Merchandising via Digital Catalogs: Your Online Storefront

Online merchandising is a less-talked about part of ecommerce that, in theory, should achieve a similar goal as its in-store conterpart:  to “display products in such a way that stimulates interest and entices customers to make a purchase”.

traditional site

However, the layouts of most traditional ecommerce websites look more like image libraries (organized by item type, size, gender, etc.), rather than well-thought out displays or showcases!   Despite good intentions, even website features such as  “You may also like”, “Recommended for you” and “Related products” just don’t have the same effect as in-store merchandising — where products often pack more punch in combinations than each would individually.

Why are websites so far behind?

And how can online catalogs help?   By enabling the creation of orchestrated e-commerce experiences.

In other words, if done well, online merchandising within digital catalogs blends tactics from both traditional offline and online sales channels — bridging the gap between stark websites and creative brick&mortar window displays.  While print catalogs allow for the same kind of curation, they don’t give you back the same kind of data to learn from!   Digital versions can be rearranged and segmented based on analyses of user behavior within the catalog, such as which pages are attracting the most attention, which products are clicked on most, etc.

Some ways to make the most of your digital storefront:

-Start with traditional merchandising tactics:  Product groups or displays used in stores can provide the basis for website layouts, before in-catalog web analytics comes into play.

-Experiment with creative combinations:  Look at recent sales data.  Which types of items are people often buying together?  How can you encourage them to purchase additional items?  One great example, below, from The Container Store, places shoe storage containers alongside mothballs and air fresheners.

Container Store Merchandising

-See what’s attracting attention:  Heat maps (or in-page analytics) show what your site visitors are clicking on most; shopping cart funnel data reveals which items are carted but for some reason not checked out.

-Look at other key performance metrics for your digital content:   Analyzing what works and what doesn’t work over time (test, adjust, retest!) can  paint a clearer picture of how to combine your online content and merchandise for optimal performance.

-Vary merchandise combinations by segment, such as website entry point:   Where a visitor came from can help predict what they’re looking for.  Product images or combinations shown could be served up differently for users who come from social networks vs. search engines vs. particular referral links (etc.).

The results will be better sales, higher conversion rates, and better engagement metrics for your catalog.  (Recently, a kids’ toys and apparel brand saw an increase of over 300% more dollar spent, and 250% more items carted, when they featured related items on the same online catalog pages!)

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Hilary Dionne
Senior Manager, Customer Insights & Analytics