We all already know that ecommerce is big, but did you know that the UK has the most advanced ecommerce sector in Europe? Or that the UK’s ecommerce sales in 2021 will reach around £185.22 billion. This follows a huge 46.5% year-over-year growth in sales last year, and we can expect more strong growth, of 20.5%, in 2021.
In 2019 online sales made up 21.8% of all the UK’s retail sales. 2021 has seen this rise to 37.5%. So, with the retail landscape evolving and the gap closing between ecommerce and physical retail, it’s more crucial than ever to provide customers with a top-notch ecommerce offering.
Maybe you’re a brick-and-mortar store just starting to look into the lucrative ecommerce sector. You might be a startup with a great idea ready to launch and take the world by storm. You may even be an existing ecommerce retailer looking to improve your current performance and grow.
There’s an abundance of factors involved in building a successful ecommerce business. Of course, a great product range is the foundation of your online retail store, but then you need to consider your platforms, your marketing, tech and automation….The list goes on.
A key component of ecommerce that you need to consider is ecommerce merchandising.
What does that mean though? Is it the same as merchandising in a physical store? What strategies should you be looking at to make it work? And how can a company like PureClarity help elevate you from the lower leagues to competing in the Premiership?
We’ll answer all these questions. So, let’s get going!
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Ecommerce merchandising definition
If you’re new to the world of ecommerce, let’s start with the basics. Ecommerce merchandising is the process of putting your products or services on display on your website (or other platforms you may be using) with product images to attract consumers and increase your sales and revenue figures.
Depending on the person giving you answers, ecommerce merchandising is either an art form or an exact science. The reality is that it’s a hybrid of the two- with science giving you the ability to make data-driven, informed decisions based on your metrics and art providing the design and appearance components so that your merchandisers can build the perfect site.
Traditional vs modern ecommerce merchandising
You may look at the existing merchandising in your physical store if you have one or other stores to see how they do it. But is it a case of simply porting over the ideas of traditional merchandising to your online store? The answer is generally no, although you can adapt some concepts from one to the other. Let’s examine how this works more closely.
- Store to ecommerce layout
With a physical store, you have two main areas where a merchandiser would display products. The first is the shop window. Shop windows will often have displays that feature seasonal or new products. These can attract people to enter the store. Once inside, each department will have its own displays, showcasing its best products or perhaps those on special offer.
There’s also a psychological aspect to merchandising. A business may have a new product on display that’s far cheaper than its competitors (think of these as the bait on the hook). They may even display expensive items prominently to make the rest of their products look reasonably priced.
With ecommerce, you lack those initial physical attractions. You don’t have that same shop window at entry-level. The closest ecommerce equivalent is going to be your entry in search engine rankings. But your website, and in particular your home page, is the real entrance to your online store.
Getting that right and understanding how a company like PureClarity can help is crucial to success. Unlike a physical store, getting to know your customer on a deeper level online can be a tricky task. We specialise in AI-driven ecommerce personalisation to help you form a more in-depth understanding of your customers and use this to provide them with a unique online shopping experience.
Everything from the journeys customers take, the content they’re shown, and the products they see on the page can be tailored to suit them specifically, based on what they want and their actions in real-time.
Personalising content in this way will help you optimise critical metrics such as your conversion rate and average order value.
Your homepage is your shop window. This is where you can prominently display new products, highlight any product images, special offers, or sales items. With clear and eye-catching design and good navigability, you can then guide customers to the landing pages (departments) of your various products and services and negotiate them closer to the end of the sales funnel.
Branding is much more than just a name or logo. It combines what you’re doing as a business with customer expectations and behaviour. Your engagement with customers is thrown into the mix, too.
The branding of a physical store is perhaps more straightforward to establish. You open your shop, carry top quality products, and ensure your staff provide good service.
Building your online brand takes a little more effort. Yes, you still need those excellent products that consumers want, but the online customer journey is more complicated than the physical one. You need to consider every step in that journey, from initial product discovery (probably via search engine or social media), through to the purchase and payment stage.
How simple your website is to search and navigate), how efficient and straightforward your checkout process is, and how good basic design and functionality are will all be factors in establishing your online brand.
- Customer behaviour and interactions
This is another area where there are major differences. In a physical store, the interactions are all conversational in nature. A customer may simply browse and not seek assistance. Online, the customer may never interact with a human agent unless they have questions or issues.
Behaviours can be different too. For example, online retailers in the UK lose more than £18 billion every year due to cart abandonment or opting out of the checkout process. When was the last time you saw someone in a physical store change their mind at the till and walk away? Online shoppers can behave very differently from those in brick and mortar stores.
PureClarity allows you to understand those differences in behaviour and introduce personalisation to your client interactions. This can go a long way to reducing your customer churn rates. Personalisation covers every interaction from the content customers see to the products your site recommends and the emails you send them.
- Inventory management
In traditional retail stores, inventory management is pretty old school. You order the products you need, get them shipped to the store, and keep track of sales so that you know when to make another order.
Ecommerce poses greater challenges when it comes to inventory management but also brings with it advanced digital systems that can help you overcome these. Depending on the size of your business, and the model you’ve adopted, you may have one central location where inventory is stored and shipped from.
A larger online retailer with potential customers spread across the UK (or who ship internationally) may have more than one location. For example, if a business makes substantial global sales, they may choose to have a dedicated warehouse close to an airport or port. If you’re a smaller organisation, it may be practical for you to outsource the fulfilment side of your operation to a specialist third party, like Amazon.
You also need to consider the basic concept of space. If you have a single warehouse, then you can’t just keep filling that limited space with products. That means that not only is inventory management critical (knowing what you have and what you need to order), but inventory forecasting becomes crucial too.
Forecasting what inventory you will need in the future – for example, seasonal demands such as Christmas – will underpin your entire inventory management process.
- AI and personalisation
In physical stores, there’s generally little in the way of personalisation unless you’re a regular customer who the staff know by name. In ecommerce, it’s a whole different ball game. Customers want to be recognised, and with PureClarity’s AI-driven system (artificial intelligence), content is updated in real-time so that customers receive the most personalised service possible.
Ecommerce is digital, and that means you have a whole host of AI-powered tools and automation at your disposal to elevate your service. By using tools such as pop-ups and combining them with the information gathered on returning customers, you recognise customers and make them feel welcome.
How to get started with ecommerce merchandising
Where do you start with your ecommerce merchandising? There are two primary sections to this: your online store – how it is built and designed – and that all-important personalisation – knowing and understanding your customers and what they want to offer them the best ecommerce customer experiences possible.
One thing to remember is that you can include personalised merchandising in any part of your ecommerce site.
- Homepage. Homepages are the gateway to your products. These should have several aims, from telling a potential customer about your brand and your mission to showcasing your best products and offers, establishing an initial rapport, and guiding your customers into your sales funnels.
Your homepage is where customers will get their first impression of your brand, and it’s also essential that you update it regularly and keep it fresh. Include content that engages with your customer and makes them want to know more.
- Product pages. While your homepage is your gateway, your product pages are the most critical area of your ecommerce site. Customers want to see engaging and compelling product descriptions that include all the key information clearly. They also must be able to ask questions (ideally via live chat) about those products.
Ensure each landing page has photos (from multiple angles if possible), an overview of what the product does (including any technical specs), pricing, varieties (sizes, colours), social proof such as reviews or links to reviews, links to related products (cross-sell or upsell), and that all-important call to action (CTA) such as the one pictured below.
Note: What looks good to you may not necessarily work for your customers. Use PureClarity’s A/B testing to look at every element of your ecommerce website to see what does work for them.
- Category-based. Categories are crucial for two reasons. The most obvious, of course, is that it makes it easier for customers to find what they are looking for. A standard way to think of your category pages is: Main Topic – Categories – Subcategories – Product. Google’s taxonomy list can be a good guide to this.
The second reason is that well-categorised ecommerce sites will help search engine crawlers find and understand your site better and this will lead to higher rankings (and more traffic to your website!).
- Know your customers. You may never meet your customers, but you can still get to know them. When a customer uses your site, they’re not only (hopefully) making a purchase, they are providing you with lots of data to inform future strategies.
Use that data to segment your customer base into different categories, such as high-value customers or frequent visitors. Look to understand their behaviours and what products or features they like or don’t like. Once you have those segments, you can look to personalise how you interact with and market to these customers.
- Know where your buyers are. Having an accurate picture of where your buyers are helps you make essential logistical decisions. If 65% of your buyers are in the Scottish highlands, there’s little point in having your only dispatch centre in Cornwall.
That doesn’t mean you have to open multiple depots. But it may help you make decisions about using third-party logistics providers or deciding where your central warehouse will be.
- Earn their trust. Trust is everything in ecommerce. It contributes not only to driving those initial sales but also, and perhaps more importantly, to increasing customer retention. That trust can start with well-designed and professional-looking ecommerce sites and good reviews.
30% of customers return to sites they’ve used previously and 79% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Other elements that will build trust include robust site security, relevant certification, a wide range of contact channels (including phone numbers and live chat), solid refunds/returns policies, and the various guarantees you offer.
6 Strategies to boost your ecommerce merchandising
What do you want? More sales and revenue! When do you want it? Now! If only it was that easy. Now you’ve started your ecommerce journey, you need to consider what strategies will lead to those increased conversions.
- Invest in a good product search
Many sites fall short of customers’ expectations when it comes to site search. But you also need to ensure that every single page on your site is Search engine optimised. If a customer is searching for a “hand-carved wooden Buddha” and that’s one of your best sellers, then you want the right product page to show high up the Google rankings.
On your site itself, make sure your search options are easy to use. Add filters to the search bar as well as predictive functionality to help the customer. PureClarity can help personalise search features by offering the customers recommendations relevant to their search terms or to previous searches and previous history.
- Leverage visual merchandising
There are many parallels between online and traditional visual merchandising. One advantage of online merchandising is that you can tailor the experiences to the different users who shop in online stores. By adding personalisation to that mix, you can also guide the customer to complementary products that they’re likely to buy.
Once a customer is a return customer, you can leverage their customer data to point them to products they like. If Mr. B has bought several items of stereo equipment, then a personalised experience is going to suggest similar items.
Think of your homepage as your shop window, your site layout as that of a shop, and your onsite navigation as the signs pointing to departments in a physical store.
PureClarity helps you personalise that shop window and the layout of your store so that any page a customer visits will offer them content based on what our AI system has learned about them.
- Seize your data
Data is gold, but you have to use it properly and choose the right metrics to focus on while also ensuring you protect customer data.
You should concentrate on the big data that, when analysed, gives you real insights into shopping trends and the patterns of customer behaviour. It can also help you make informed strategic decisions, reduce costs, and improve how you operate.
Where that big data comes into its own is in how you relate to your customers. It can help you segment these into groups with common behaviours such as high-value orders, regular shoppers, or people who buy the same sort of product. In turn, that means you can create the sort of highly personalised experience we offer with PureClarity.
- Personalisation and product recommendations
People like to be recognised and feel welcomed. Once a customer has moved from a one-off purchase to being in that magical customer retention group, you have an opportunity not only to increase their lifetime value but to enhance their overall customer experience.
As they move through your sales funnels repeatedly, you collect more high-quality data to improve personalisation. 91% of customers are more likely to shop with brands that offer that personalised touch.
It’s not just about what they have bought, but also their browsing history on your site (why did they look at particular products without buying?), any shopping cart abandonment history, and some of their demographic details. Personalising the experience, asking questions, and suggesting the right products means they’re more likely to be regular buyers and enjoy the journey.
- Make use of AI
If you’re not already using AI in your ecommerce store – or considering implementing it – then there’s a good chance you’ll be left behind. AI has multiple uses within ecommerce that can improve all aspects of the customer experience and help drive improved results. These include:
- Customer-centric searches,
- Retargeting potential customers or identifying high-quality leads,
- Creating better personalisation,
- Powering virtual assistants or personal shoppers to aid the customer journey,
- Improving any product recommendation offered to shoppers.
- Smooth navigation
If a customer finds your site difficult to navigate and find what they are looking for, they’ll vote with their (virtual) feet and go elsewhere. Smooth navigation goes hand in hand with good design.
As we mentioned earlier, using A/B testing will enable you to examine every element of your site. Other ways to help with navigation include:
- Having a clear and uniform design across the site,
- Good categorisation of different product types and accurate product description,
- Clear and concise labelling,
- Efficient search process to find specific product pages,
- Simple checkout and payment process.
How to enhance your ecommerce merchandising with PureClarity?
Now that you understand everything involved in ecommerce merchandising a bit better, we’ll explain how PureClarity can take you from the Championship to the dizzy heights of the Premiership.
- Experts at online visual merchandising / customer engagement / personalisation
We understand the effectiveness of tying together personalisation and merchandising. We can provide you with an awareness of what your customers want to see (by collecting and analysing all possible data on them) and, so, recommend the best possible merchandising zones for your website. That also means we can look at the best cross and upselling options for that particular customer.
- AI product recommenders
We believe that good AI lies at the core of an effective ecommerce merchandising strategy. That means that our AI is constantly working in real-time: recording and identifying patterns and behaviours, looking at possible segmentation and constantly carrying out A/B testing to optimise the performance of your whole site.
- Real-time analytics – better insights into what campaigns to run
Good data collection and careful analysis of that data mean you can make data-driven and informed decisions about your ecommerce merchandising strategies. Being able to do that in real-time can give you a real edge over the competition.
From identifying your best-selling products to clicks and average order values (AOV), PureClarity’s insights can dramatically improve your performance.
If you just group all your customers in one category, personalisation becomes difficult, if not impossible. PureClarity lets you take segmentation (and thus personalisation) to a whole new level. Group your customers by demographics, location, device used, high-value purchasers, or other factors. Our customisation allows you to set any criteria you want, recognising the uniqueness of your customers.
- Personalised content (personalisation can happen anywhere on the site on any page)
Our AI works 24/7 making sure that personalisation happens at the right time and in the right place. That means every part of your website can offer a personalised experience to your customers. That could be on your homepage, on any landing pages, and even during the final checkout process, increasing your chances of cross-selling or up-selling.
Using previous navigation and browsing data, prior purchasing history, and the most commonly used search terms, our AI can personalise everything from the products offered to the customer to relevant pop-ups.
- Personalised popups (both CTA and email capture)
Used indiscriminately, popups can be annoying. Used carefully and with that all-important personalisation, they become a great tool for driving customers through your sales funnel and capturing email information. We help you create and customise the perfect pop-ups that allow you to offer promo codes or target customers with personalised emails.
Whether marketing emails or retargeting campaigns, PureClarity lets you create personalised emails (that integrate with major providers such as MailChimp) that truly connect with the customer. If you want to track results, PureClarity makes it easy for you to customise your goals and targets.
When a customer searches for a particular item, you can drive them to associated products with our personalised searchandising feature. For example, if someone searches for beachwear and you have discounts on certain related items, you can have a banner appear that lets the customer know about those discounts.
- All of which increase conversions, AOV, revenue, customer engagement and lifetime value
What happens when you use all the recommended PureClarity features? As you can see from one of our case studies, Cutwel was able to increase its conversion rate by 35.7%, AOV by 7.39%, and overall revenue by 26%.
Customers will engage better with your site as they’re enjoying a better customer experience, and you’ll have higher customer retention rates. And more retention means higher lifetime value!
- PureClarity offers exceptional customer service. “Your success is our success”. We offer advice (if wanted) on how best to implement ecommerce-merchandising-strategies to reach individual ecommerce goals.
It’s the most basic rule of business. If our customers are happy and seeing results, they’ll not only stay with us but recommend us to other businesses.
If you need advice on any aspect of our services, we offer various channels to contact our support teams.
We’ll help you create the perfect personalisation templates so that you get the very best results from our services. Unsure how to use pop-ups, banners, or CTAs? Our support team will guide you through implementing great personalisation as we did with Hotdrinks, who saw a 27.3% increase in conversion with our help.
As ecommerce grows, it’ll become even more competitive. That means you need to ensure that you’re not only providing the best customer experience you can but that you also maximise every opportunity to engage with customers.
You must offer a personalised journey that encourages customers to show loyalty to your company and, ideally, become brand ambassadors.
Of course, we want you to pick us, but we recognise that there are many companies out there who claim to offer the same or similar levels of service. Because we believe that we really are better than our competitors, we offer a 30-day free trial so you can decide for yourself.
If you want to see the difference PureClarity could make to your business, sign up for that free trial today.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is ecommerce merchandising?
Ecommerce merchandising is the way you present your products and services on your website to attract more customers, boost conversion rates, and increase sales.
- Why is ecommerce merchandising important?
To ensure that every customer visiting your site enjoys a smooth, personalised customer journey. You also want them to be able to find what they want and have relevant products suggested to them.
- How to do ecommerce merchandising?
Learn about your customers (behaviours, patterns, etc.), build relationships, and, of course, use PureClarity to help create the perfect personalised ecommerce merchandising strategy.