A Guide To Online Visual Merchandising For Ecommerce Brands
Visual merchandising has traditionally been an important part of how brick-and-mortar stores have been able to attract people into a shop and influence them to buy products. The same can be said for online visual merchandising, as it’s a powerful psychological technique for getting consumers interested in your products and to keep them coming back to your website.
The main difference between online visual merchandising techniques and traditional merchandising techniques is the obvious fact that one is face to face and the other is online – however, the same rules can apply (more on this next).
In this article we’ll cover several effective online visual merchandising tips for ecommerce brands to apply to increase conversion rates, maximize online sales and improve online customer experience.
Before we do that it’s worth highlighting the differences between online visual merchandising and traditional visual merchandising.
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In-store visual merchandising vs online visual merchandising
The in-store model of visual merchandising involves creating striking physical focal points, such as colourful displays and detailed signage. From the moment a person walks into a store to the point they check out, visual merchandising strengthens brand identity and drives more sales.
A physical retail store needs to consider is how the store layout is representing the brands values and ‘personality’. The store layout, interior design and product placement need to be channeled from the perceptive of a customer walking into the store. For instance, fashion brands tend to have mannequins in their physical stores, that are dressed in their clothing to display how the product will look on and then place the items nearby to drive sales.
Online visual merchandising has the same benefits, though it’s driven by guiding customers through the buying journey quickly. In-store visual merchandising focuses more on discovery and letting people take their time – people tend to browse more when in a brick and mortar store.
The online model provides the most relevant shopping experience possible with specific products and a seamless user journey. This ensures a consumer doesn’t become tired of your store, open a new tab and move onto a new website.
The benefit of online visual merchandising is that it improves the customer experience which means they are more likely to complete the final conversion goal of making that online order – and returning. Online visual merchandising works best when it is applied throughout the online retailers store. From the homepage, product pages, and checkout, brands need to target their visitors with relevant products and content.
Now we’ve explored the differences between in-store and online visual merchandising, here are some helpful tips to apply to an ecommerce store.
5 merchandising techniques that all ecommerce brands can apply to their online stores:
1. Attract a customer with a beautifully designed home page
Think of the home page as the window display to your online store. It’s usually the first part of the website a consumer sees, so it needs to grab their attention quickly and be a good showcase of your products and services.
Focus on using the space on the homepage wisely. This can be achieved by using high-quality banners that advertise your products or an interactive video that highlights your brand story. You want your homepage to be eye-catching and memorable. Ecommerce personalisation is a great way to achieve this (more on this later).
You could also personalise the homepage to account for the preferences of multiple consumers, so their favourite products appear immediately.
2. Harness the power of social proof
A great tip for all ecommerce websites is to harness the power of social proof. Social proof is evidence that your brand is trustworthy, reliable and legitimate. Smaller businesses that do not have a wide brand awareness can use customer reviews, testimonials, case studies and ratings to show that they are a trustworthy brand with great products. It is simple: online visitors trust other customers opinions.
Effective ways to use social proof for online visual merchandising:
Add product reviews on the individual product pages if possible.
- Include your best customer testimonials on your homepage.
- Add product recommendations labelled: ‘other customers also bought’.
How to get social proof?
- Include a short survey pop-up on your homepage.
- Set up Google My Business, Trust Pilot and other reviews and rating sites.
- Encourage customers to give a rating or short product review of their recent purchases through a personalised email.
- Send out a short questionnaire to your loyal customers. Include an areas to improve box.
3. Develop an easy-to-follow site structure
Like we mentioned earlier people tend to prefer online shopping because of how convenient and fast it is in comparison to going out to a physical store. That’s why another important part of successful online merchandising is to ensure consumers can find what they are looking for easily. A clear navigation structure for your ecommerce website is essential.
One method is to have a clearly defined product menu split into subcategories, so visitors have a clear route to the items they want. Be sure to constantly test the menu and reshuffle the structure based on how people are searching on your website to get them where they need to go with as few clicks as possible.
Search functionality also plays a vital part in site navigation, and it is common practice for consumers to use a search bar to look for goods. Make your built-in search engine easy to navigate through adding search filters for product specifications such as colour or brand.
4. Show the context of your products with strong visuals and clear messaging
In a physical shop, consumers are able to experience a product before deciding if they are going to buy it. This kind of tangible interaction is an obstacle that needs to be overcome online and you can solve it with great digital assets like images and videos.
Using product images, product descriptions and supporting content is simple merchandising techniques but extremely powerful.
Use imagery effectively, ensure product images are high-quality and show an item from multiple angles with close up shots to showcase unique features. Videos should show a product in action, along with the challenges it can solve. Models can be incorporated too to act as the mannequin in a physical store.
These assets need to be combined with detailed copy, product descriptions and product data to provide a complete overview and give a consumer all the information they need to make a confident purchase. Again paired with social proof can make these elements more successful are converting potential customers.
5. Utilise ecommerce merchandising tools
To develop a successful online visual merchandising strategy, arming yourself with specialised tools are sure to improve your results.
A powerful machine learning and AI platform, PureClarity is a great product merchandising tool. It enables you to personalise your website for individual customers and make specific product recommendations based on past search behaviour.
Another invaluable platform is Hotjar, which uses heatmapping technology to see how customers are interacting with your website, the products they are looking at, how far down they scroll on a page etc.
By using the insights gathered from Hotjar, you’ll be in a stronger position to optimise your website and create a stronger impact on your audience.
Here’s 4 ways ecommerce personalisation can optimise your online visual merchandising:
- AI product recommendations
A product recommendation is what it says on the tin; a product that’s recommended to a prospective customer, that is personalised to their tastes based on real time data collected by artificial intelligence. They are great at increasing average order value, online sales and conversion rates – and they do this by showing relevant products to the right people at the right time. A popular use of product recommendations is using trending or popular products on the homepage.
- Personalised content
Who doesn’t want content that is personalised to their interests, wants and needs? This can be achieved through a range of tools and features. For instance, personalised banners welcoming a returning customer back, a pop-up advertising an exclusive flashsale, product recommendations in the search bar – all this content and more adds up to optimize customer experience.
- Customer segmentation
Customer segmentation is a marketing strategy that groups online visitors based on common characteristics. These customer segments are typically based on customer data taken from analytics. Groups can be based on demographics, geolocation, behavioural factors etc. and can be as specific or generic as you see fit to meet your ecommerce goals.
For instance, first time visitors or returning customers loyalty programs are always great segments to create.
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