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Trending products: The benefits of showing online shoppers what’s hot

Nov 3rd 2022 ecommerce

Trending products: The benefits of showing online shoppers what’s hot
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Which types of niche products — such as blingy designer sneakers — are the top influencers on social media sporting this week?

Did the new iPhone come out?

What statistics does Google Trends show for “Taylor Swift”?

What’s the coolest new air fryer, shapewear bra, pet product, eco-friendly skincare, hiking backpack, posture corrector, mobile phone gadget?

Can you grab one of those seasonal popular products featured on your favorite ecommerce store’s home page before it’s sold out and unavailable even with a wider Google search?

From electronics to home decor to collectibles, there’s always a must-buy or trending niches —  often being pushed by influencer marketing — that everyone’s buzzing about and putting in their online store cart (or standing in line at 4 a.m. to fight over at a physical store). Whether it’s the latest fitness tracker model or a sundress that flatters all figure types, trending items — the hot sellers of the current time period — are continually sending a certain group of consumers into a frenzy.

Trending items, robust revenue

What’s the coolest new air fryer, shapewear bra, pet product, eco-friendly skincare, day-hiking backpack, posture corrector, vitamin or supplement, mobile phone gadget?  

Trending products are a feverish focal point for a society that craves the best of everything, and instantly. And if you’re an ecommerce business exec, you’ll definitely want to take note. Because when you sell online, highlighting top trending products on your website or in your mobile app is likely to be as big a win in terms of ROI as it is for your customers who need to continually buy cool things in order to boost their egos.

Trending items complement other product-centric item-recommendation models by displaying popular items or top-selling products (or product attributes) on your home page, where shoppers can easily notice them and become intrigued. This is also a way to call people’s attention to best-selling types of products that are seasonally relevant — whether that’s tank tops in May or parkas in November.

How to use trending products to improve your merchandising

Good news: by 2023, online shopping revenue in the U.S. is expected to go above 1 trillion, says Statista. If you’re a store owner or ecommerce manager, that means there’s room for plenty of merchandising opportunities with your target audience.

How can you ensure that you’re utilizing trending product recommendations as an integral part of your successful ecommerce platform strategy? Here are some online-business ideas:

Motivate your mobile users

Smartphones are one small but mighty reason ecommerce is so hot.

Did you know that in the fashion industry, for instance, mobile devices account for the majority (66%, according to SaleCycle) of online sales?

Thanks to multichannel marketing, consumers on the go have numerous ways to complete transactions with retailers. In part due to the constraints of the pandemic, they can now order online and pick up in the store. They can browse in the store and later order from a competitor after doing a price comparison on Google Shopping. And they can easily start or complete the whole shopping process for great products on their trusty nearby phone. 

Let’s say a shopper falls in love with an item she’s seen in a couple of Google ads — a pair of boots — which is now trending on her favorite social media site.

She runs out to the retailer’s mall store and tries them on. She then pulls out her phone, types the brand and style name into a search engine, and pulls up the product detail page, where she can read customer reviews, watch a quick tutorial on how to pair them with different outfits, and make sure they’re truly trendy enough for her to invest in. If these boots happen to be out of stock where she is, she can order them through the retailer’s mobile app. Sold.

That is, if — and it’s a big if — the seller’s mobile app experience is a cinch from start to finish.

Unfortunately, some retailers aren’t focused on attaining (or maintaining) mobile transaction perfection, so this could be an issue. Without a first-rate, glitch-free mobile experience, your conversion could suffer. It’s key to be able to introduce your mobile users to trending products in an easy-to-see, attractive way that invites them to explore what’s new and in demand — to the point that nothing’s stopping them from reaching for their virtual wallet.

List popular queries below the search box

Do you have an expanse of yawning wasted space below your site’s search box? If yes, we have a suggestion: put it to good use.

Our client Birchbox increased its revenue per session and average order value each by 10%. One of its successful techniques: below the search box, when someone starts typing, surface trending items that other people have been searching for. It’s a no-brainer: use the empty space below your search box for doing something potentially helpful to your bottom line.

Here’s what Birchbox’s suggestions look like:

Highlight proven popularity

Have you ever searched for an item on Amazon, pulled up a bunch of search results, felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices, and then, as a result of that reaction, found yourself sheepishly gravitating to the apparently high-quality item or version dubbed “Amazon’s choice”?

Maybe it’s really just a sneaky promotion masquerading as a recommendation. But you assume it must be trending in order for Amazon to endorse it, so what the heck. Especially when you’re short on time and absolutely need this thing right now. Being duly informed that something’s supposedly a winner in its category can have an almost hypnotic effect in convincing you to blindly click Add to Cart or Buy now.

As a retailer, you can do the same basic thing Amazon does by using badges or eye-catching text to highlight your “choices” and items customers adore. Among online marketplaces, Etsy is one site that does this well; it exclaims “Buyers are raving!” about various sellers’ items.

In addition to denoting trending products, for variety, you can call attention to your:

  • Items that have garnered lots of likes
  • New products
  • “Popular” items bought by a virtual stampede of shoppers
  • Social-media-spotlighted items (“As seen on TikTok…”)
  • Popular picks (which could technically be popular among just a subset of people)
  • Items with low inventory
  • Popular attributes (for example, trending product types)
  • Back-in-stock items now available until they’re gone
  • Most highly rated items (in terms of their stars)
  • Items with enthusiastic testimonials
  • Best sellers (with or without revealing quantities sold, and not by that label, as noted below)

Cover all prospective search terms

Even if your site search quality is excellent, it still may not always serve up the search results people need because they’re entering the “wrong” search terms for your search engine to make sense of.

For instance, let’s say someone in the UK is searching for a popular clothing item, joggers, in light grey. If they’re doing it on a U.S.-based website that sells athletic pants and leggings, but whose search engine has never been introduced to the phrase “joggers,” they may not turn up any results. So much for quickly finding a pair of sweatpants.

The solution? Keyword optimization. You could add an alternate title attribute of “joggers” and add synonyms for joggers. Plus, you could use a color attribute that includes both the European spelling, grey, and the American gray.

Point to positive reviews

A huge percentage of people feel a need to read customers’ honest online reviews before buying, and why wouldn’t they if they’re reducing the likelihood of making a mistake by doing a little product research? People love to consider others’ input to feel fully informed and validate their buying. Whether you’re shopping for an inexpensive beauty product or car-phone holder or a pricey smartwatch, what could be more insightful than genuine positive comments in determining whether something is worthy of your hard-earned cash?

To that end, it’s considered smart to let your users post reviews, ratings, and even their own photos of the product in use if they want. And then, when the reviews are crazy good, you can simply point that out with eye-catching badges denoting trending-level honors such as “Our most popular” or “Top customer favorite.”

Recommend trending items below “No search results”

When someone does a search and gets a disappointing “Sorry, no results” type of message, you don’t have to leave them feeling cranky and likely to go somewhere they might have better searching success. Instead, you may still be able to pique their interest by recommending other trending items to check out.

Here’s how NBC’s site does it:

Or, instead of pointing out trending items, you can spotlight popular categories, as in this layout on The RealReal’s site:

Insert trending query suggestions below the search box

A more round-about way to call shoppers’ attention to trending items is by configuring your search functionality to surface them as suggested queries when their entered terms are similar. Of course this isn’t a “What’s trending” list, but it can achieve the same purpose of directing people to known-to-be-desirable items.

Here’s how eBay Motors does it:

Highlight hot stuff on your home page

Of all the locations on ecommerce sites (and in apps), your home page is the primo spot where people most expect to see your trending products trotted out, and where they’re somewhat open to being influenced by random shopping ideas before diving in to find whatever they came to the site for.

That means it pays to go all out on promoting your conventionally cool items. You can group them by product category or be more general about it. 

How do you most effectively get your visitors to take a look at what you’ve got trending?

Rather than using softly encouraging language such as “You may like this,” ensure that your trending-item labels indicate that items are, in fact, urgently in need of viewing. After all, trending implies thrilling, not just everyday goodies that might be nice to click over to in your spare time.

A/B testing is always smart, as you know, but here are some label ideas for trending items:

  • Fabulous for fall (wonderful for winter, super for spring, stunning for summer…)
  • Trending now
  • What’s hot?
  • Our subscribers love….
  • Must-have outfits
  • Today’s top picks
  • Our most popular products
  • Hot on social media platforms (with links to the posts)
  • New and now
  • Great deals on popular items
  • Our top-10 new trends

Fun fact: When it comes to trending, it’s a good idea to skip the label “Best sellers,” which is better used for denoting top-selling items that do well over a more extended period of time. “Best-selling products” doesn’t convey the immediacy you want for exciting trendworthiness. 

Specify what’s trending within a category

What color of a baseball cap is selling out? Which models of a bicycle brand are the most popular with buyers?

When a customer has zeroed in on a category, they’ll be happy to see that you offer details on what’s trending in that smaller venue, too. You can indicate trending in terms of popular sizes, styles, what’s just come in, what people are rating the most highly — any category-specific characteristics you think are worth mentioning. 

Make sure you’re rocking search and filtering

Trending items are attention grabbing, but they’re not the only way to reach potential buyers who show up looking for cool things on your site. Some shoppers simply don’t care about the latest and greatest whatevers that are in high demand; they’re laser focused on finding specifically what they want, even if it’s decidedly untrendy and the main search query has a low search volume. So don’t neglect these other ways you can assist your target-market shoppers.

Did you know 43% of website visitors head straight to the search box (Forrester) upon arrival? That means effective search and item filtering should always be a staple of your online merchandising strategy. Remember to regularly check in on your search functionality to make sure it’s behaving as you expect, that popular searches are not giving users “No results” messages, and that you don’t have keyword-tag glitches preventing easy conversions.

How Algolia’s trending items work

Our trending items model looks for items in your product catalog that have seen a recent increase in popularity based on conversion events. Trends can be global, for example, pulled from your entire product catalog. They can also be within a specific facet or category, for example, DIY landscape lighting (e.g., solar LED lights).

To establish the “trendiness” for each record in the index, we look at both the total number of conversion events for each item over the past few days and the change in number of conversion events over time. Our model then assigns a score to each item in the catalog, either globally or within a particular facet value.

Go with the trendsetter

Who’s trending in the trending-product-idea space? That would be Algolia.

Contact us now and discover how the right trending items functionality can transform your site performance. When you can effectively highlight hot items, you’ll be one step closer to rewarding ecommerce experiences that translate into high profit margins. 

About the author
Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

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