Seventy-three percent of customers state that customer experience plays a significant role in their purchasing decisions. Today, there is a long list of ways that an ecommerce business can create an optimized customer experience for its online shoppers: enter ecommerce merchandising.
Ecommerce merchandising enables an ecommerce website to create a smooth and enjoyable customer journey, and it's a big key to improving an online store's conversion rate. To help you optimize your ecommerce store for maximum sales, let's take a look at everything you need to know about ecommerce merchandising strategies.
What is ecommerce merchandising?
When you walk into a physical store, the products you see are not arranged on the shelf haphazardly. Instead, they are strategically organized and displayed in a way designed to maximize sales by promoting top-selling products and making your shopping experience as convenient as possible. This process of strategically organizing and displaying products is known as merchandising — and it applies to ecommerce stores, too.
Providing your customers with an optimized customer experience starts with optimizing the layout of your online store so that customers can easily find what they are looking for. From there, you can take ecommerce merchandising even further with features such as site search functionality, personalized product recommendations, high-quality product pages, and more.
Getting started with ecommerce merchandising: The fundamentals
Several important considerations go along with optimizing your ecommerce merchandising strategy. The most important elements of ecommerce merchandising to keep in mind include:
Product organization and curation
Ecommerce merchandising begins with organizing the layout of your online store so that it's easy to navigate and all of your products are easily discoverable. Creating category pages is one way that stores with numerous types of products to sell often organize their store layout.
However you choose to organize and display your products, make sure they're easily searchable and visually appealing. Achieving this will boost your store's conversion rate and drive more sales, and having a well-organized product hierarchy can also assist with inventory management.
Site searchability and user-friendly navigation
Including a search bar on your store is one highly effective way to make your products more easily discoverable, and this is something that any store with multiple products to sell should consider.
But along with making your store searchable, there are other steps that you can take to ensure user-friendly navigation and an optimized customer experience. This includes creating a product hierarchy that includes category and product pages, ensuring that all of your site's links are working, and optimizing your website for mobile users.
Compelling, on-brand visuals and product descriptions
Your product pages are by far the most important on your ecommerce website, and you should optimize each with compelling product descriptions and high-quality images. Along with ensuring that your customers know exactly what they're purchasing, high-quality product images and other visuals are also key to capturing a customer's interest and convincing them to make a purchase. The same is true for compelling product descriptions, which also inform customers about a specific product and inspire them to buy it.
Meanwhile, brands that don't utilize high-quality visuals and product descriptions risk a reduced conversion rate due to a lack of customer trust. It's also worth mentioning that your site's product descriptions play a key role in its SEO.
Good product descriptions boost SEO efforts
All the content on your ecommerce website needs to be SEO-optimized, including your product descriptions. Populating your product descriptions with targeted keywords makes them more discoverable to customers searching for products like yours via search engines. This can boost the amount of traffic your product pages and website receive. To learn more about the keys to good ecommerce SEO, check out our helpful resource.
Ninety-one percent of consumers say that they are more likely to shop from brands that provide personalized product recommendations and offers. These personalized recommendations should be a part of every online store's merchandising strategy. Creating a personalized customer experience can be as simple as using a customer's first name in all communications with them or as complex as utilizing customer data and intent/sentiment detection to create a fully personalized message.
Provide personalized product recommendations by leveraging a customer's purchase and browsing history. You can include these personalized recommendations on your product pages in the form of a "customers who purchased this item also purchased" section (such as what Amazon does on its product pages) or in your customer support/marketing emails.
Types of ecommerce merchandising to strengthen online stores
Ecommerce merchandising is a process that we can further break down into a few different types, each with its own benefits and key considerations.
Unless you send customers directly to landing pages or product pages via an advertising campaign, your website's homepage is likely to be the first thing a potential customer sees. This makes it vital to create a well-organized and appealing homepage that will serve as the start of the customer journey and ensure that customers can easily find whatever page or product they are looking for.
Your store's home page should be easy to navigate. It should include links to category pages, a search bar, and a readily available customer support option such as chatbots or a live chat widget. Optimizing your home page with features such as these will make your entire store easier to navigate and will ensure that every customer's experience gets started on the right foot.
Product page merchandising
Product page merchandising is the process of optimizing individual product pages — and, given the paramount importance of these pages, is arguably the most vital type of ecommerce merchandising to get right. Compelling product descriptions complete with targeted keywords, high-quality product photos, and customer reviews/other user-generated content are all key elements to include in your product pages for optimized product page merchandising.
Category-based merchandising entails grouping your products into categories and including category pages on your website. The first key to good category-based merchandising is to group your products intuitively so that customers will instinctively know which category page they need to search to find what they are looking for.
Providing a clear and descriptive name for your product categories can also help with this. As for the category pages themselves, you should include thumbnails of the products in that category that link to individual product pages. You may also wish to include an overarching category description that explains the product category (and, as with product pages, optimizing this description with targeted keywords can help improve your store's SEO).
Search merchandising (aka searchandising)
Creating a search bar for your online store is one vital key to ecommerce merchandising, and optimizing this search functionality is known as search merchandising or "searchandising."
This begins with ensuring that your site's search bar functions as intended and enables customers to search specific products by name and more general search terms. Suggested search terms or autocomplete is another feature that can improve the on-site search experience for your customers. You can also use searchandising to promote specific products or promotions by displaying banner ads on the search results page.
Collection-based merchandising is similar to category-based merchandising, but instead of organizing products based on type, collection-based merchandising entails organizing products based on common themes or attributes. For example, a store selling clothing and apparel might have a "Winter Collection" that groups together all its winter-themed products.
This type of product organization allows for a little more creativity but can also be a little less intuitive to navigate than category-based merchandising. To solve this, you can group products into categories and collections with descriptive, relevant titles.
Merchandising trends in 2023
In 2023, several ecommerce merchandising trends are poised to make a big splash, including:
Responsive merchandising driven by AI and machine learning
AI and machine learning tools enable today's online stores to track customer behavior data and apply that data to provide responsive, personalized merchandising. Offering personalized product recommendations based on a customer's browsing history is one example of this approach in action. Another example is adjusting search results to display products with a higher profit margin or a higher conversion rate.
Merchandising for social selling
Everything we've discussed so far has focused on merchandising for ecommerce websites. However, social selling (selling directly from social media platforms) is gaining popularity — and proper merchandising is important for these social media stores, too. As social media platforms continue to improve their social selling features, store owners now have more options when it comes to creating merchandising strategies for these growing marketplaces
Personalized merchandising based on user behavior
We've mentioned numerous times already the key role that personalization plays in ecommerce merchandising. By using AI and machine learning to glean insights from customer behavior, stores can now include personalized product recommendations on their search results page and throughout their other merchandising efforts.
8 strategies to advance your ecommerce merchandising efforts
If you want to create a fully-optimized store that is carefully designed to maximize conversions and offer an enjoyable customer experience, here are eight proven ecommerce merchandising strategies to employ.
1) Optimize for mobile first
Today, a little over 61% of all online searches are conducted from a mobile device. With over half of online shoppers likely to access your store from their phone or tablet, it's essential to ensure that your store is mobile-optimized — this includes your merchandising efforts. Make sure that your product and category pages are displayed correctly on mobile devices, and ensure that features such as your site search bar will function flawlessly. Not only will optimizing your website for mobile users help improve the experience for most of your potential customers, but it's also one of the factors that Google takes into account when it comes to SEO.
2) Implement a smart search bar on your website
Customers who use your store's search bar aren't usually just browsing for fun; they tend to be on a mission to find something specific and thus have a high chance of converting.
We mention this to underscore the importance of optimizing your store's search functionality. One of the best ways to do this is to utilize a smart search bar capable of providing personalized product recommendations, suggested search terms, and other helpful capabilities. Looking for ecommerce search engine inspiration? Natori has a high-quality smart search bar capable of providing suggested searches and product recommendations as soon as you start typing.
3) Include cross-selling in the shopping cart
One of the best ways to improve your store's revenue is to grow its average order value (AOV), and one highly effective way to boost AOV is to present customers with cross-selling opportunities.
Cross-selling entails providing product recommendations based on products that the customer has already purchased, and leveraging cross-selling in the shopping cart as part of your checkout process allows you to increase the order value of every order your store receives.
MeUndies is one example of an ecommerce store that effectively leverages cross-selling as part of its checkout process. Each time you go to checkout on MeUndies, they'll present you with a "complete the look" section that offers personalized product recommendations based on the product that you are purchasing. If you want to add a similar feature to your store's checkout page, consider using a Shopify app such as Cart Upsell and Cross Sell.
4) Increase customer engagement with product videos or AR shopping
Product videos and augmented reality (AR) shopping features give customers a better feel for your products, providing a shopping experience much more comparable to traditional retail. Along with boosting sales, this increased customer engagement with your products also offers the benefit of reducing returns by eliminating unwanted surprises. Gucci already leverages AR to boost its sales by creating an app that allows customers to "try on" Gucci clothing and apparel.
5) Use a product quiz to help people discover the right product
Not every customer who finds your online store will know exactly what they want right away. They're likely to have a general idea of what they want but might need a little help finding the specific product that perfectly fits the bill. This is where product quizzes can be a big help. Product quizzes enable you to learn more about what the customer is looking for before providing a personalized product recommendation based on their response. One example of a brand that utilizes product quizzes to great effect is Dr. Squatch, and you can check out the Dr. Squatch product quiz to see this powerful merchandising strategy in action.
6) Answer common pre-sale questions in the chat widget
Pre-sales customer support can go a long way toward boosting an online store's sales by assisting customers with any issues that might otherwise prevent them from converting. When you can provide this support proactively and automatically, the benefits are even greater.
If you offer live chat support on your website via Gorgias live chat, you can create Quick Response Flows designed to answer common customer questions and help customers find the right product. Quick Response Flows can also be a key component of your merchandising strategy:
addressing any questions or obstacles preventing a sale, directing customers to new products, letting them know about a sale/promotion, or providing a product recommendation.
7) Include customer reviews and user-generated content
Seventy-nine percent of customers state that user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decision. Content such as product reviews, photos and videos from customers, and even social media posts praising your brand can create powerful social proof for your brand.
One great example of an ecommerce store that utilizes user-generated content well is Topicals, which includes before and after photos from customers for many of its skincare products. As for how to go about collecting and implementing this high-value content, Okendo (a tool designed to help you collect more customer reviews and easily publish them across your store) is a great place to start. Check out this article to learn more about Okendo and how to make the most of user-generated content.
8) Reach out to customers in real time to offer support and suggestions
Reaching out to customers proactively via live chat campaigns is akin to an in-store salesperson asking someone if they need assistance. It's a strategy that works well for brick-and-mortar stores and can also work well for ecommerce stores with the right tools and strategy. By creating automated chat campaigns triggered based on customer behavior, you can offer support and product recommendations at key points in the customer journey, assisting customers proactively and guiding them toward a sale. For an example of a store that has achieved great results with these types of live chat campaigns, be sure to check out Jaxxon's experience with Gorgias.
Superb ecommerce merchandising is part of a revenue-generating customer experience
Organizing your store and displaying products to customers is just one element of creating a customer experience optimized for revenue generation.
With tools such as live chat widgets, Quick Response Flows, customer behavior tracking, and much more, Gorgias helps you get there. Our industry-leading customer support platform offers everything your brand needs to create the kind of experience your customers are willing to keep coming back for. Sign up for Gorgias today to get started!