Online Merchandising Best Practices for Today's Etailer

Posted by Victoria Elizabeth 4 Sep 13

4 mens mannequins with tan coloured dress shirtsWhen we think of merchandising, we tend to only consider bricks and mortar shops and how they are laid out. But the same principles behind them - i.e. why some products are presented to us first, and how we come across them - can be applied to an online shop. Placing something in just the right place can be the difference between relatively low conversion rates and precisely the opposite.

And the best part of online merchandising? It doesn’t require you to redesign your entire website - just to make a few small positioning and optimising adjustments. The most important aspect of online merchandising is to learn exactly what makes your visitors click.

Start thinking like a proper online merchandiser with these six best practices.

1. Configuring consumer needs with your company offers

The first thing to do is to analyse your products to gauge what your best and worst selling ones are and how they can best be promoted. In order to do this, you should determine percentages of Product Page Views per category, Add to Baskets per category and Transactions per category. This will give you an idea of which products have higher conversion rates and what factors (season, customer segment, etc.) might have contributed to this. For products and categories that are more difficult to determine, try A/B testing or limited promotions to see what engagement level they have.   

2. Site design

The second thing you have the do is make sure that the design of your website goes hand in hand with a frictionless purchasing experience. Your visitors’ browsing line of sight should always be directed towards the products that you want to promote first. There is a natural hierarchy that exists both in store and online that follows the same principles. The things we see at eye level are usually more relevant and nearer to the entrance in shops. The same goes for the promotions, CTAs, banners and ads above the fold on your homepage or landing pages. The best way to make sure that the path to purchase is frictionless is to go through the process yourself. Learn what using your website is like for your visitors, and what improvements could be made according to the line of sight principles used in physical shops.  

3. Cross-selling with product affinity and recommendation software

There are a number of different ways to cross-sell, up-sell and bundle items to increase the size of baskets with merchandising. The easiest way is with recommendation software that uses statistical model algorithms to combine complementary products. This can be done by comparing the past purchases and activity of individuals or customer segments. For individual visitors, installing a cookie or signing into an account will allow their data to be tracked, while for customer segments the process is more generalised. The benefit of recommendation software is that it allows your ecommerce company to personalise a visitor’s experience and make content more relevant to their needs. This is a current trend in ecommerce that is growing across industries. After all, it makes sense to remind a visitor to pick up a durable case when they are buying an external hard drive.  

4. Target segments with different ads, banners and smart CTAs

Once you have figured out what customer segments you have, optimise your website to respond to these segments with appropriate calls to action, banners and ads. These will act as a guide for visitors towards appropriate content and deals tailored for them. For instance, American ecommerce sites that I browse from London generally ask which country and currency I would like to use while shopping. This makes quite a difference when it comes to shipping policies, fashion trends and seasonal promotions, so it’s a nice thing that they respond to my location.  

5. Browsing refinements

Browsing refinements usually show up alongside categories when you have entered the product-listing page and display specific criteria like size, colour and brand. These options make browsing quicker and easier for those visitors who want to see a variety of one type of item, such as black sandals, but who don’t have a specific shoe in mind. Including these refinements is a form of merchandising because it allows visitors to see important results first, instead of wasting time scrolling through hundreds of items. 

6. Site search

Site search is a fundamental feature in online shopping today, since between 11% and 15% of consumers begin shopping a web site by typing into the site search bar, and that number is steadily growing. You should have a continually optimised site search bar to avoid a ‘Result Not Found’ page when your visitors look for something specific. This isn’t always avoidable, but it should be limited by making sure you have all the appropriate search terms, categories, SKU numbers, and products available that are updated periodically in your search bar. 

For more in depth information on aspects of merchandising best practices, read the following posts:

5 Tips on Making Effective Calls to Action for Ecommerce

5 Tips to Improve Your Landing Page Conversion Rate for Ecommerce

Best Product Page Features for Ecommerce

Best Site Search Practice for Ecommerce Retailers

If you have any other suggestions for best practices in online merchandising, let us know below! 


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Topics: Ecommerce merchandising, Ecommerce marketing tips

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