Ah! That sweet and aromatic scent of beautifully arranged and attractively packaged candles. Isn’t it relaxing just walking around them? Or, that comfortable and luxurious feeling as you browse through racks of linen and towels that have been meticulously color coordinated and artistically arranged…One is often tempted to buy a few of them and recreate that wonderful feeling at home!
None of this happens by chance. A lot of planning and hard work has gone into creating these alluring environments to appeal to the senses of shoppers and entice them to purchase. This is what merchandising is all about….taking into account how products come across to your customers and a conscious application of techniques aimed to make those interactions impactful.
The world of ecommerce is devoid of tactile pleasures so retailers have to devise and implement other ways of reaching the same end goal (of getting the customer to purchase). In the absence of a chance of appealing to the touch and feel instincts of online shoppers, merchandising needs to be modified and adapted to suit the online environment.
Building the Merchandising Experience Online
An Attractive Homepage
The virtual world of ecommerce is unique! In the absence of any shop front window to display your products, it’s the homepage of your website that is the first spot that can capture the browser’s attention to explore further. The first impression created by the professional look and design and aesthetics of your homepage cannot thus be undermined.
The virtual world also allows you to save on expensive real estate and have multiple / alternative landing pages (displaying your products), be it seasonal or promotional. The use of dynamic banners on this page can also be used effectively to promote / highlight products and information to customers. Anything from an upcoming sale to free shipping and delivery offers or even a glowing customer feedback could be placed strategically at this space as an effective merchandising strategy.
Building the Brand Story – Your ‘About Us’ page
Apart from an inviting and interesting website, online merchandising also entails engaging the customer with your brand. One of the ways to do so is by sharing your brand’s story.
Where did it start? What makes it special? Your beliefs, your journey and your goals. The objective of creating a brand narrative is to strike a chord with the customer by creating a brand experience that they can relate to. Such association enables them to have a positive experience at the store and can often lead to multiple conversions.
Impressive Product Display
Visual merchandisers at the brick and mortar store maximise the impact of product displays by appealing to the customer’s tactile senses. In the virtual world this entire experience of physical touch and feel is replaced by images. Hence the image quality along with the aesthetics of the product display is especially important. Professionally taken, sharp and high resolution images that can be zoomed in and out to reveal details like colour, texture and design details are essential for online merchandising.
The inclusion of a few interesting videos about the uniqueness and uses of your product along with its applicability and an emphasis on how the customer benefits from it is recommended.
This can be another smart merchandising idea.
Easy Search and Navigability
Attention spans are short and therefore one needs to ensure that shoppers coming to the online store should be able to find whatever they are looking for with the fewest possible clicks.
In the absence of any salesmen or signages to assist customers looking for a product, an efficient product classification system along with tiered menus that make searching for any product easy should be implemented. Customer engagement and conversions at the website can surely be enhanced by such clever visual merchandising.
Anticipating Customer Needs and Product Recommendations
Another crucial element of any merchandising strategy has to be the ability to proactively anticipate customer needs and understand what works for them. Tracking market trends and keeping an eye on competition can often help by providing you with new insights and inspiration.
Displaying complementary products together and providing usage ideas to shoppers is a popular tool for merchandising at brick and mortar stores that can be easily adopted and implemented at any online store too.
Once the customer has added a set of cushion covers to her cart and is about to check out, it is time to suggest a matching rug or even some floor cushion covers to complete the set! Such recommendations can often help increase the average order value of the customer’s cart.
Ensuring Stocks and Availability – keep your website information updated
Shoppers dislike facing “out of stock” situations. Efficient merchandising entails working closely with suppliers and manufacturers to ensure maintaining a proper inventory of products and minimising such unpleasant situations. This is important as it doesn’t take much for the customer to opt for a competitor’s product and you could lose his business forever.
Platforms like Shopmatic provide for such efficient inventory management tools where one simple update of the primary inventory table of your online store will automatically update catalogues everywhere.
Online Social Proof
The reach of online product merchandising can be expanded even further by leveraging social media channels like Facebook and Instagram. Apart from creating brand and product awareness, it also provides social proof and community trust and demand for your product. This can often help create an urgency and assist in making the decision to close the deal.
Adding customer generated content like product reviews and even images (of customers using your products) can be another effective merchandising tool at the online store as it helps build trust and confidence in your product.
Impact of Merchandising
The ultimate goal of every retailer- whether at the brick and mortar store or online, remains the same….that of selling the product and growing the business.
Effective merchandising strategies adopted by ecommerce retailers can work toward this goal by engaging the customer while they visit the website and working towards enhancing the overall shopping experience of customers. This can often tempt them to make that additional impulsive purchase!
Such sales, attributed to smart merchandising strategies, can often help improve key online metrics like customer engagement, rate of conversion, and average order value of your ecommerce store.
Moreover, analytics data relating to sales / promotions or even bundling / cross selling of items can often provide useful insights that could be effectively used to formulate future merchandising strategies.
Retail therapy is an effective stress buster for most people. Every merchandiser (whether in physical stores or online) keeps that in mind and creates strategies for maximum impact….with the hope of completing a sale.
In the world of ecommerce, merchandisers need to recreate the environment of physical stores while providing the best customer experience. Adoption and implementation of some of the merchandising strategies mentioned above will help in sales and revenue growth.
Your business growth can be impacted by good merchandising techniques and their efficient execution. Time to try it out now!