Humans are visual beings. In fact, 83% of information is obtained from our sense of sight. With this information in mind, any retailer should make merchandising a high priority for their business. A good merchandising strategy will boost conversion rates and help you succeed.
While equally important in both settings, merchandising is different when comparing online and brick-and-mortar stores. Perhaps the biggest difference lies within the access to the products. When someone is shopping online, they can’t touch or fully experience the physical products before they purchase them, which can leave the customer unsure of their purchase decision. You also do not have a fancy end-of-aisle display to grab the shopper’s attention, or a salesperson to assist them with any questions they might have. The customer can only experience so much through a screen, but you can make up for it with product descriptions and clear pictures.
You’d think this would put online retailers at a disadvantage, and in a way you are correct. If 100 people visit a website, only three will make a purchase. However, good merchandising tactics can change this statistic. Take online retailer footsmart.com for example. After updating search results to include top items sold, the company saw an 82% improvement in their conversion rates. Simple changes like this can make a world of difference in the eyes of a customer.
Be Crystal Clear
First thing’s first, be sure to explain what your business does and what makes it interesting on your website. Not doing this can leave a new shopper confused, making them abandon your store before they even begin shopping. Provide contact info, people like knowing they can contact your business if there is a problem. Take it a step further and offer live chat, so people will have immediate satisfaction while shopping. This mimics the convenience provided by brick and mortar stores.
Bring the In-Store Experience Online
Make up for the inability to physically experience the product by providing multiple clear images at different angles to show the customer what the item looks like. Include videos of the product being worn or used. In-depth product descriptions can also help the customer decide if it’s the right product for them, getting rid of any uncertainty. Sometimes reading about the product just isn’t enough for the shopper, so include user reviews that reflect the pros and cons of the product. These reviews can act as a salesperson to answer any final questions the customer might have.
In-store shopping has its upsides, but you have features that make online shopping more convenient, such as the ability to save a full cart or to customize products. Shoppers will appreciate having the ability to “save” their cart if they leave the website for any reason, and customization options for certain products make the customer experience more fun and enjoyable.
Improve Your Website Layout
There are countless other ways to improve the customer experience. Optimize your search engine by providing filters and auto-suggestions to make the customer’s search process easier. Add a separate section solely for your sales and specials section. Shoppers looking for a bargain can go straight to it instead of spending time looking for the lowest price. Once customers have begun to place items in their cart, advertising its contents on the side of the page can help the shopper keep track of what they’re buying.
Avoid Abandoned Carts
If you want your conversion rates to improve, you have to prevent cart abandonment. One way to do this is to lower your prices. If you can’t or don’t want to lower your prices because of your brand positioning, justify them with excellent customer service or free shipping. Speaking of shipping, it can make or break a sale. 2BigFeet implemented free shipping and saw a 50% increase in conversion rates. Speeding up your site can also steer consumers clear from frustration and cart abandonment, as can a reduction in data requests and required registration.
Make the Checkout Process Easy
At the end of the road, make sure you provide your customer with an easy checkout process. Only include easy forms for them to fill out, and be sure to offer checking out as a “guest”. People don’t always want to register with you, and that’s fine. Sometimes they’re in a hurry, so be sure to show progress indicators, and clearly state return and shipping policies. Use clear, big buttons for easy navigation throughout the process, and use the opportunity to upsell. If you choose to upsell, use products that are at least 60% less expensive that can complement the item being purchased (a phone case, if they’re buying a phone).
Optimizing your merchandising practices will boost your conversion rate, and fuel convenience for your shoppers. A simple layout and clear instructions can turn a simple transaction into a relationship, and in an industry that is heavily saturated, customer lifetime value is critical.
What other tactics can online retailers implement to improve their merchandising and boost conversion rates?
Contributing Writer: Brian Smyth