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Done any shopping on an ecommerce website lately? If so, you know a smooth online shopper experience is not optional. If you’re going to stick around and maybe buy an item, everything must be incredibly easy for you to do.

Along the same lines, as an ecommerce businessperson, you want your target customer to enjoy that smooth experience spent in your ecommerce store. You want them to be able to zero in on your products when they land on your home page or a product detail page and start enthusiastically looking at great product images, reading product descriptions, and browsing product reviews. Their journey to purchase shouldn’t be a complicated task, or you risk losing their interest and the lucrative retail sales you could make. 

Online retail merchandising displays are the key to creating a smooth buying journey. They let shoppers explore your products, discover what they want, buy them, and then maybe buy more later because the experience was so enjoyable the first time (and they love your product).

A science and an art

Online retail merchandising (also known as ecommerce merchandising) relates to the strategic placement of products on a retail website. Effective merchandising is both a science and an art: data-driven placement is the science and product placement is the art. It’s obviously pretty different from traditional physical store on-site merchandising — with its elements like window displays and store design, colorful signage, well-clad mannequins, lavish product displays, and fitting rooms — yet, it still nods to some of the in-store principles: a nice storefront, an intuitive store layout showcasing different types of products, strong branding, and smart categorization.

However, online merchandising is about much more than where you put products on your website and the look of your various category pages. It requires a deep understanding of your potential customers’ shopping needs and behavior.

As a discipline, online retail merchandising has been shaped by advances in technology, changes in consumer behavior, and the modernization of ecommerce platform functionality. As online shopping has become more popular and online retailers’ competition has increased, they’ve needed to come up with new ways to stand out, attract shoppers, and stay ahead, both with in-store merchandising and online merchandising. 

If utilized well, online retail merchandising also melds virtual and physical shopping experiences that could be undertaken in multiple channels to create a consistent, seamless brand experience for consumers (witness Amazon’s branding). In retailers’ ecommerce business tool kits, streamlining omnichannel is a vital process for building engaging, personalized, online retail experiences that supercharge store sales and inspire customer loyalty.

Benefits of an ecommerce merchandising strategy 

As part of a larger retail merchandising plan, online retail merchandising is integral to driving success for your brand. When you do it right, you can reap these two major benefits:

Smoother customer engagement 

Driving high-quality user engagement and shopping experiences can lead to notable success for both your shoppers and your ecommerce site. When you can appeal to your customers’ desires, get them to buy what they need (plus, you’re perhaps upselling them items related to what’s in their shopping cart or cross-selling them complementary products at checkout), make them want to come back, and turn them into happy long-term customers, you can typically anticipate some pretty rich rewards.

By applying the principles of online retail merchandising to provide better user journeys — from landing pages to product pages and through rewarding experiences along the way — you also improve your brand’s reputation. Then, when your customers think of your company, they’ll remember how easy it was to find and buy what they were looking for; how glad they were to buy and be able to use the product. But get it wrong, and the costs can be substantial: 86% of consumers are likely to leave a company after two bad site experiences.  

A boost in revenue  

It boils down to the fact that pleasant, hassle-free online shopper and customer experiences can’t help but lead to higher conversion rates. If a customer asks, “Can I find what I’m looking for?” and can say yes, revenue is on the way. Plus, your satisfied customers could then return for another online purchasing adventure, as, according to Salesforce, 89% are more likely to make another purchase after a positive experience.  

How to nail online retail merchandising

Ready to start building or revamping your online retail merchandising strategy? First, ask yourself these questions: 

How’s your branding?

What does your website branding tell your shoppers? An online selling space is obviously totally different from a retail store, but it should ideally feel similar to the way shoppers experience being on the sales floor in your brick-and-mortar store. And in time, strong branding builds repeat customers because they know what experience they’re going to have on your site, so they don’t think twice about visiting you first.

Is your site easy on the eyes?  

On a retail website, colors, logos, and style all play a part in creating an engaging customer experience that becomes comfortably familiar to your shoppers. Engaging visual merchandising techniques draw in users and facilitate successful navigation. You may have some challenges based on your teams’ coding and design abilities, but you can still prioritize delivering a professional product merchandising experience that delights your shoppers.  

Is your search bar in good shape?

Your search bar plays a prominent role in the customer experience. The aim is to help your customers quickly find what they want, so your search bar needs to be easy to locate as well as connected to a powerful search engine that can deliver fast, predictive site-search results in virtually real time.  

Are your products well grouped?  

As you might do with in-store displays, by creating suggested “kits” in your online store of multiple items that belong together, you can add convenience to the customer journey. For example, if you’re an extreme sports brand, you’d probably group mountaineering jackets, hiking boots, and climbing equipment. And even if a shopper is looking for only one part of that combo, they’ll know where to go to get the other items when they’re ready (perhaps after pricing markdowns are made to certain SKUs). Done well, intuitive product grouping boosts sales, with some online retailers experiencing an increase of 20% in their average order value (AOV). 

A personal note   

Among other things, personalized interactions enhance the shopping journey by showing people items that they, in particular, might like. Personalized product recommendations and other customer-focused guideposts are generated by an algorithm that considers customer data points such as browsing and purchase history. It’s safe to say that personalized merchandising can facilitate winning customer experiences. Personalization helps ensure shopper joy and thereby secures better revenue. Studies overwhelmingly confirm this. For example, Salesforce found that 76% of customers say they’ll buy from brands that offer personalized experiences, with 78% likely to make repeat purchases.  

Need results now? 

Want seamless user journeys for your online shoppers ASAP? At Algolia, we offer the tools that can help you streamline your user experiences to increase sales, potentially by substantial amounts.

Don’t just take our word for that. We’ve enabled retail giants to provide optimal search and discovery that’s led to some pretty amazing results. From improving the Zeeman’s search experience to boosting Lacoste’s sales by more than 150%, we have a celebrated track record. That means you can confidently apply our merchandising tips to prospectively take your ecommerce merchandising up a notch. 

Intrigued? Contact us and let’s get started on your online retail merchandising improvement journey.

About the author
Vincent Caruana

Senior Digital Marketing Manager, SEO

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