We just love e-commerce, don’t we? But every once in a while, you might visit a physical retail store to get something and it brings you back to how it feels to shop in a brick-and-mortar store rather than a digital one. If you own an e-commerce business, you can’t but notice one of the most striking sales strategies that these stores have up their sleeve: product merchandising. 

retail store
Source: Canva

As you stroll through the aisles, you might think to yourself, there are so many ways brick-and-mortar stores can get their customers to buy more. Look at the toys section that looks playful and full of colors, attracting every child’s eye. Oh, and did you notice the amazing discount deals right when you entered the store? These are all the ways a physical retail store arranges its products to get you to buy more. 

But can the same thing be done in an e-commerce store? This in-depth guide will tell you all about e-commerce merchandising. You’ll get to know all about what it is, its benefits, and how to do it best so you can make the most out of your online business.

What is eCommerce Merchandising?

Conventional retail stores follow a set of practices for product arrangement and presentation in the store to maximize sales. This is called merchandising. In the same way, e-commerce merchandising is optimizing your eCommerce store, and arranging products and offers in a way that increases sales

In other words, eCommerce merchandising is all about how you sell your products on your online store. There’s a range of components to it including:

  • Product placement
  • Branding
  • Visual appeal
  • Presenting offers at the right time
  • Innovative ways to help your customers find what they’re looking for

These are only a few examples. Whatever innovations, tactics, or strategies contribute to encouraging a customer to add a product to their shopping cart falls under the broad definition of e-commerce merchandising. 

Why is E-commerce Merchandising so Important?

E-commerce has grown at an unprecedented rate in the last few years. Global e-commerce retail sales will nearly quintuple from $1,336 billion in 2014 to $6,388 billion in 2024. And COVID has only accelerated the growth of e-commerce even more as the calculated figures for upcoming years exceed the projections. 

E-commerce is playing an increasingly significant role in the global economy, and so is e-commerce merchandising. As a greater proportion of the population turns to online stores for shopping literally everything, competition in the e-commerce scene is also on the rise. That said, success in this business is defined by providing your customers with the best shopping experience and staying up to date with the latest trends in the market.

Your e-commerce merchandising strategy is not just about making things look pretty. It’s a sophisticated integration of art and science, visual appeal and research, intuitiveness, and field data, that lets you sell more. Your unique merchandising strategy lets you define your brand the way you want. But apart from that, It can also help you achieve your strategic business goals.

E-commerce Merchandising Vs. Conventional Merchandising

Of course, a digital store has its limitations when compared to physical stores. You can’t appeal to all five senses of the customer to motivate them to buy more. For instance, physical retail stores use a pleasant aroma in-store to uplift customers’ moods and help them associate pleasing and positive vibes with their shop. 

As an e-commerce business, you can’t take advantage of such merchandising practices but you can still do a lot. Apart from the limitations, online selling has its strengths too. 

You can capitalize on the fact that your customers are in the comfort of their home and are already relaxed enough to take their time and find the best products. Customers don’t have to walk from aisle to aisle looking for a product and can reach them with just a few touches when shopping online. Most importantly, you can deliver a personalized experience to each of your customers!

These are only some of the strong points of eCommerce merchandising that make up for its limitations against conventional merchandising. For a deeper understanding, here’s an in-depth comparison. 

Store Layout

What’s the biggest difference between a brick-and-mortar store and an online shop? The answer lies within the question. The former has a physical existence where customers can walk into the store and experience it with sight, smell, sound, touch, and even taste. The latter, however, exists only virtually and the only way a customer can experience it is through a screen. 

brick-and-mortar store
Source: Canva

But still, there are a lot of similarities between how the two types of retail platforms are organized. For instance, both conventional and online stores will place their featured products at the entry point so that they’re the first products customers come across. For instance, the showcased items at the entrance of a physical store, and the featured product section in an online store serve similar purposes.

This part of your e-commerce product merchandising strategy includes:

  • Positioning products to make them more discoverable
  • Place complementary products next to each other to encourage purchases 
  • Studying the path customers take to find a particular item and optimizing it to increase sales

Branding

This part of the merchandising strategy helps you represent yourself as a brand to your customers. In a traditional store, this is done in many different ways. When you walk in a brick-and-mortar shop, you come across a big logo that marks the brand. But then you start to discover other things that convey subtle messages about what the brand represents. 

For instance, the lighting, music, colors, aroma and decor you come across help a customer understand what the brand is about. But how does an e-commerce store get the message through? With visual merchandising. 

Using the right site design, colors, fonts, text, images, and videos is the answer. These elements contribute heavily towards your eCommerce store’s branding and are the only way for a customer to tell what your brand is about until they receive a product from you.

Taylor Stitch
Source: Taylor Stitch

Product Grouping

In a physical store, products that are often sold together are placed in the same aisle so it’s easier for customers to find them and this way the store can make more sales through cross-selling. But shops can also upsell products by arranging them in packages and offering a discounted price if a customer buys all of them together. 

With an e-commerce store, you can do that with themed category pages, and use links and other website navigation strategies to interlink similar pages. You can also send your customers emails with deals on a particular theme. 

Personalized Customer Experience

When it comes to personalizing the customer experience, e-commerce merchandising beats conventional merchandising easily, but only if you’re using the right tools. In a real store, you’d usually find sales people attending to customers and recommending them products. How do you provide the same level of personalization on an e-commerce store?

Although personalizing the online shopping experience to each customer comes as a greater challenge, you can achieve great results with Recom.ai. We help you present personalized product recommendations to your customers so you can upsell and cross-sell significantly more. AI-powered features like Recom Scout can outperform any real salesperson, empowering you to do better than conventional stores.

How to Get Your E-commerce Merchandising Right

If you’re new to e-commerce, there’s quite a few things that you need to understand if you want to do your merchandising right. Here are some of the basic principles an e-Commerce business owner ought to understand before they develop their unique merchandising strategy. 

Understanding Your Customers 

  • What are customers looking for on your site?
  • What do your customers care about the most when looking at products?
  • What are your customers’ expectations from your store?
  • What are their questions?

Having the answer to these questions can optimize the customer experience in your store to a great extent. It’ll help you present the right products on the homepage, use the right images for products and mention the right details in the product description so your conversion rates are maximized. 

Building Customer Confidence

When a customer enters a physical store, what makes them think that the store they’re entering belongs to a trustworthy brand? The looks matter the most. If a store is professionally designed, it automatically starts looking credible. The same goes for your online store. 

Your domain name, website design, ease of use and functionality lie at the core of building customer trust. When a customer first comes to your website, they should see a professional domain that is ideally the same as your store’s name. Your website should load quickly and be interactive for the customer to understand that’s is run by one of the best in the business. 

Customer reviews help in this regard as they help newer visitors to understand the quality of your products and how widely your products are sold. Last but not least, professionally operated customer support matters a lot. Having a good customer service program can often mean the difference between retaining and converting customers. 

Source: Canva

3 Primary Elements of E-Commerce Merchandising

E-commerce merchandising itself is a pretty large concept to get your head around. So it’s a good idea to break it down into smaller parts for better understanding. Here are the three key parts of ecommerce merchandising:

Homepage Merchandising

Your homepage is like the face of your business. When a user searches for your store’s name and clicks on your website in the search results, it’s the first page they land on. 

The first impression is the last impression. This couldn’t be truer for a new customer visiting an online store for the first time. The first few seconds spent on your homepage can be the difference between converting a visitor to a customer or losing them forever. 

Make sure your homepage extends a warm welcome to every new visitor. You can also personalize the homepage experience to some extent. When someone is visiting your store for the first time, you don’t know a lot about them except where they’re located or what language they browse in. You use these tiny bits of information to personalize the homepage according to the user’s country, language, or any special event like Christmas or Halloween.

Mahabis
Source: Mahabis

Here are the most important things that you should address on your homepage: 

  • Your brand’s mission statement or goal
  • Featured products/services
  • A link to the ‘About Us’ section
  • A sign up button 
  • An option to learn more about your brand
  • Promotions
  • Call To Action buttons

Product Page Merchandising

As compared to a traditional store, you have the ability to allocate a separate page for each of your products and give the spotlight it needs. Each product page is built specifically for one product and contains all the necessary information a customer needs to make a purchase. 

You can group similar products pages under product categories to make it easier for your customers to find them. Moreover, a product page can also act as a landing page bringing customers directly to a specific product from the search engine results or another webpage that links to it. 

Product Page Merchandising
Source: Manitobah Mukluks

When a customer is looking for a particular product, they search for it on Google. You can acquire most of these customers with SEO (search engine optimization). Your product pages should be search engine optimized so that visitors can directly reach the products you’re offering.

Make sure to include the following pieces of information on every product page:

  • Images of the product, from every angle or a 360° view
  • A detailed and bespoke product description
  • Product specs
  • Videos and demos
  • Color options
  • Cross selling features 
  • Upselling features
  • ‘Add to cart’ CTA

Category Page Merchandising

Organizing your products in themes and categories is essential to help customers find them. There’s a lot of filters that you can use to create different categories. For example, the filters can be size, weight, price, latest products, and collections. 

In fact, you are free to arrange your products and make countless categories. You could group all products that are related to Christmas in one category and name it the Christmas collection. This is one area where e-commerce gives you freedom. 

One product can only exist at one place, aisle, or collection at one time. But with e-commerce, you can have a product exist in multiple categories at the same time. 

Here’s the important details a category page should have:

  • Product images
  • Featured products from the category
  • Product ratings
  • Product comparisons

Pro Tips for Successful E-commerce Merchandising

Emphasize on Search

You should make it quick and simple for visitors to find what they’re looking for on your website. This can only be done if you’ve got an advanced search for your ecommerce store.

For instance, get an auto-complete software for your search bar that helps customers look for the right things. Oftentimes, we can’t find a product on an online store simply because we’re not entering the right keywords or our search has typos in it. So even if a product is available in your store, customers might not be able to find it in the search. Autocomplete features will help solve that problem.

Next, you can also list your products right in the search results so customers can reach the product pages directly from the search. This not only speeds up the search process, but also makes users feel like the site is trying to help solve their problems. 

Bring on Personalized Product Recommendations 

90% of U.S. consumers find personalized marketing very or somewhat appealing. Using personalized product recommendations on your online store will make a big difference for your business, and the results will be visible from the very first day.

Recom.ai uses Artificial Intelligence to evaluate a customer’s intent and presents them with intelligently curated recommendations that help you cross-sell and upsell. For instance, if a customer is looking for a particular product at a brick-and-mortar store, a salesperson can advise them about other products that make a good combination (cross-selling )with it or even offer them a bigger, better package (upselling).

Recom.ai acts as a personal salesperson for every customer that visits your store. And as compared to a real shopping assistant, it’s powered with AI, making it significantly more effective. 

Mobile Friendliness Matters

Shopping online on mobile devices has enormous potential. So much so that shopping on smartphones has got a new name: m-commerce. Mobile ecommerce sales are expected to grow to a whopping 54% of total ecommerce sales by 2021.

What does this mean for the average ecommerce business? 

Your online store must be mobile-friendly if you don’t want to lose 54% of your total sales. On top of that, Google favors mobile-friendly sites more than those which are not. So if your site is not mobile-friendly, you might experience a drop in ranking on search results, and ultimately lose out on a lot of sales. 

Bottom Line

All that you’ve read about in this guide comes from the latest changes in the wider e-commerce industry. But please note that e-commerce merchandising evolves every year.
You’ve got to look ahead to the new techniques and strategies emerging every now and then to stay up-to-date with the market and keep converting new customers and retain older ones.

The most valuable take-home message for you would be that ecommerce product merchandising is all about visuals. It’s the only human sense you can appeal to and try to elicit a positive response from your customers.