Just as in brick-and-mortar stores, the importance of designing your online site to sell most effectively can’t be overstated. Building online merchandising equivalents of in-store experiences promises that shoppers will not only find what they came to your site to find, but will discover products they didn’t even know they wanted, until you showed them.
Good brick-and-mortar merchandising can:
- increase traffic by offering attractive visual experiences
- increase sales by featuring products through promotions and displays
- build loyalty through appealing, easy-to-access settings
The same principles apply to online merchandising; it’s just the implementation that’s a bit different. As you build out the merchandising functionality on your site, keep these best practices in mind.
Let Your Data Drive Programs
Knowing what your shoppers are interested in helps you respond to current trends and anticipate future promotional opportunities. When customers search, they’re telling you exactly what they want. Leverage data from search keywords and browsing behavior to power your search, navigation, email and advertising campaigns. With customer-generated data behind you, you’ll get the most traction for your time and money.
Everlast uses customer data to create highly relevant search and navigation results, as well as personalized recommendations. Once a personalized list is generated, the company uses it in targeted email and advertising campaigns. Techniques like this have brought Everlast 6x higher conversions site wide.
Make Discovery Easy
Isn’t it helpful when you enter a store and a sales associate helps you find the exact item you’re looking for? Make the same true for online experiences. You can do this in a few ways: first, offer search that provides the most relevant products in the first couple rows. Second, show the most relevant products visually as the search query is entered. And third, tie the most popular keywords to promotions that you feature on your home page.
Pet360, an online retailer of pet supplies and pet health products, uses patented Rich Auto Complete technology from SLI Systems to not only give searchers suggestions based on the first few letters they type, but also show images, descriptions and prices for the most popular products based on those letters, right in the search box drop down menu. Rich Auto Complete tehnology has made discovery so easy for Pet360 shoppers, that they’ve seen a 20% increase in revenue from search.
Roll out the Banners
Merchandising banners are the perfect way to highlight specific offers and time-sensitive messages. As you’re planning a banner strategy for your site, consider trigger banners that that load when certain search conditions are met. Use shopper’s most popular keywords to trigger the display of highly relevant messages or calls to action. Banners on search results pages can highlight specific brands, seasons, holidays or other specials promotions.
Enhancing merchandising with relevant product banners on search results pages has paid off for UK clothing retailer Boden. For example, a search for “coats” returns a highly relevant results page where product tiles are preceded by a banner shown only when customers search for coats, cleverly utilized as an additional, easy-to-use navigation menu.
Including dynamic product banners on search results pages has increased Boden’s sales by 10%.
If your site sells multiple brands, appeal to your brand-loyal customers by making your top-selling brands stand out. Brand-specific banners can be configured to appear automatically when a customer searches for that brand, giving your customer just the shopping experience he or she is looking for.
Give Shoppers a Soft Place to Land
Enhance seasonal or brand promotions further with curated landing pages based on shopper’s likely search terms. For example, if you would like to promote a series of special holiday products, create a landing page that loads whenever the word “holiday” is searched. Landing pages give you more control over the way products are displayed, allowing you to give your shoppers what will feel like a custom-tailored shopping experience.
Landing pages aren’t just useful for site searchers, either. You can drive users to your landing pages through your email marketing and social media campaigns. That way, if you want to promote different sets of products within different channels, you’ll have full control over what users see the minute they land on your site, making conversion much more likely.
Merchandise Across Channels
As you’re building out your merchandising functionality, don’t forget the mobile experience. A streamlined mobile experience that works around the physical constraints of a mobile device will make it easier for shoppers to find (and buy!) what they want. For instance, keeping your search box front and center on every page is critical to keeping shoppers on your site so they don’t waste time navigating an entire site. Additionally, adding refinements in large, tap-friendly dropdowns lets shoppers narrow down to the most applicable results. And don’t forget to creatively use banners on every page to highlight promotions.
Currently, about 30% of e.l.f. Cosmetic’s online traffic comes from mobile devices. So creating an optimally merchandised mobile experience is essential. e.l.f.’s mobile site is designed for easy search and navigation, and simple, relevant banners appear on every search results page to increase the likelihood that mobile shoppers will convert.
Focusing merchandising efforts on site search is working for e.l.f. Currently, conversion for mobile visitors using site search is four times the rate of mobile users who don’t use search. Mobile sites that neglect merchandising opportunities around site search are missing out on higher sales.
Manage Your Merchandising
All online retailers want to merchandise in ways that work. It’s the time commitment that brings us down. We know how you feel. Merchandising can be your team’s biggest time suck. Analyzing data, constant tweaking, and sending requests back and forth to your IT department can be a full-time job…or multiple full-time jobs. What could your team accomplish with that time and manpower if merchandising could be automated?
With the right tools, much of it can. E-commerce software powered by machine learning, with a user-friendly interface, allows e-commerce managers to easily spot trends in user behavior, then capitalize on those trends with custom banners and landing pages for use on their websites, mobile sites, email campaigns and pay-per-click campaigns—all without the need for IT. Products can also be easily moved and highlighted to respond rapidly to shopper behavior and promotional opportunities. Your merchandising console should put the power to create and curate at your fingertips, with the data and tools you need to drive sales and stay ahead of the curve.
Hear how Jamie Buroff, digital merchandiser, uses many of these techniques to make merchandising work for Frontgate in this short video.