The way that products and buying opportunities are presented on an ecommerce site can have a significant impact on sales. Making good merchandising choices especially around how search results are managed, how complementary products are displayed, and how the site’s hierarchy is arranged will help some merchants sell more and be more profitable.
Online merchandising is focused on presenting product or service information so that shoppers are able to find and buy items easily. It should also introduce shoppers to complementary items. Put another way, online merchandising should in someway entice site visitors to buy.
When online merchandising is done well, it may lead to higher conversion rates, larger orders, and more sales overall. Unfortunately, a poorly merchandised site may frustrate visitors and discourage purchases.
What follows are three tips for improving online or — as it is sometimes called — on-site merchandising.
Tip 1: Merchandise in Search Results
Search results pages present a great opportunity for retailers to display products and offer suggestions. But sometimes sellers overlook these opportunities, imagining that retail site search needs to resemble a Google search results page. This notion could not be further from the truth.
Consider the search results page for the current Target website. The page resembles a product category page complete with layered and faceted navigation and large product images. It looks nothing like a Google search results page, but instead it seeks to merchandise to the customer.
Target’s search page also highlights items that are on sale, again using merchandising to shoppers.
On the Harry & David website, which sells fruit and treat baskets, shoppers searching for Thanksgiving baskets also see a banner ad promoting Halloween gift baskets, a related product.
According to a paper from analytics and marketing firm Omniture, about half of a site’s visitors will use search as their primary form of navigation. Be sure that search results pages are enticing shoppers to buy.
Tip 2: Cross-sell, Up-sell, and Down-sell
Cross-selling, up-selling, and down-selling each introduce related or complementary products to shoppers as they navigate through the site.
For cross-selling, complementary, often competitive, products are offered, giving the shopper the choice between similar products at a similar price point. Up-selling generally seeks to move a shopper to a premium product, potentially increasing the merchant’s margin on the sale. Down-selling offers shoppers a similar but less expensive product, and is typically used to help retailers sell overstocked and slow moving items.
These product suggestions, whether cross, up, or down can help a shopper choose the best product for his needs, making for a happy customer.
As an example, Amazon places two sections of cross-sell products on most of its product detail pages, offering shoppers additional products.
Overstock offers related items on its product detail pages, too. In this case, it shows items that other shoppers visited after viewing the current product.
Tip 3: Use Categories to Help Shoppers Find Products
Site hierarchy — how products are categorized — is also a form of online merchandising.
The key to using categories as merchandising is to sue a category structure and category labels that resonate with shoppers and makes it easy for shoppers to find the product they want.
As an example, consider the navigation on the Element14 site, which sells electronic components and kits to hobbyists. The site’s main product categories are a combination of technologies and specific product types.
There is a category called “Alternative Energy,” which describes a group of technologies, and there is a category called “Arduino” that describes a specific product and its related items. Both Alternative Energy and Arduino are top level product categories because they help shoppers find the products they want.
To improve merchandising and thereby improve sales and profitability, an online retailer can (a) treat a search results page like a selling opportunity, (b) cross-sell, up-sell, and down-sell; and (c) create a category structure based on how customers browse.