Both an art and a science, ecommerce merchandising is a critical way to captivate customers, boost conversions, and ultimately, skyrocket sales.
In this helpful blog, we’re breaking down everything you need to know to master ecommerce merchandising. Keep reading to discover how strategic product placement, eye-catching visuals, compelling messaging, and a thoughtful, organic user journey can all be combined to create the perfect online shopping experience for your customer.
Whether you’re a seasoned merchandising pro looking to pick up the latest and greatest strategies or just getting started with ecommerce, we’ve got you covered - from the fundamentals to leveling up your merchandising approach. Let’s begin!
First and foremost, let’s break down what ecommerce merchandising is. In short, ecommerce merchandising is all the work that goes into creating an ideal online shopping experience - from planning to execution.
The objective behind ecommerce merchandising is to make your site as appealing to shop through as possible. This should help with your top three all-time key goals for ecommerce:
The next question you might have is, what are examples of ecommerce merchandising activities? Here’s just a sample:
These are just some of the many ways to enhance the customer experience and drive intuitive product discovery on the consumer-facing side of things. Ecommerce merchandisers are also responsible for monitoring the user journey in a data-driven way. They do this by looking at site recordings, heat maps, and analytics to help them understand where drop off is occurring and coming up with solutions to entice shoppers to hit checkout.
And let’s not forget about testing. An ecommerce merchandiser is always looking for ways to test different experiences against one another to determine if one is converting better than the other.
Generally speaking you can refer to ecommerce merchandising and on-site merchandising in the same breath.
But there is a slight nuance between the two terms you should be aware of. Both ecommerce merchandising and on-site merchandising refer to optimizing the ecommerce experience for consumers. But on-site merchandising is technically a subset of ecommerce merchandising.
As a parent category, ecommerce merchandising can encompass more than just optimizing the on-site experience. It can also refer to off-site activities that tie into the web experience, like email marketing, advertising campaigns, or social media activities.
On-site merchandising is also largely tied into the categorization and organization of products on a site, including visual assets, product recommendations, and collection building. Ecommerce merchandising takes things a step further by covering all of these and then some - including sitewide pricing strategies and product selection.
Note that for this blog, we’ll be using ecommerce merchandising and on-site merchandising pretty interchangeably! We just wanted to take a moment to explain the slight difference between them.
If you’re wondering how to get started with ecommerce merchandising, look no further. We’ve handpicked three of the most critical areas to focus your efforts on when designing a better ecommerce experience.
You’ve probably seen the stories: Customers love personalization. In fact, nearly 3 in 4 consumers expect brands to anticipate their unique needs and expectations; up from 66% in 2020. The good news is that personalization at scale is possible. In some ways, it’s even easier than offering a personalized in-store experience.
Data is the ticket to an optimal personalized ecommerce experience - what customers are looking at, what they actually buy, and how often they shop with you. When amassed at scale, this data can be used to identify patterns and create a differently merchandised experience for each and every customer.
Some of the key ways you can use data in your merchandising efforts include:
The great thing about data-driven personalization tactics is they generally operate on autopilot, allowing you to focus on other merchandising activities.
Mobile commerce or Mcommerce is on the rise. In 2023, 8% of all online ecommerce transactions are expected to take place on mobile; that number will grow to 10% by 2025. That’s why it’s more critical than ever to ensure your ecommerce experience is merchandised effectively for mobile.
A good mobile ecommerce experience starts with optimization, including:
You might be wondering - if I’m busy merchandising my site and adding in plug-ins or other enhancements, is there a risk to my site’s load speed or SEO score? The short answer is, every single thing you add to your site will impact your Google Lighthouse score. But there are some apps (like LimeSpot Personalizer) that are specifically designed to have a nominal impact on your site, keeping it mobile-friendly.
Search is an absolutely critical part of a well-merchandised ecommerce site - if it’s implemented properly. When search is done right, and used by a customer, conversion rates have been shown to increase by up to 80%.
The critical thing is to recognize that how you as a merchandiser think of a product might not be how a customer thinks. Therefore, search merchandising needs to consider how to adapt to everything from misspellings to vague search terms to have the best chance possible of serving up the right product for a customer’s inquiry.
Here are some of the key things to consider when optimizing your site search function:
Let’s not forget off-site search as a side function of great on-site search. You should ensure every product on your site is optimized for search engines. A customer that may have never heard of your brand may end up there if it fits the exact parameters they’re looking for.
Consider your product titles, descriptions, and metadata and follow SEO best practices to incorporate targeted keywords, write compelling but descriptive titles, and offer unique, detailed product descriptions. One simple tip: Don’t repeat content across multiple product pages to minimize a negative SEO impact and confusion.
Once you’ve got the basics down, don’t stop there! The list of activities and ways to improve your on-site merchandising is pretty much limitless and always evolving. Here’s a few of our favorites you’ll want to look at next.
Think of customer segmentation as an advanced version of data-driven personalization. With segmentation, you start looking at customers as belonging to a specific group, based on their browsing and buying habits.
With a segmentation engine like LimeSpot’s Segmented Experiences, you have the flexibility to create unlimited segments based on any criteria imaginable. Once a customer is sorted into a segment, you can tailor their site experience to create something that feels personalized every step of the way.
For example, a footwear store might have a segment created for people who browse or buy men’s athletic shoes at least 4x a year. Once a customer is dropped into that segment, their site experience will change with tailored content and offers. The home page might spotlight the latest Nike shoe drop, or a pop-up might point the customer to a special sale on the previous season’s athletic shoes.
Remember how we talked about the difference between on-site and ecommerce merchandising? Well ecommerce merchandising is pretty similar to cross-channel merchandising, in that it involves taking any digital touchpoints and ensuring they’re working well in harmony.
For example, a cross-channel merchandising strategy might include managing your:
The aim of cross-channel ecommerce merchandising is to offer a consistent brand experience that’s optimized for peak product visibility and messaging no matter which touchpoint you’re encountering.
Here’s a tip: The same data-driven approach you took to personalization can be applied to your email and SMS campaigns, through LimeSpot’s tailored recommendations. Take store data and use it to motivate shoppers to pay more attention to your marketing efforts and land on your site.
There are many merchandising automation tools out there that can help reduce merchandising overhead (not the least of which are data-driven product recommendations).
Merchandising automation tools can also assist with:
Remember that while merchandising automation tools can save a ton of time, it’s important to stay on top of them once they’re set up. This includes running tests, monitoring performance, and spot checking effectiveness.
If the aim of merchandising is to create a top notch ecommerce experience, then the desired outcomes are pretty straightforward: Higher conversions rates and bigger average order value (AOV).
But those are just the beginning. Here are several others you may want to consider:
Product performance metrics: Merchandising happens on both a site-wide and product-specific level. Product performance looks at how quickly (or slowly) a product is moving to identify bestsellers and items that may need some promotional pricing or marketing applied against them to move more units.
Bounce rates: Marketing does the work of getting people in the door - great merchandising makes you stick around. Bounce rate measures the percentage of sessions on your site that only last a single page visit before exiting. Essentially, it conveys how often people visit your site without taking any action beyond looking at just one page.
Click-through rate: Gauge the effectiveness of your merchandising tactics by tracking how many people are exposed to different types of merchandising vs. clicking through. For example, you can track how many shoppers see an upsell or cross-sell offer that actually add it to cart.
Time on site: Generally, a longer time on site generally indicates a more engaging ecommerce experience.
Customer lifetime value (CLTV): The payoff of CLTV is far from instant. Instead, it reflects how much a single customer is worth to a business throughout their entire relationship. Merchandising is closely tied to customer loyalty, and this metric helps enforce it. Pro tip: You can also check repeat purchase volumes to track shorter-term CLTV.
Let’s not forget about ROI! Calculating your return on investment for merchandising simply involves taking all costs - software, staffing, etc. - against the revenue generated.
In this blog, we’ve broken down what ecommerce merchandising is and why it matters - as well as some key tactics to get started with.
But before you do anything else, the very first thing you need to do is identify your target audience and understand what an ideal customer experience actually looks like. Conducting marketing research, looking at your existing site traffic, reviewing competitor websites, and analyzing customer data are all key steps to helping you craft buyer personas.
These personas can be used to shape different customer journeys, guided by the varying tools and tactics you implement, as well as what products you choose to focus your merchandising efforts on.
Want to reduce merchandising overhead and serve up a better customer experience? Enter data-driven tools like LimeSpot’s personalization suite. With one simple tool you can tailor everything from on-site recommendations and customer segmentation through to off-site merchandising activities like email marketing and SMS campaigns. Connect with us today to learn more about how LimeSpot can accelerate your merchandising strategy on autopilot.