Retailers spend a lot of time and energy making sure that their brick-and-mortar stores are well designed, attractive and inviting. They strategically place products so that shoppers can easily find what they’re looking for, and can be delighted with the surprise of products they didn’t even know they wanted. More than ever, it’s important to give shoppers that same kind of experience online. And Online Merchandising can be the key.
Through the Eyes of Shoppers
‘With effective Online Merchandising, retailers can give online shoppers the same brand experience that’s so apparent in their offline shops,’ explains Yargi Erel, Digital Consultant at Fredhopper. ‘This will not only boost conversion, but it also strongly contributes to the customer’s brand experience. Customers are more loyal to brands that make them feel welcome, and give them a consistent and reliable experience.’
Setting the Ground Rules
Effective Online Merchandising begins by setting up the search rules according to basic sales principles. ‘Basic search results should contain a logical mix of top sellers and products with high profit margins,’ Yargi explains. ‘This allows retailers to stay one step ahead. They can show customers the items they’re most likely interested in, and supplement it with products that will generate the most profit.’
Protecting The Brand Identity
But setting these basic rules is merely the first step. Retailers should always keep their brand identity in mind, and strategically place products on the results page according to their own personal brand cocktail. ‘Depending on the brand strategy, retailers can place product results based on brand, on colour, on shopper preferences, or any other strategy that fits the brand,’ Yargi says. Using strategic rules, retailers can make sure that every product results page is clean, attractive, and fully on-brand.
Utilizing Page 1
It’s no secret that the first page of search results is the most clicked. So every spot on the first results page is premium real estate that retailers should use to their full advantage. By consciously controlling product placement on the first page, retailers can make conversion – and loyalty – soar. ‘Fredhopper is unique, because it allows retailers to control product placement either item-by-item, or row-by-row. They can group related products together, and push certain products to the top of the page. This ensures that shoppers see the products that retailer most want them to see.’
But Yargi explains that this also works the other way around. ‘On the first results page, placing products that favour best conversion, highest margin and biggest sellers is a good first step. However, basic essentials, like underwear and socks, are also high margin, top-selling items. They may not always be at home on the first results page. So these items can be grouped together and sent to the bottom of search results, or blocked altogether. That way, the key merchandise stays at the top of the list.’
Controlling Stock Fluctuations
But what happens to that beautifully designed page when items go out of stock? Do retailers lose control over their well-planned strategic vision? Of course not. ‘ATTRAQT Fredhopper has an advanced group visual merchandising functionality. That ensures that if the first-choice item goes out of stock, there’s another item to take its place,’ Yargi explains. ‘That item will fulfil the same conditions and rules as the original items. Shoppers won’t see any difference in the page layout, and they’ll still have their choice of the most attractive, in-stock options.’
Optimizing The Context
Retailers who really want to go the extra mile will take Yargi’s advice about dynamic triggers. ‘This is one of the more advanced features of Online Merchandising, but it really boosts the customer experience to the next level,’ he says. ‘It offers retailers the flexibility to adjust their merchandising efforts according to specific user conditions, campaigns or devices.’ Actually touching on some of the basic aspects of experience standardisation, dynamic triggers can ensure that the same merchandising rules apply to different screen sizes, so that the site looks just as good on a mobile phone as it does on a tablet or laptop. ‘Prior to dynamic triggers, retailers had to create separate merchandising rules for mobile. Now, they can simply create a set of standard rules that will adjust the content to the device.’
Dynamic triggers can even be set for known user data, such as gender, weather, or product preferences, giving shoppers a truly personal experience. ‘The more information a retailer has about their customers, and the more they share with Fredhopper, the better they can use Fredhopper to set specific business rules that help personalise the content for the customer,’ Yargi explains.
Customising the Redirects
What’s more, redirects can be used to direct shoppers to campaign pages or sponsored banners, celebrity endorsements or supplementary content. ‘Redirects can be used to not only direct customers to the right product, but also to the right experience. They can help ensure that specific search terms lead to specially branded pages, sales or campaigns, and keep shoppers looking around. And the more they look around, the more likely they are to add items to the cart,’ Yargi says.
Retailers who want to ensure a consistent and pleasurable online brand experience should keep these specific Online Merchandising ideas in mind. ‘It all begins with an effective strategy and a targeted goal,’ Yargi says. ‘In the beginning, there’s quite a bit of work involved. But once the rules are set, merchandising is easy to control with a few simple clicks. And retailers can rest assured that their brand is protected and their customers are happy.’