Although the COVID-19 pandemic has benefited eCommerce greatly, it has also increased competition among B2B merchants online. With many physical stores locked down for extended periods of time, millions of consumers have had to turn to eCommerce to meet their needs.
It is important to get your business online so that you can maximize reach and serve more customers. But that’s not all it takes to make sales. As a B2B or B2C business, if you have not already invested in smart eCommerce tools, you are most likely passing up an opportunity to expand your business. These tools should be designed to make it easy for customers to buy from you.
Seventy-three percent of consumers say a good experience is a major influence on their buying decisions and brand loyalties. This is proof that delivering a sterling shopping experience is important to online merchandising success.
Effective merchandising and delivering a good customer experience are both too broad to be mentioned in passing. So, we have compiled this article to serve as an in-depth guide for online merchandising.
We’ll dissect what merchandising means for online businesses and look at five great merchandising tips for maintaining an optimized eCommerce site at scale.
Table of Contents
- What Is Merchandising?
- Merchandising Tips and Strategies
1. Use Your Inventory to Tell Your Story
2. Recreate the Offline Shopping Experience
3. Manage Your Stock Levels
4. Avoid Digital Staleness: Keep it Fresh
5. Employ the Help of Smart Tools
What Is Merchandising?
Merchandising is the promotion of products using competitive prices, special offers, exhibits, and other methods intended to impact customers’ purchasing decisions. The idea of merchandising is based on making the right goods available at the right time, at the right place, in the right quantity, and at the right price to optimize sales.
As an existing business, merchandising is probably not new to you. However, you may be downplaying just how important it is because you do not fully understand how impactful effective merchandising can be to your sales.
Merchandising is most effective when you understand customer psychology and use features to appeal to their senses. Big brands hire multi-disciplinary teams of sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, and other consultants to help create an unforgettable brand experience and maximizes sales.
We understand that you may not have the budget to go that far, but you can always borrow a leaf (or many) from their strategy book to improve your business.
Merchandising Tips and Strategies
In a physical retail store setting, effective merchandising strategies that compel a visitor to make a purchase include:
- Strategic product display. Retail merchandisers arrange items in a way that encourages customer interaction by tantalizing the eyes, ears, and nose. For example, customers are calmed by good music playing in-store and are attracted to bright colors and fresh smells.
- Unique in-store and window displays
- Aisle labeling
- Product categories or section themes. For example: back-to-school, Valentine gifts, Christmas, etc.
- Free tastings, freebies, samples, and in-store demos
- Well-stocked displays and shelves
For an eCommerce store, the approach to merchandising is slightly different but based on the same ideas. It includes:
- Attractive and organized landing pages and special offers
- Advertising banners
- Effective product categorization
- Detailed product descriptions using images, videos, sizing, and other attributes information
- Prominent search bar and accurate search results
- Season-specific product collections
- Product recommendations
- Customer reviews
- Chatbots or live chat support
- Cross-selling, upselling, and bundling
- Highlights for promoted products (bestsellers, free shipping, sale, newly added, etc.)
Merchandising is all about selling, and the result of following smart merchandising tips is increased sales and profits. Stores that create a seamless shopping experience and successfully guide customers to purchase completion benefit from a variety of advantages, including:
- Higher profits
- Higher customer retention rates
- Increased customer engagement (longer on-site time)
- Faster inventory turnover
- Increased brand loyalty
- Increased brand recognition
These are all the factors that keep your business going and growing. Now that we’re clear on just how important merchandising is, let’s look at five merchandising tips that will help you handle it like a pro.
1. Use Your Inventory to Tell Your Story
The way products are displayed can have a major impact on consumers’ decisions and, subsequently, sales. This applies to both physical and online stores, and it is the premise of visual merchandising.
Have you ever strolled into a physical store to pick up an item but ended up buying a couple of other items that you didn’t plan to? That’s not uncommon. Think briefly about the factors that influenced that decision. Did they catch your eye? Or were they on sale and you could not afford to miss out on a good deal? Many times it’s a combination of many factors. For example, items on sale are displayed in areas where many customers can see them.
These rules apply to eCommerce merchandising as well. You want to create a visual hierarchy on your page that focuses display on the most important products. This order of importance can be reflected with digital banners, images, and fonts that spotlight selected items.
For example, if you’re running a discount campaign for a week, there has to be a visual element that differentiates the products on offer from the rest. They have to be easily accessible, and it is important to make sure that your inventory can handle the increased demands.
As an eCommerce business, it is crucial to understand how to present your inventory using a visual hierarchy. When you do, you can communicate your brand story more accurately and highlight critical parts of the inventory.
How to Effectively Showcase Your Brand Story Using Visual Hierarchy
Visual hierarchy is an in-depth topic, but at its most basic, it entails mirroring the user’s experience and providing an intuitive virtual guide to your brand’s offerings. Here are some of the focus points.
- Where will the user look first? People typically consume online content from the top down, and the majority read from left to right. This is one reason why brand logos are usually placed at the top left corner of the web page. It serves as a gentle assertion of your brand identity, so customers can recognize and get familiar with it.
- What’s the most important element on the page? Depending on seasonal demands and inventory changes, this can change. What should remain constant is that the eye should be naturally drawn to the part of the page containing the content that you want customers to engage with.
- What’s the best way to get the user to move down the page? To reduce bounce rates, it is important to have an element that guides the user down the page without being intrusive to the overall experience.
- What visuals will communicate the message best? Image and graphics selection go a long way towards user engagement because humans are highly visual beings.
2. Recreate the Offline Shopping Experience
Even though there seems to be little need for physical stores in this digital age, the brick-and-mortar experience has its perks. For one, it is much easier for merchants to influence customers’ buying decisions by appealing to their senses.
Physical stores have a tangible element that helps consumers make more confident purchase decisions than digital stores. In-store, buyers can see, touch, feel and even try on products they are interested in. This translates to less error in judgment. Both merchant and consumer save the cost and effort of returning or swapping items, which frequently happens with online purchases.
These perks make it evident that the offline experience still holds its charm. And online stores can do well by learning a thing or two and implementing these merchandising tips online. Creating a successful eCommerce business requires merging the perks of offline shopping with the ease of shopping in digital stores.
Let’s look at 4 ways to do that:
Make It Personal
According to Optinmonster, online shoppers are more likely to return to a digital store that delivers a personalized experience.
Of course, you can’t physically see your eCommerce customers, but you can learn about them based on their behavior in your digital store. You can gather basic information such as location, age, gender, and size. You can also analyze in-depth behavior like shopping habits, shopping history, and average spending.
Armed with these insights, you can curate specific experiences for each customer. You can customize their interface to display products that they are likely to be interested in or suitable for their demographic. This is a proven way to increase conversion and, subsequently, revenue.
Create an Immersive Experience
One of the major perks of shopping offline is interacting with the product before purchasing. Customers can roam aisles and feast their eyes on the options, often even picking up a couple of items they didn’t plan to.
It is important to create an interface that makes it incredibly easy for customers to browse available options in an eCommerce store. This includes sorting products into categories, allowing consumers to search with images, and providing detailed product information.
For instance, consumers who shop for clothing online need accurate sizing parameters to choose items that truly fit. Also, it is beneficial to integrate features that allow customers to zoom in on product images. Or a 360-view so that they can see the product from different angles.
Add Social Proof
Word-of-mouth is a significant influence on purchase decisions. Whether online or offline, consumers are more likely to purchase a product that other consumers have used and vouched for. In the same vein, they are more likely to stay away from a product with bad reviews.
Include a feature that allows customers to rate and review products that they have purchased. This goes a long way in painting you as a transparent, authentic brand. You can also use customer reviews to gain useful insight into consumer sentiment and adjust your merchandising approach accordingly.
Prioritize Customer Support
Finally, a great way to recreate the offline shopping experience in your digital store is to retain the human touch. At the end of the day, your customers are not just numbers on a screen or lines on your revenue chart. They are actual people with hopes and feelings, and it will do your brand a world of good to treat them as such. Ninety-three percent of people are more likely to make repeat purchases from brands with excellent customer service.
Equip your customer service staff to be as responsive and up-to-date as possible. Introduce live chat to let shoppers get answers right away. And, you can use it as another touchpoint to create relationships with your consumers.
Also, make it simple for consumers to talk to a member of your staff, rather than a chatbot, which offers generic computer-generated responses.
3. Manage Your Stock Levels
Running out of stock frequently can discourage customers from patronizing your brand. You lose money, and you possibly lose the customer to competitors who have better inventory management systems than you.
Out-of-stock sales not only contribute to missed revenue but also decrease customer retention and lower loyalty levels. Consumers always feel disappointed when you don’t have what they need, and the last thing you want is to let customers down.
To prevent frequent stockouts, here are some things you can do:
Connect Your Inventory to Your Storefront
Connecting your supply chain to your storefront is the secret of a highly effective merchandising team. You don’t want to be reactive and at the receiving end of a stockout condition. You need to be proactive and alerted when key products are about to sell out and when they are sold out. As such, the stock-out threshold is critical here, and you need to adjust for products in each category.
As an online business, it is best to use a point-of-sale or inventory management system that automatically adjusts inventory levels as you make sales. This way, you won’t have to worry about manually updating your stock count. This is especially useful if you have multiple store branches because they allow you to manage all of them from one central system.
Optimize Your Supply Chain
To reduce out-of-stock instances, it is important to ensure that every part of the supply chain is optimized for high-level efficiency. This means manufacturers, distributors, retailers, everyone involved in producing/delivering your SKUs.
You may need to identify high-demand SKUs on a temporary and permanent basis so that manufacturers can be prepared to produce adequate product volumes. Also, ensure transparent delivery timelines so that there are no mix-ups with logistics. Give room for unforeseen hitches in delivery and optimize your operations accordingly. Finally, make arrangements for alternative distributors in case of bad weather or downtimes.
4. Avoid Digital Staleness: Keep It Fresh
After putting all the previously mentioned features in place, what’s next is ensuring that you constantly update your eCommerce website’s content. Staleness is a business killer. And because you’re online, it is easy to get very stale very fast. The Internet is a rollercoaster of updates, so there’s always something new to catch up on. You don’t necessarily have to jump on all the trends, but aligning your brand with some of them will bring more customers your way. You will create the impression that you’re a fresh, vibrant brand. And customers will be more interested in doing business with you.
One way to prevent digital staleness is to keep your website up-to-date. Digital staleness refers to the state of your site if data remains unchanged or untouched for an extended period of time. Your website’s lack of movement may indicate to Google’s algorithms that your company is not growing.
These updates may be as minimal as adding new colors to icons. Or as major as changing your website’s interface. However, you don’t want to do updates too often, as you risk confusing the customers and ruining any familiarity they have built with your brand.
Also, updating your website is an excellent way to draw attention to new products or promotions. These changes inform your clients about what has changed and tells them that you have a wide range of other goods and services available to them.
Another advantage of eCommerce merchandising over physical stores is the extra sorting power that online shoppers have. Many consumers begin their shopping experience by typing relevant keywords and features into your site’s search bar. So, it’s critical to keep your product pages detailed and up to date with relevant keywords and features.
5. Employ the Help of Smart Tools
These merchandising tips are only actionable with the help of smart digital tools. Gone are the days of manually fiddling with widgets to get the ball rolling. Now, scheduling and automation are the order of the day. That’s a huge plus for online merchants because these smart tools are more accurate, so there are fewer chances of error. The best kind of merchandising software will also provide insights that allow the merchant to understand which products are performing well and which ones are not to better understand your customer base’s demands. They also save time so that merchants can focus on other aspects of business operations.
With an online merchandise management solution like Smart Merchandiser, you don’t have to depend on guesswork to make the website more sales-friendly. This software enhances the display of goods and services by emphasizing their functionality and benefits.
Zobrist‘s Smart Merchandiser tool makes eCommerce website building and maintenance a breeze. It takes care of visual merchandising, supplies analytics, and makes it easy to update your website with fresh content. You can quickly reorder your catalog by dragging and dropping thumbnail files. The tool guarantees that your most common and in-stock products are in the best possible position to increase revenue.
To provide the best user experience, you can monitor the products available on display. And you can arrange them based on seasonality, buzz meter, sentiment analytics, and inventory. Smart Merchandiser automatically moves out-of-stock products to the bottom of the page to preserve a positive brand image.
Your business deserves a leg up to help you effectively compete in the new market. Contact us today to get started with the merchandising tips and tools that will help you stand out to customers and increase your sales.