If you’re an omnichannel retailer (one who sells both online and in stores), you’ve likely put some thought into the strategy behind your store’s layout, signage, displays and promotions. This is what’s known as retail merchandising.
Why do you do these things? It’s simple. Retail merchandising techniques like these help you attract customers and sell more to them. What we want to know is: have you put as much thought into your online merchandising strategy?
Not sure where to get started? You’ve come to the right place. In this online merchandising guide, you’ll learn how to:
- What is online merchandising?
- Personalize your online shopping experience
- Use the Rule of 3
- Upsell premium products
- Cross-sell complementary items
- Leverage customer reviews
- Optimize product pages for search engines
- Use high-quality product photos
- Optimize product descriptions
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Bring your products online and start selling fast with our foolproof quickstart guide.
What is online merchandising?
Let’s start by explaining what online merchandising actually is. Online merchandising is the placement and order of products, collections and promotions on your site to increase sales. If you do this correctly, it will help potential customers navigate your stock, promote your products and ensure shoppers find the right products at the right time.
If you want to ensure your online merchandising is as good as it can be, then, you’re in luck. We’ve got a few handy tips to help you boost your sales in no time. Let’s get started:
>1. Personalize the online shopping experience
According to an Epsilon study, 9 in 10 consumers prefer personalized shopping experiences. And, 4 in 5 are more likely to shop with a brand that offers personalized experiences. Research by McKinsey similarly found that while consumers may take personalization for granted, if a retailer doesn’t do it well, shoppers may abandon a brand and go to a competitor.
So, how can you personalize the online shopping experience for your customers? It’s all about tapping into customers’ data. For example, you can use a customer’s past browsing history to recommend products that they’ll be most interested in. Or, you can upsell based on items that a customer already owns or are in their cart.
Personalization—whether online or in stores—sets retailers apart and creates an experience shoppers will keep coming back to.
2. Use the Rule of 3
The Rule of 3 is a popular visual merchandising strategy in an in-store setting. According to the Rule of 3, shoppers are more likely to notice and remember displays and products when they are grouped in threes. For example, you’ll often see three mannequins placed together in stores.
You should translate the Rule of 3 for a digital format. You could format your ecommerce store to display three products per row. Or, style items in threes when taking editorialized product photos.
Fiverr suggests grouping “items that are similar or share a close relationship, but aren’t completely identical.” For example, you could group a bicycle, helmet and tire pump in the same photo, or display a hat, scarf and coat in the same row on your website.
3. Upsell premium products
The goal of online merchandising is to sell more and make more money with each purchase. One way to increase your average order value is to upsell. In a store setting, sales associates upsell by recommending more premium versions of products customers are interested in to shoppers.
You can also upsell in an ecommerce setting. One way to do this is to implement a “customers also considered” element on your website and display similar, but more expensive, versions of products to shoppers.
The Rule of 3 can also be used to upsell. Show off basic, mid-range and premium versions of similar products in the same row or image to show customers what they could get if they spent a little more.
4. Cross-sell complementary items
Another technique for increasing your average order value is to cross-sell products. Not sure where to start? Check out these tips from our online merchandising guide:
- Create product bundles: Bundle similar, complementary items together and sell them as a set to encourage customers to spend more. For example, you could bundle a pot with a pan and one cooking utensil, or bundle cleats, socks and shinguards. This merchandising strategy usually works best when you offer a small discount on bundles.
- Suggest complementary products: Suggest complementary products by adding a “customers also bought” section to product pages. Another technique is to configure a pop up on your ecommerce website that asks customers if they want to add complementary products to their cart before checking out.
- Style products together: By styling products together in product page photos, your online catalog, or editorialized photos on your website, you can upsell through the power of suggestion. If a customer is interested in a cup and they see it styled with a matching glass straw, they may purchase the straw as well.
5. Leverage customer reviews
Customers want to know what products are really like before they pull the trigger. Add a reviews section to your product pages to provide social proof and give customers more information about your products.
By letting customers upload photos of the products they’ve purchased and how they use them, you’re providing additional context that can help sway a purchase. For example, seeing how others have styled your curtains may help a customer imagine what your curtains would look like in their home. Or, seeing a dress worn by a customer who has a similar figure could help a shopper imagine what the dress would look like on them.
Another reason why customer reviews are included in our online merchandising guide is because they give your business useful feedback you can use to improve products. If several customers write that the zipper breaks on one of your coats, you could use that feedback to redesign the coat with a stronger zipper.
6. Optimize product pages for search engines
Include keywords that describe your products on product pages to help customers find what they’re looking for on your website’s internal search engine and on Google.
Optimize your products for search engines by using descriptive keywords in product names, item descriptions and product page URLs. For example, instead of naming a pair of jeans “Claudia Jeans,” you could call them “Claudia Light Wash, High-Rise, Cropped Jeans.”
7. Use high-quality product photos
Photos are the best way to convey visual information about your products to online shoppers. That’s why it’s critical to include multiple high-quality images of each product on your website.
Begin with good lighting. While natural lighting is best, investing in a lighting kit is worthwhile. Although a DSLR camera will give you the best image possible, the quality of most smartphone photos are now on par with professional cameras.
Take a variety of photos of each product. Make sure you have photos that show:
- The entire product from every relevant angle
- Close-up shots of product details
- Styled photos that provide context
Need some inspiration for styling photos? Let’s say you sell tableware. You could set a table with placemats, cutlery, plates, glasses and a nice tablecloth from your inventory, and take photos. Styled images help customers imagine how they’ll use your products, and can help cross-sell other items as long as you link to the other products you feature in the image.
8. Optimize product descriptions
While a photo is worth a thousand words, there is some information a photo can’t convey. That’s where detailed product descriptions come into the picture.
You already know you need to include critical keywords into product descriptions. Beyond that, you should write descriptions that inform shoppers about what the product is and provide useful information, like:
- Use instructions
- Care instructions
- Assembly instructions
We’ve also included this tip in our online merchandising guide because detailed product descriptions are critical for accessibility. They help shoppers with low vision and other accessibility challenges get the information they need to picture what they can’t see.
Wrapping up: Online merchandising guide
eCommerce will only continue to grow in importance to the retail industry. As it does, omnichannel retailers need to stay on top of the most effective online merchandising tactics. By implementing the strategies from this online merchandising guide, you can provide your customers with a greater user experience, and help them find what they’re looking for, and even some things they weren’t.
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