During the busy peak period, it’s important to ensure you are conveniently connecting users to the product they are searching for in the most direct and intuitive methods possible. Just as brick-and-mortar stores prepare for peak with seasonal products, impressive discounts and strategic marketing, the same should be done for your digital store.
Effectively merchandising your store has become a crucial part of creating a seamless UX. Merchandising in physical stores allows retailers to display products in a way that highlights their best features with the goal of attracting, engaging and motivating shoppers to convert. The same can be said, and is just as important, for your online store. There are a number of key factors to consider in order to best optimise your merchandising efforts.
Why is Merchandising Your Online Store Important?
Visual merchandising is a concept that traditional brick-and-mortar stores have embraced for years. A simple yet effective strategy, it helps to drive sales and generate repeat business. However, it’s not just about having a pretty site. Your site needs to be hassle free, easy to navigate, attractive and work effectively across mobile and desktop too. With competition rife over the peak period, a considered merchandising strategy is a necessity to attract and convert new customers. Our in-house UX Strategist, Rebecca, supported the importance of merchandising over peak stating:
“User experience is no longer something eCommerce stores can ignore. As internet shopping continues evolving, businesses need to remain competitive by leaving customers with a memorable and positive shopping experience. During the peak period when people want to browse and buy fast, the way your online store has been designed and merchandised can have a real impact on your conversion rate.”
Rebecca Holmes, UX Strategist, Pinpoint
Online businesses may assume that visual merchandising is for physical stores only. After all, lighting doesn’t apply, customers cannot touch the products and there’s no human interaction. However, many of the concepts applied to traditional visual merchandising can be applied to eCommerce stores too including the layout, product descriptions, filters and navigation.
First impressions are formed within the first 0.05 seconds of a user landing on your site. If that user doesn’t like what they see, it’s likely they will take their custom elsewhere. As a result, it has become a necessity for your website to be as visually attractive and easy to navigate as possible. How you go about visually merchandising your online store encompasses all aspects of your brand, your products/services and your website features. Doing so effectively can help to increase and improve a variety of metrics including:
- Ease of use
- Average order value
- Conversion rate
- Time spent on site
Follow our top tips in order to subtly engage and direct consumers along their buying journey.
How to Effectively Merchandise Your eCommerce Store
Keep your consumers informed
As well as being a platform to advertise and sell your products/services through, your website also acts as a central repository for information. Keeping your customers informed will create a hassle-free shopping experience. Simple snippets of information such as displaying Terms & Conditions along with delivery information and notifications for when products come back in stock ensure your customers are always up to date. Not only does this make them feel valued, it also diverts them from contacting you, direct meaning your customer service resource can be used elsewhere.
Apply optimum discounts and offers
It’s important to get your discounts and promotions correct and in line with what your business can afford. It can be enticing to provide the largest discount possible to stand out from competitors, but this isn’t always a viable approach to take. Ensure you are offering competitive discounts and promotions that make you stand out from the crowd, but not so competitive that they put you out of business or cause you to make a loss.
Bundle products to increase Average Order Value (AOV)
Grouping appropriate products into bundles helps to increase your AOV, these bundles can then be discounted and offered at what appears to be an incredible value to customers. This is something Beer Hawk have done to support Oktoberfest, offering a selection of five beers with a £50 discount, encouraging customers to spend more when they convert by incentivising a purchase through a discount.
Additionally, it’s likely that businesses will have product lines that they may less or more margin on. By bundling higher-margin products, you can discount to achieve an acceptable average order margin.
Create a sense of urgency
As humans, we like to have a deadline to get things moving, it’s in our nature. If you give your shoppers time to think then they will do just that and in turn, can end up talking themselves out of spending money. Creating a sense of urgency on your website is an effective way to prevent this.
Put a timescale on your offer, for example, “40% off” isn’t as effective as “40% off this weekend only”. Use features such as a countdown banner for when the promotion is due to end and place this on a prominent area of your website such as the home page. Also, highlight when stock is running low on product pages and reinforce this when the consumer views their shopping cart.
Increase your email sign-ups
Email subscribers are important consumers. By registering, you know they like your brand and it’s likely they want to hear from you again. Start collecting contact data now to grow your database ready for the peak period. We’ve been working with SuperCuts to help them capture more customer data and show popups to users based on specific metrics.
These include popups for each device, automatic discount codes applied to the basket and specific popups based on specific products. Using these examples, we’ve been averaging a 6 percent increase in sign-up rates for all users with many of them going on to make a purchase before the coupon expires. As a result, their conversion rate has increased and, using Magento BI, we can see that 20 percent of all users have progressed to place a second order of higher value.
Once you’ve increased your email sign-ups, it’s important to begin generating hype around campaigns and build engagement with your customers. UK fashion retailer, Pretty Little Thing (PLT) did this effectively by creating a landing page to capture user’s email addresses which were entered into an email workflow. Email campaigns were then triggered on the run-up to Black Friday making users aware of the sale and the upcoming shopping event.
Use automated emails
To utilise the power of emails even further, implement automated emails. Abandoned cart emails can be used during peak periods to remind people of the product(s) left in their cart, encouraging them to return and convert. A report produced by Forrester found that businesses can recover up to 29 percent of abandoned cart customers by implementing an automated abandoned cart workflow.
These can be highly informative such as the example below from Iconic Watches featuring contact information, opening times, links to the website and a visual of what has been left in the basket to remind the consumer what they had previously been considering.
Similarly, an automated wish list reminder or product recommendation emails based on the items people have saved or shown interest in can also be sent out when relevant to the buying journey.
Utilise social media
Social media is a powerful and effective marketing tool to support your website. Use channels including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to tease promotions, final delivery order dates, competitions and offers. Social media is also a great place to advertise your delivery cut off dates, after all, you don’t want to disappoint customers who leave it too late to receive their ordered products before Christmas!
Add personalised product recommendations
Based on individual buying behaviour and data, personalised and relevant product recommendations can be delivered using Nosto. This helps businesses build a brand to consumer relationship and customers will feel valued when offered relevant product choices.
Use secure, trusted and recognised payment solutions
Payment solutions should be a top consideration when preparing your website for peak. Customers naturally expect a trusted and recognised payment option, especially when shopping during periods of increased traffic. Why not offer an alternative payment option such as Klarna allowing shoppers to spread payments across a period of time? This convenient solution encourages users to place an order knowing they have longer to pay for it. We also recommend merchants advertise flexible payment options further upstream on the site through on-site messaging across the home page and product pages. This ensures your customers know flexible payment options await in the checkout.
Consider global shipment
We’re not the only country who celebrate retail events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday! Why not consider global shipment to satisfy users who may be shopping from abroad? Even if it isn’t logistical to offer this year-round, promoting global shipment over the peak period will encourage users to take advantage of the service and your products while they can.
Include a FAQ
Ensure you have a FAQ resource to boost self-service and encourage people to browse the information already available to them. Not only does this make your website a more intuitive shopping experience, it also reduces the time spent on communicating information to a customer. Alternatively, implement a chatbot to efficiently communicate with shoppers who ask specific questions to help satisfy user enquiries and generate a more positive purchase journey.
Review your returns policy
As sales increase, it’s likely returns will too. Although it’s important to reduce your return rate as much as possible, not everyone will receive exactly what they want or get their perfect present, so consider extending your returns policy to allow for unwanted or unsuitable gifts. This will help maintain a good relationship between your consumer and your brand and may be the deciding factor as to whether they choose to purchase from you again.
Effectively merchandising your eCommerce store should be an ongoing project, it’s important to pay attention to additional extras that could be offered during the peak period to make the UX as enjoyable and memorable as possible. To get ahead of competitors, you must offer a personalised, intuitive shopping journey with your omnichannel strategy a key consideration of this.
Many brick-and-mortar stores also have an eCommerce website too and ensuring the two platforms are connected has become a key part of business success. As the supply chain evolves, effective use of omnichannel, or multi-channel, is becoming a more prominent strategy for success. This notion sits behind modern-day retailing, creating a fully integrated approach to commerce to provide shoppers with a seamless, unified experience across all of a brand’s channels and touchpoints. Effective omnichannel shopping goes beyond brick-and-mortar locations to cover mobile-first browsing, social media and other online marketplaces.
Connecting each touchpoint to build a holistic omnichannel approach allows you to blend experiences across channels, making it easier for users to move between shopping platforms and purchase your products in the most convenient way for them.
Before a customer decides to make a purchase, retailers are grasping for their attention across a range of channels including social media, search and email. To make you stand out, this experience must be seamless across each platform and engage customers in a personal, authentic way. As the average modern person is exposed to between 4,000 – 10,000 ads each day, personalisation and omnichannel engagement is an effective way of cutting through the noise.
A report by Harvard Business Review found that customers spend more on brands who have a smart omnichannel strategy. During times of increased traffic, it becomes all the more important to offer your customers convenient shopping methods.
Over the years, we have implemented many omnichannel features with our clients. This has included an integrated online loyalty point system for Beer Hawk in conjunction with their physical bars. Customers can collect ‘beer tokens’ and redeem them either online or in-store, generating a more interactive experience. Additionally, Regis Salons included a Click & Collect feature on their website allowing customers to buy online and collect in one of their 200+ UK salons which has since resulted in higher conversion rates and increased convenience for users.
Social platforms and apps have also become a key driver of omnichannel experiences. Social media platforms including Instagram and Pinterest have made shopping a breeze for users with their built-in shopping features. Additionally, the evolution of Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are poised to evolve how consumers use their mobiles for shopping experiences. This innovative solutions are essentially creating websites that look, feel and act like an app to successfully redefine the mobile experience. Magento offer a PWA Studio which helps merchants deliver the convenience and usability of a mobile app combined with the searchability of a regular browser to create fast, engaging shopper experiences that boost conversion rates.
As the digital world continues to rapidly evolve, omnichannel strategies are becoming more important for brands to implement. Visual merchandising has adapted and is no longer a tool for brick-and-mortar stores alone. Online stores now need to step up to the mark of offering engaging, personalised and immersive experiences to their customers, particularly throughout the bustling peak period. No matter which stage of the buying journey, it’s the customer experience that is most important. Busy shopping periods bring an increase of shoppers, but they also bring businesses the opportunity to build strong customer relationships that last far into the future.
Are you struggling with your peak season merchandising strategy? There’s still time to optimise your website and make the most of these upcoming opportunities! Get in touch with us today and our experienced in-house strategist can work with you to help achieve eCommerce success during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, 2020 and beyond…