This helps them find the best option themselves, even if a staff member is also present to fill in any information gaps.

Still, physical locations have a significant drawback: Once the shopper has left the premises, they may forget the experience and never encounter the brand again. Brands with a dominant presence may have enough social proof to counteract this problem, but less powerful ones have to spend a lot on marketing to make sure people see their branding often enough to get interested.

Omnichannel

Omnichannel merchandising adapts to the ways technology has changed the shopping experience. It addresses customers on all channels where they may find or interact with you, enabling them to embark on the customer journey from any point and enjoy a seamless brand experience.

Since this type of branding is largely digital, it loses some of the sensory benefits that traditional merchandising enjoys, but to make up for that, you can collect significantly more data that will help you reach and convert more people.

An omnichannel approach also opens up a lot of new opportunities. For example, you can enable people to place an order through your website but pick it up in person at your store. Or, if you don't have an item at your brick-and-mortar store, a staff member could order it online for a customer and ship it directly to them.

Solutions that can do wonders for your ecommerce site

Ecommerce merchandising can help you significantly improve your conversion rate, but it's not easy to do on your own. If you're struggling to connect with your customers, book a demo with Cart.com to learn more about our end-to-end solutions that will help you scale your business seamlessly.

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