Ecommerce Merchandising: Everything You Need to Know to Boost Sales

October 11, 2022

Owen Baker

Ecommerce Merchandising Best Practices v1 ecommerce merchandising

The world of ecommerce is changing rapidly. Worldwide, ecommerce is becoming the preferred mode of conducting business.

That is unsurprising, considering a staggering 58.4% of internet users purchase something online every week.

And, Statista predicts an increase in the share of global retail sales for ecommerce stores.

statista share of retail sales ecommerce merchandising
Image: Statista

Online stores are no longer a convenient add-on or substitute for brick-and-mortar stores. Ecommerce sites are often the only interaction a customer will have with a brand.

Modern customers are well-informed and demanding.

They expect a personalized online shopping experience in addition to convenience. To win these customers, online retailers need to rethink their merchandising strategies.

In this post, we’ll cover:

Let’s start with the what and why of ecommerce merchandising.

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What is ecommerce merchandising?

Merchandising is the practice of strategically displaying products in a way that boosts sales.

Likewise, ecommerce merchandising helps you strategically organize products on a website in a way that entices customers to make purchases.

But e-merchandising is not limited to attractive product placement.

The function of merchandising is to guide shoppers through their customer journey. Everything from the layout and the scents to the music played in physical stores is geared toward making sales.

As an online retailer, you only have one sense experience you can exploit—sight.

But your ecommerce merchandising strategy shouldn’t rely on explosive visuals. It should include optimizing how customers find what they need on and interact with your online store.

Why is merchandising essential for your ecommerce business?

Creating the efficient and personalized experiences that customers want goes hand in hand with increased retention and conversion rates.

When you make it easier for people to find what they are looking for, they’re more likely to keep buying from you.

Online merchandising will also help with your marketing strategy. Adding targeted advertisements to your website drives revenue.

3 Key ecommerce merchandising areas to focus on

The goal of ecommerce merchandising is to connect shoppers with the product they are looking for.

It sounds simple enough, but this is easier said than done. You could slap a sale banner on the products you want to move, but you will be selling yourself short.

Customers aren’t a monolith.

Some are always on the hunt for a good deal. Others stick with a particular product regardless of a sale or not.

Different shoppers have different approaches to buying and therefore engage with your website differently.

You need to learn the shopping patterns and behaviors of each shopper.

That may seem complicated, but there are ways you can successfully win over potential customers. Here are three major areas you should focus on:

  • Overall customer experience
  • AI integration
  • Omnichannel convenience

Customer experience and omnichannel convenience have been identified as part of the seven imperatives for success in the competitive retail space.

AI integration, while not explicitly mentioned, makes the others possible. Let’s look at the roles these three play in winning customers and boosting sales.

1. Overall customer experience

There is a reason why most people who shop at IKEA don’t leave without buying something.

The furniture brand doesn’t just sell furniture and household goods. It sells customers their dream homes.

With inspiring showrooms, shoppers physically experience how different pieces will enhance their homes.

This level of merchandising can’t be replicated in online stores, but there is a lesson to be learned. You should be selling experiences and not just products.

As an ecommerce retailer, the experience you should be selling is convenience and ease of use. Enhanced customer experience will help you generate more sales.

You should also know that user experience affects SEO.

That means if you don’t optimize things like site speed, your online store’s rankings will tank. That means less traffic, hence lower sales.

You don’t want that.

For most website visitors, their first experience with your brand is your homepage. That is your big merchandising opportunity.

Organize content so that the most important information is above the digital fold. It includes your logo, the search bar, the navigation bar, the shopping cart, and any sales and promotions.

You can make browsing easier by grouping products into clearly labeled collections.

Collection-based merchandising is aesthetically pleasing and drives customers deeper into your site, creating opportunities for cross-selling.

You can build out helpful collection (or category) pages and these collections can also be peppered throughout your store.

Clothing brands do this with the ‘Buy the look’ collections.

Apparel retailer, PANGAIA, curates pieces that work well together, making it easy for customers to ‘buy or complete the look.’

pangaia product page ecommerce merchandising

pangaia complete the look collection ecommerce merchandising
Image: PANGAIA

Beauty brands do this with their skincare regimen collections. IKEA does this with its showrooms.

Structure your collections in a grid style. This method makes your homepage engaging and easy to scan.

Continue the experience throughout the entire website with clear calls to action at each step that guide shoppers to the next stage of the purchasing process.

2. AI for repetitive tasks

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the way business is conducted.

From automated sales outreach and workflows to customer management, AI is driving business solutions.

Many of the ecommerce features we know and use, like product recommendations or augmented user experiences, are a result of AI.

With advanced algorithms and machine learning technologies, retailers now have insight into customer behavior and can create optimized shopping experiences.

Every click and search query is an opportunity to learn what customers are looking for.

AI machine learning uses this data to optimize internal site searches with autocomplete functionality, embedded product listings, and automated search rankings.

Off-site, AI works to improve your sales process.

Not every customer will buy every time they are on your website. Still, their interest is an opportunity for conversion.

When creating your sales funnel, you can utilize machine learning to track your prospects’ behavior based on their search words and mouse clicks.

Then let the AI deliver targeted or personalized suggestions based on the perceived interest of the shopper. These complementary products can help increase your average order value (AOV) too.

It can even recommend specific content based on where the prospect seems to be in the buyer’s journey.

retailers ai chart ecommerce merchandising
Source: Business Insider

AI is very much a reality in the world of ecommerce.

With relevant sales processes, marketing, and customer service applications, retailers that integrate machine learning technologies will enjoy higher sales and better customer satisfaction.

3. Omnichannel convenience

When making purchase decisions, shoppers gather as much information as possible from various channels.

Their customer journey may start with the state-of-the-art appliance they saw on your social media.

They might then proceed to Amazon to compare product details and prices. Then Google for relevant reviews and hopefully end up in your online store to finalize the purchase.

Customers have various shopping options.

They can shop online or visit physical stores. They can shop on social media with Instagram Shop and Facebook Marketplace. They can also make purchases through third-party websites like Amazon.

Creating an omnichannel shopping experience is vital to winning and retaining customers.

An omnichannel shopping experience is where shoppers have multiple access points to your brand—website, mobile app, social media, email, third-party retailers, etc.

It is similar to a multi-channel experience except for one key detail—in the omnichannel experience, these access points talk to each other.

When your website, social media, and mobile app talk with each other, it gives customers a seamless experience of your brand as they move from one channel to another.

Most retailers invest in multi-channel experiences.

They have different strategies for the different channels they use. While this gives customers more options, it can result in a disjointed experience.

The customer has to start their search query afresh when they move from one channel to another.

Having an omnichannel strategy optimizes your customer’s journey in the following ways:

  • Personalization: Customers receive recommendations based on their browsing and shopping history.
  • Inventory management: Customers can view the real-time availability of an item before the point of purchase, eliminating frustration at check-out. It also encourages them to buy now rather than later.
  • Marketing: Customers receive targeted ads across multiple marketing channels—email, social media, etc.
  • Logistics: Customers can have products shipped or avoid shipping fees with Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS).

An omnichannel environment gives you a deeper understanding of how your customers shop, helping you develop appropriate sales and marketing strategies.

Having the right tools and technology is vital to tracking customers across all channels. But, just as important is selecting the channels your customers use to include in your omnichannel environment.

Therefore, identify the right social media channels for your audience and set up your social strategy.

Create a reliable mobile app if you have the budget (or opt for a progressive web app for an upgraded experience).

Build your email list and invest in email finder tools to verify your email list.

Moreover, invest in a good CRM or system that’ll bring all these channels (including your physical store, if you have one) together.

Then, train your personnel to ensure they’re optimizing these channels optimally to deliver a pleasant and consistent omnichannel experience to your shoppers.

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5 Ecommerce merchandising best practices to increase conversions

Just like how the customer experience in a physical store is designed to drive sales, every part of your website is a merchandising opportunity.

And yes, different people shop differently. Still, your ecommerce store can be optimized for maximum conversions in various ways.

Here are five ecommerce merchandising best practices to get your website converting:

1. Extensive use of visual content

Imagery is everything for online stores. Online customers can’t hear, touch, smell, or taste your products. All they have are visual cues.

To help them envision their life after making a purchase, display your products from different angles, switching images by color and size. Allow zoom functions for close-up looks.

Un-boxing or tutorial-style videos work to show shoppers the products in action or how the product is used.

The next generation of visual merchandising takes customer experience to new heights with virtual showrooms and makeup makeovers.

The L’Oréal Paris virtual makeup try-on allows shoppers to experiment with the latest hair colors and makeup trends.

Customers simply upload a selfie and try different shades to find the product that best suits them.

loreal virtual makeup tryon ecommerce merchandising
Source: L’Oréal Paris

Your product page is where customers decide to click that add to cart button, but it is not the only place.

Adding images to the checkout page doesn’t only visually confirm that the customer is purchasing the right product. It also keeps them excited about the purchase.

2. Provide personalized recommendations

Customer loyalty doesn’t come cheap these days.

If you cannot give customers what they want, the way they want it, they’ll find someone who can. Customers expect a personalized buying experience, so the one-size-fits-all doesn’t…fit.

Fortunately, AI technologies make it possible to meet customers’ different demands.

By collecting data from customers’ search queries, purchase histories, cart items, and popular products, online retailers can make educated assumptions on what kind of products shoppers are likely to purchase.

The process becomes more refined the more customers use your ecommerce channels.

Personalized recommendations are a highly effective strategy to cross-sell and get shoppers to buy items they didn’t intend to buy.

For it to work, your product description keywords must match across products.

tula homepage ecommerce merchandising
Source: Tula

You can also follow the cue of brands like Tula to use quizzes to deliver personalized experiences.

The skincare brand uses simple plain language to quiz its users. They then use the answers from the engaging quiz to recommend specific products that match the user’s unique needs.

For example, they ask about the skin type, skin tone, and skincare goals to recommend the perfect skincare routine for each user.

3. Analyze user-generated content

Earlier, we talked about the customer’s shopping journey.

A part of that journey includes searching for product reviews—most online shoppers research product reviews and customer testimonials before buying.

People need confirmation that the claims you’re making about your products are true.

This applies to all businesses and not just ecommerce. That’s why the best performing ecommerce and even SaaS marketing plans use social proof to win the customer’s trust and boost conversions.

Check this out:

nuun product page ecommerce merchandising
Source: Nuun

Source: Nuun

By adding authority proof and trust guarantees, Nuun takes social proof to the max.

This endurance product, for example, has almost 400 customer reviews. Shoppers can easily browse through each of these reviews.

nuun icons vegan gluten ecommerce merchandising
Source: Nuun

Besides the reviews, the brand also uses reputable trust badges on relevant product pages.

4. Optimize for mobile devices

With people using their mobile phones for everything from streaming videos to sending money, it is unsurprising that half of all internet traffic and ecommerce sales come from mobile devices.

It should go without saying that optimizing your ecommerce website for mobile users is extremely important if you want to compete successfully.

What you need to look out for are:

  • Mobile-friendly layouts
  • Mobile-friendly navigation menus
  • Tap friendly buttons, links, and calls-to-action
  • Fast loading speeds

Lush’s mobile page will be familiar to many customers because it uses the same layout as Instagram’s feed.

In addition to being familiar, the mobile site is highly visual, engaging, and easy to navigate. The search bar is optimized for merchandising with suggested keywords to help match customers to the products they are looking for.

lush mobile ecommerce merchandising lush search mobile ecommerce merchandising

Mobile commerce has changed the way we shop.

Improvements in technology have made us accustomed to instant gratification. In the golden age of user experience, mobile users have no patience for bad mobile experiences.

5. Run A/B tests

Every online retailer should test the performance of different merchandising elements to determine which page design customers respond to best.

A/B or split testing can show you the best placement for your search box, customer reviews, product recommendations, etc.

They can also determine high-impact keywords you should use for your site search and product recommendations.

A/B testing presents half the visitors of your site with one version of your webpage to test the effectiveness of a particular variable.

The elements you should be testing for are page layout, calls to action (CTA), product titles and descriptions, images, navigation structure, and checkout process.

Test one element at a time.

For example, if you’re testing the effectiveness of your CTA buttons, test color separately from text and placement.

That makes it easier to zero in on the element that’s having the biggest impact on conversions.

Leverage ecommerce merchandising to grow your revenue

With more and more people making their purchases online, retailers like yourself should look for ways to capitalize on ecommerce trends to gain a more significant market share.

Ecommerce merchandising enables your online business to guide customers through a personalized buyer journey, making it easy for them to find exactly what they are looking for.

In an era where customer experience is so paramount, the key to increased conversion and retention rates is understanding customers’ behaviors and shopping patterns.

This can be very difficult, though.

After all, different customers want different things, and they all expect their needs to be met. That is where machine learning technology comes in.

AI makes it possible to track and analyze your customers’ behaviors across multiple devices and channels.

With a better understanding of your customers, you are better equipped to give customers the personalized, omnichannel customer experience they demand.

There are many tips and hacks to effective merchandising. But the best practices center around customer experience, AI integration, and omnichannel convenience.

 

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Owen Baker

Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online email verification tool. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.

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