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Increase your e-commerce conversion rate through correct online merchandising

There are many factors in increasing your conversion rate, but one factor that doesn’t get enough attention is merchandising.

What does online merchandising mean?

So what does merchandising actually mean?:
“the planning and promotion of sales by presenting a product to the right market at the proper time, by carrying out organized, skillful advertising, using attractive displays”.

I took my first job as an online merchandiser in 2012 where my job was to make products in the online store discoverable and inspirational for our customers. From the beginning I followed my “merchandising instinct” and built up an understanding of the products and the shopping behaviour of our online customers. I managed a promotional calendar with concrete promotions for different seasons. During each promotion period I adjusted the highlighted products, optimized the pictures and content to increase the campaign performance. All results were reported to the campaign manager and the head of online marketing on a weekly basis.  

Finding a balance between branding and conversion rate

I worked with merchandising in different retail chains when I lived in UK. This job consisted of choosing products that should be placed on our shelves, but also updating promotions in our big window to give our customer the right feeling when they entered the store. We had some restrictions in order to make all stores across the country look the same, but we were allowed to adjust products on shelves as some of them were sold out and others were not selling at all. This is about finding the balance between branding and conversion rate based on shopping behaviour of our local customers.

It can be difficult to find a balance between conversion rate and branding. Branding is much more focused on creativity and to make things look different. This do not always have to increase the conversion rate because customers might not find what they are looking for as we might be changing their shopping routines online.

To get a balance between the branding and conversion rate, decide which placements or pages that should be focused on brand/inspiration, and which should be focused on conversion rate/sale. In this case you also find a compromise between the campaign management team and the business analyst team.
However, do not forget to follow up the performance of all campaigns and of all content, not depending if it is branding or conversion rate focused.

Five examples of poor online merchandising:

·  Old campaigns

·  Campaigns with sold out products or few products left

·  Always the same campaigns on the front page

·  Top navigation displaying Christmas in january

·  Displaying one campaign three times on the same page

How often should you update your campaign content?

This varies from case to case. It is however important to follow up the performance of each placement/campaign and study the conversion rate and traffic. When you see that the conversion rate has dropped, you should think about either optimizing the campaign or exchange it with a new one. If you choose to optimize it, you can for example add more products to the campaign, change the products, change image, move the campaign to a different page or placement on site, or push it on social media to increase the traffic and see if that helps. It can for example be taken down after one week, three days or after few weeks depending on the performance.

It is important not to set a day for when the long term campaigns are ending or starting, because if you set a day which customers can see, you can not change it otherwise you would mislead the customer. It is different with for example sales campaigns or Black Friday.

How to keep a stable conversion rate?

To study the conversion rate is a fulltime job as it takes time to study the whole online shop and all marketing channels affecting it. Select at least one person who will have this responsibility and that will do some deep diving in order to see your customers shopping behaviour online and how the content is affecting it. In the beginning, it can be difficult to understand for example when a campaign should be optimised,  but when you have one person focusing on this on a daily base, he will become an expert in the field for your company and will be able to predict which campaigns you should be running and when to get the most sale out of it.

In conclusion

Do not forget to work with online merchandising in your store. It might be a right time to build up a new department focusing only on conversion rate and study how your online content affects the shopping behaviour of your customer. It is a long-term investment and with small regulations, you can achieve higher sales numbers.

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