Understanding Merchandising Fundamentals Can Help You Achieve eCommerce Success

Merchandising, Marketing, Strategy

Merchandising is the art of presenting goods in the most aesthetically pleasing way to attract buyers and influence them to buy items from a retail outlet. Merchandising dates as far back as the beginning of commerce. In the past, merchants in bazaars would position exquisite fragrant spices with bright colors in front of their stalls positioned to lean towards inquiring buyers. Lighting also mattered to these merchants to ensure that buyers had a good view of their stalls from a distance. All these tactics helped the merchants to stay on top of the competition by pulling shoppers in to buy expensive, luxurious, and profitable products.

We continue to see bright displays in the presentation of products over the decades. Grocery sellers arrange the best-looking fruits and veggies front and center. Cereal packaging comes with fun fonts and colorful cartoon characters. Fashion stores wear the latest fashion trends on their mannequins and position them in the glass windows for people walking by to see. We see presentation tactics all around us. And now that eCommerce is at its peak with a booming population of merchants, you can infuse the art of merchandising to stand out in the steep competition.

Why Do You Need Merchandising Tactics?

The dynamic of eCommerce is different from the ancient bazaars and brick-and-mortar retailing. eCommerce merchants have almost no physical limitations because they can sell to anyone in any location. Yet, your competition is everywhere. You must compete for the attention of the same consumers with local and international merchants. One of the advantages of eCommerce is that merchants have multiple sales channels to reach consumers: social media, third-party marketplaces, their own mobile app, their own eCommerce store, and even their own physical store. With that, eCommerce merchants have several channels to experiment with merchandising tactics.

But the main challenge eCommerce merchants face is the struggle for attention from consumers in a time that the attention span of consumers has drastically reduced. Studies show that it can take as little as 17 milliseconds for an internet user to decide whether to keep exploring a website or to leave. It appears the biggest challenge of eCommerce is the short attention span of consumers.

So, how can eCommerce merchants thrive in this condition? The short answer is by using the art of merchandising. As an eCommerce merchant, you need to understand the basics of merchandising because it can help you present your brand and products or services to get the attention of consumers.

Here are four effective ways to infuse the art of merchandising into your eCommerce strategies.

Bargaining, Liquidation, and Sales

Haggling is a notable element in commerce. Offline, buyers could negotiate the price of a product or service and get a good deal that makes them feel they saved on cost. But haggling is hardly a factor in eCommerce because prices are usually fixed. However, you can still adopt the haggling culture.

Shoppers are familiar with coupons, sales, and discounts, and some shoppers even have a habit of winning/collecting coupon codes to get better prices on items. Coupon culture creates an opportunity for you to let your buyers know that they can get products cheaper than the official price tag. So, always inform and update web crawlers and your website visitors of the savings options available for the products on your product page.

New Arrivals

One reason Apple holds a conference every year in September to announce the launch of new items is because it is a merchandising tactic that pushes many buyers to buy Apple products. The feeling buyers get from buying new arrivals is exclusivity; they feel good to be a part of the first few people who bought or own the item(s). As an eCommerce merchant, you need to use new arrivals as a strategy to attract new buyers and get the attention of returning buyers once again.

Always announce new arrivals, let your customers know when new products will arrive, whether it is weeks or days in advance. Send them emails asking them to take a chosen action to put them ahead on the queue and get updates before others. Reach out to customers on other channels announcing new arrivals, and when the new arrivals come in, make an announcement to all your customers again. You can also use preorders as a tactic.

Make It Easy for Buyers to Find What They Are Looking For

When buyers go to an on-site store, they walk around picking the items they want, and when they need help with finding an item, they reach out to a staff member who may find the item or tell them the item is not available. eCommerce doesn’t have this direct approach, and shoppers often give up on products they don’t easily find in the first few pages on the product page. This contributes to the number of abandoned carts.

You must make it easy for buyers to find whatever they are looking for on your eCommerce store, whether you have it in stock or not. If an item is not available, buyers should be able to confirm within a few seconds. That is why you need to have a search feature on your store to make it easy for buyers to find items instead of scrolling or endlessly clicking to the next page. This is another reason why you need to understand search intent, you need to know how buyers think and the terms they use when searching for these items. Knowing that will help you name your products and add descriptions that capture the terms buyers typically use when searching for products.

The key point is to constantly review your website and product page to ensure that your eCommerce store has features that make the process easy for buyers.

Help Consumers Decide

Sometimes buyers go to a brick-and-mortar store unsure of what they want to buy but end up buying items that connect with them, and occasionally go with the suggestion of a salesperson. To reiterate, there is no direct interaction between eCommerce merchants and shoppers during the online shopping process, so that reduces your chance of directly suggesting items to them. Despite that limitation, you can still help buyers decide what to buy by displaying numerous options from different categories of products. When a consumer lingers on a product, more options of that category are suggested, these are typically labeled “similar too” sections.

To make this work, you need to design your store to have category features. Colors, sizing, and other filters are essential elements that can help buyers make decisions. By adding more categories consumers are able to be more specific and more easily navigate your store.

Over To You

Although you can carry merchandising tactics from offline commerce into eCommerce, it is not exactly a one-size-fits-all strategy that will consistently work in all scenarios. You need to understand your audience and your industry to build merchandising tactics around your unique situation. We also cannot ignore the importance of technology in eCommerce. Hence, you must understand that merchandising can not solve everything. Sometimes all you need is new and improved technology.

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