The 411 of eCommerce Merchandising: 4 Goals and 4 Trends

This is the introduction for a series of merchandising reports coming your way. 

Nikole Wintermeier | Jan 10, 2023

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This is the introduction for a series of merchandising reports coming your way. 

Welcome to eCommerce merchandising 101!

In this series, we're going to cover:

Part 1: The art of merchandising

  • An introduction to eCommerce merchandising 
  • Challenges and opportunities in the current merchandising landscape
  • Top merchandising trends 

Part 2: Merchandising best practices

  • Product feed
  • Homepage
  • Product pages
  • Taxonomy
  • Checkout page

Part 3: Merchandising psychology best practices

  • UX tips from behavioral psychologists in eCommerce 

Part 4: Merchandising reporting best practices

  • Data collection

 

This article is Part 1 of the series. Happy reading!

 

Part 1: The Art of Merchandising

 

Why do we need to learn about merchandising? 

Aside from making your pages look ‘pretty’, merchandising will have benefits that go beyond mere metrics. 

This is what turns merchandising into art. 

At Crobox, we’ve spoken to merchandisers in roles like range specialists, eCommerce managers, and UX designers, from brands across industries like activewear, home and DIY, and beauty. Here are some of their common goals for the year and beyond. 

 

4 top merchandising goals for 2022 and beyond

 

1. Promoting product findability and visibility 


Optimizing keywords for search engines and leveraging ads is a good way to make your products easier to find. Keywords, and the words and language your customers use, is KEY(...words). 

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Syte suggests that product discovery is about getting the shopper to the right product at the right time.

Zoovu supports this, saying it’s all about the search and discovery of a product. The best webshops find the right products based on the customer’s search behavior. 

Both definitions by Syte and Zoovu are spot-on but still lack one very important clause. While it’s important to link search queries with results, eCommerce product discovery is so much more than simply improving product findability. 

It’s also about: 

“Discovering the entirety of the product based on its analytics, other similar products, attributes and benefits, and tailoring product messages to promote products to individual shoppers.” - Rodger Buyvoets, CEO at Crobox

 

An approach that takes this kind of intelligent and consumer-centric look at product discovery is the future of eCommerce.

As eCommerce owners, the art of merchandising means looking at your product data and creating new ways to promote them to the individual. 

This could be as easy as turning product attributes into benefits, and as technical as product content enrichment, both of which we’ll take a look at later on. 

 

2. Bringing product benefits to life

 

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Kylie Cosmetics has a whole section on their ‘clean philosophy’, showing how their products are made in an ethical and conscious way. 



Online, how do you bring your product benefits to life? This is a clear goal that merchandisers are working to achieve. I

t’s no longer enough to strategically place products on your webshop with the goal of increasing clicks and conversions. Consumers crave guided shopping experiences and learning about the products they are shopping for before making a purchase.  

Kylie Cosmetics' product description turns the product’s attributes into benefits. E.g., adding the descriptions ‘pairs well with’ and ‘long-lasting’, under the section Key Features. 

Today, it’s up to merchandisers to:

  • Educate the shopper about the product/s they’re seeking.
  • Place contextually relevant messages on the webshop.
  • Nurture customers post-purchase so they keep coming back to shop from the brand.
  • Guide and advise the shopper where relevant and/or needed.  



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Kylie Cosmetics reviews. 

 

Many webshops are already placing their products on a pedestal, and this starts by learning about how they affect the lives of their customers. In short, showing product benefits instead of simple attributes to capture the customer’s desires. 



3. Boosting average order values (AOV)

 

Another imperative for merchandisers across all categories is to make sure the products they show are relevant to the customer’s context.

Meaning, the more products they show to the shopper, the more likely the shopper is to make a final purchase decision that is well-informed. 

Can you guess what that leads to?

More relevant products and/or information = Fewer returns and happier customers. 

 


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Source: Sephora Beauty Insider loyalty program gives financial incentives to reward loyal customers. Loyalty programs in the long-run increase AOV, because shoppers are prompted to spend more and within the brand’s ecosystem to earn their rewards. 

Increasing AOV should transcend the realm of persuasion. Because you’re actually showing relevant products in an individualized environment (i.e., an environment that benefits the customer).

For example showing:

  • Set completion: Complimentary products that complete an outfit.

  • Product bundling: Complimentary products that can be bought together, as a bundle, and at a discounted price.
  • An order minimum for free shipping: Creating a threshold for free shipping should the customer wish to add more products.
  • Customer loyalty: Set up a reward system for loyal customers either giving financial rewards or more support.

 

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Up and cross-selling strategies will allow merchandisers across verticals to be both creative and strategic.

Without forgetting the needs of the end customer.

After all, increasing the visibility of products that cater to an individual's needs will only help to decrease choice overload, while putting the right information in front of them at the right time. 

 

4. Tracking product performance


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Crobox’s Product Profiles let you view your product data in one place, from performance indicators like click counts and purchase ratios, to how different messages are performing in terms of increasing CTR impact. 



Data and analytics are your merchandising backbone, especially online. But, unfortunately, many eCommerce brands are unable to cope with the data superiority of pure players

But that doesn’t necessarily put you at a disadvantage.

Pure players like Amazon are notorious for data scandals. And let’s face it – the Amazon webshop experience isn’t the ‘prettiest’. 

 

ecommerce-merchandisingThe Amazon experience: Too many spec-based features for filtering, too many choices of similar products, too few personalized messages to help draw attention to the products that are relevant to the individual.  

Instead, eCommerce brands that win will be at the forefront of promoting product attributes as benefits. 

This starts by having a rich data architecture in the backend and a culture of experimentation in the front, so that both you and your team can not only process data but derive actionable insights from it. 

 

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Source: Read the Crobox blog on Product Analytics to see how to make common data points actionable for eCommerce.   

By continuously tracking product performance, merchandisers can turn tangible data metrics into actionable insights. Without infringing on customer privacy.

 

4 top eCommerce merchandising trends to watch out for

 

Every year online shopping witnesses more change, more innovation, and more merchandising opportunities.

The pandemic had more people shopping online than ever before. Retail technology grows at an exponential rate.

And your shoppers?

They respond with shifting behavioral patterns that you need to keep track of if you want to resonate with them. With that, here are the top merchandising trends of today.

“The boundaries between life, work, and sports have become more flexible. The pandemic has lasted long enough to form new habits – we believe that this new reality is here to stay.” - David Alleman, Co-Founder, On-Running

 

 

1. eCommerce localization



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For many merchandisers in your shoes, the COVID-19 pandemic was both a blessing and a curse. More people started shopping online.

Creating lots more traffic (blessing), but with the added challenge of supplying demand (curse – many brands fell short due to supply chain issues). 

However, the pandemic also created an opportunity for other teams to see eCommerce as an important sales channel.

For many, this called for expansion. And when you’re expanding, you also need to be able to localize, so that your webshop is personalized to the culture and geo-location of the user. 


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Example of localization gone wrong when things get lost in translation.


In short, localization means adapting webshops for the market you’re selling to. For merchandisers, this trend implies optimizing the webshops by:

  • Showcasing search results in the user’s query language.
  • Having clear shipping rules for international shoppers (48% of users abandon their carts due to extra costs).
  • Tailoring product content to match the unique needs of localized shopper behavior.
  • Updating payment methods like currency, product pricing, and preferences (in the Netherlands, 70% of transactions are made using IDEAL, a local payment platform).  
  • Having high-quality translations for webshop messaging. 

As direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands gain popularity, localization will help retailers sell internationally while retaining relevancy in their markets of choice.

This is a key trend for merchandisers to continue observing and investing in.  



2. Commerce to content 

 

ecommerce-merchandising-VSVictoria's Secret has a Spotify Store playlist. Many brands also have brand playlists like Nike, KFC, Gymshark, and American Eagle Outfitters. 

As eCommerce starts to command more attention, so too is bringing the in-store experience online. Nobody wants to shop from a webshop whose only goal is to sell products. 

The whole experience of shopping should be frictionless (no unnecessary ads or pop-ups), streamlined (high-touch guidance when necessary), and delightful:

Showing the right content at the right time in a fun way.

 

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Nike’s Run Club App fosters a community of runners with challenges, guided runs, and playlists. It curates the best of a content approach (music, video, guidance, social media), without even trying to sell products to the user. 

 

This move from commerce to content is a huge win, not just for the customer but for the brand, too.

That’s because merchandisers can now do things online like:

  • Leverage supporting content on webshops, e.g., blog posts, articles, music, videos, etc.
  • Invest in Apps. 
  • Use social media as a selling channel e.g., Instagram shopping.
  • Leverage social for brand awareness e.g., TikTok influencers. 
  • Invest in social issues campaigns e.g., climate change.
  • Use innovative tech to show products in context e.g., Augmented Reality. 

With 70% of consumers demanding the brands they shop from to take a social and political stance, straightforward commerce doesn’t quite cut it.

Content is a superior selling strategy.

Luckily, you merchandising rockstars are the ones putting content in front of the online shopper. This makes this trend imperative. 

 

3. Sustainability 

 

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Amundsen

 

The pandemic has also driven a do-less-with-more approach.

Consumers are planning to purchase more durable fashion items, and are even open to keeping them for longer. 

For example, the product features of sports and activewear products aim to increase performance (e.g., resistance, quick-drying, breathability) are uniquely sustainable. 

Activewear brands are aiming to be textile pioneers to innovate the features of their products, and resonate more with the sustainable shopper.

For example, Amundsen’s ski thermals are made with naturally temperature-regulating Merino wool for high-performance on the slopes. 

Icebreaker, on the other hand, uses lightweight features as the USP for their ski thermals. These features are intrinsically durable. 

Merchandiser’s that lead the sustainability race prioritize product presentation, product USPs (that are sustainable), and more circular business models on the whole. 

 

4. Zero-party data



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Crobox’s Product Finder for Love Stories collects zero-party data. Because of this, we were able to validate the assumption that ‘most women don’t know their bra size’. Read the full case study here

Zero-party data is data that is given freely and with consent by the customer. It’s a data collection technique that stays within data-privacy laws like the GDPR and CCPA because customers have the option to choose whether they share their data or not. 

With the rise of data privacy trends globally, the microscope is fixed on how eCommerce will respond. It’s about time retailers start thinking about new tools that collect customer data in a safe and protected environment.

These tools start with merchandisers. Because half of your job is commercial. But the other half is analytical, making data analytics a crucial part of your website rollout.

Here are some zero-party data collection techniques for eCommerce: 

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Product Finders
  • Live Polls
  • Product Trivia
  • Personality Quizzes

Not only is zero-party data more trustworthy, but it’s also:

  • Cost effective
  • Accurate
  • Relevant

How you leverage zero-party data will carve out your competitive advantage. Gone are the days of cheap grabs at conversions. Today, with a focus on zero-party data, you can begin to create individualized shopping experiences on your webshop. 

 

But wait, there’s more…

 

In this article, we’ve covered the art of eCommerce merchandising from the perspective of:

  • Merchandising eCommerce goals
  • Top trends

Now that we’ve set the groundwork for merchandising, it’s time to start applying the 411 of merchandising to accomplish your goals and keep your webshop and brand in line with trends. 

In the next part of our merchandising series, we will cover best practices page-by-page.

Stay tuned...

 

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