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In the broadest sense, merchandising is defined as 'the activity of promoting the sale of goods'. Whether this is in a store, over the phone or online the principle is the same – 'Sell more stuff (Profitably)'; the differences come in the techniques employed to do this.
A traditional retail store will use gondala end displays, clip-strip cross-sells and sales assistants to maximise revenues, but without the advantage of face-to-face sales influence how can we sell online?
The anonymity associated with online customers is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in successful Ecommerce merchandising. After all, if I don't know what you want, how can I sell it to you?
There is, however, a wealth of data available relatively easily within your analytics; you just need to know what to look for.
If you're embarking on an online merchandising journey, you need to know all about your products and where they sit within the overall range.
Product sales should be a report that you see everyday, trends will quickly become apparent and your product knowledge will improve.
From my experience the most important product groups to know about are:
Here is an example of House of Fraser where they demonstrate product knowledge and a variety of different merchandising techniques on their homepage:
There are an unknown number of potential journeys visitors can take en-route to your products, your job is to make these journeys as easy as possible, and to provide new routes to product pages.
Online Merchandising also gives you the unique opportunity to guide visitors' journeys, as you want.
This can be done through a variety of techniques including:
Getting people to a product page is only part of the battle though, you now have a whole new set of levers to pull to ensure they get what they want and you get an order.
What is right for you will depend largely on your industry, but may also vary by product category e.g. visitors will expect a lot more when viewing an expensive bike than they would when viewing a puncture repair kit.
The product copy that you provide has to be detailed enough to answer questions, but snappy enough to hold attention. Try splitting up the product description and specification – this makes it easier to digest but gives the depth of content needed.
An example of product page content varying between products. This is an example from Halfords and the difference in the amount of information is huge.
Your customer has added the product to their basket and you're only a few steps away from an order; a smart approach to checkout will mean the difference between getting the customer to place an order and losing the sale (and potentially future custom). This video from Google Analytics sums up nicely some pitfalls when it comes to checkouts:
There is no 'one size fits all' approach to checkout optimisation, individual testing is required to find the journey that suits your customers and your business. Some things to consider:
At it’s heart, online merchandising is all about focusing on the detail to ensure that your customers find what they are looking for and that you 'sell more stuff'; using these steps will help you get closer to the detail and figure out where your areas of merchandising focus need to be.
By Siobhan McMullan
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