Optimise customer experiences through strategic on-site merchandising

Posted on August 9, 2020 by Carly

How you merchandise your product on your website will impact a customer’s experience, and therefore your bottom line. In our current world, consumers want to find what they are looking for fast, and with minimal disruption along the way. So whether they have arrived at your site through inspirational content on social channels, paid search, or are returning customers landing straight on that homepage, here are a few tips to ensure your merchandising will clearly guide customers on their path to purchase.

Landing Pages

If you have sent out an email with a beautiful lifestyle shot of a particular product, calling out a particular style - for example your clothing email is all about stripes - then make sure that when your customer clicks on that call to action button, the first product that is visible to the customer is the featured product, and they are directed to a curated landing page. It may sound simple but I have spent hours trying to find a product featured in editorial before. This is also relevant for social content, billboards or any form of marketing. Always ensure your landing page is merchandised with the source content and path to purchase in mind.

Landing Customer Page

Homepage

Once your customer has hit the homepage, you want to assist them in refining their buying options, and they may not yet know what they are looking for. Highlight popular categories (be sure to use imagery of products that are available to buy), call out seasonal trends, bestsellers, and current sales. Weekly homepage refreshes should be integrated into your content calendar, as well as being pushed through your marketing channels. It is important that your homepage design is clean and consistent. I often see busy homepages with inconsistent designs, too many colours or too text heavy, which makes it difficult to clearly define a customer's next click. Don’t try and fit everything on your homepage and ensure your designers develop templates for each content module to ensure consistency. Your homepage is prime real estate, and should be treated as such. 

Ensure your navigation hierarchy makes sense and hold back from over-cluttering your level 1 navigation, but do feel free to pull out seasonal campaigns especially if there is high search volume around the trend. Often too much choice from the outset can be off-putting. Put yourself in your customers shoes, can you find a product you wish to buy within three to four clicks?  You may decide to feature popular brands in your navigation, or a seasonal colour palette (this may align with SEO strategy), but again I would exercise restraint. Take into account the ability to refine your search through category filters, which is sometimes the more sensical option. 

All businesses should pay attention to the quality of their onsite search results for an optimum customer experience. Use analytics to discover what percentage of customers are searching onsite, what they are searching for, and the quality of results. Test your search. Type in a query you have found and determine if the results reflect search intention. Zero results or irrelevant results can be a huge source of frustration for customers. There are many machine learning apps that integrate with commerce platforms, so there is no excuse for a poor experience. Within these apps you also have the flexibility of boosting products to the top of search results, or even including promotional banners. Auto-complete, popular searches and personalised suggestions are powerful tools within search that will increase conversion rates.

Search Analytics Image

You’d be remiss to disregard search volumes and market trends when determining your merchandising strategy. If you are producing a campaign which features a seasonal trend (ie. let’s continue the stripes example) and there is consistently high search volume, then it may be worth creating and optimising a category landing page to boost your organic traffic. You will also want to drive traffic through homepage placements, banners, and by featuring in the navigation. This is also true for niche product groups to large national sales, such as Black Friday. Once the campaign period is over, you can still keep the category active or reactivate the following year. 

Product Recommendations

If a customer reaches a product page, and then decides it’s not quite right, or is not available in their size, a similar product recommendation carousel within the product page, may keep them in the buying loop. Another merchandising strategy utilised on product pages, is recommendations such as complete the look. Here you can pin recommended products that are featured in the associated lifestyle shot, such as  with a fashion shot, coordinating shoes, bags etc. Featured recommendations as an upselling tool is also powerful when featured further down the path to purchase - for example in the shopping cart - especially if there is a promotion on a closely associated product.

Whether they arrive via the homepage or a bespoke edit; digital or traditional marketing, the next relevant step in the path to purchase should be clear and relevant to a customer's buying intention, with a well considered content and merchandising strategy.  A great user experience is reflected in higher conversion rates and hopefully, an increase in traffic from Google.

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