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What is online merchandising?

An introduction for ecommerce retailers.

Jessica Farelly
By Jessica Farrelly

If you’re new to the world of ecommerce, you might be asking yourself, “what is online merchandising, and why do I keep hearing so much about it?”. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

This quick guide will give you an induction into what online merchandising is and why it matters. Think of it as your crash course on the definition of online merchandising, its implications for your business, and winning strategies you can begin implementing immediately.

What is online merchandising?

Our online merchandising definition is simple: it’s all about getting the right product in front of the right shopper at the right time.

Why does it matter?

Ecommerce platforms have made it easier than ever for people to start online retail businesses. It’s excellent news for entrepreneurship, and ecommerce has proliferated thanks in part to this increased accessibility. 

This also means that shoppers have more options than they’ve ever had before, which is a blessing and a curse for them (decision fatigue is all too real).

For online retailers, increased competition means you have to work that bit harder to stand out. Ecommerce stores that put little thought into their site navigation, product arrangement, and search features will flounder. Conversely, retailers that create a solid online merchandising strategy can create a better shopping experience, convert more customers, grow their revenue, and prosper when the competition folds. 

Tried and true online merchandising strategies

Itching to see what online merchandising actually looks like in action? Here are some tactics from our playbook that you can adopt on your website.

1. Optimize product arrangement

Our first online merchandising tip? Arrange the products on your category and search results pages deliberately. Instead of using your ecommerce platform’s default arrangement, optimize how products are shown to shoppers based on your sales goals. 

Fabletics has this technique down pat. Every time the athletic apparel company releases a new monthly collection, it features the line prominently on its homepage. Later in the month, Fabletics switches up its homepage arrangement to show a mix of new products, bestsellers, and sale items. 

what is online merchandising for fabletics

Here you can see Fabletics’ latest collection, a line by celebrity couple Kevin and Eniko Hart, strategically displayed on the company’s homepage.

2. Customize results based on location

Another way to stand out from the competition is to configure your ecommerce store to show shoppers certain products, categories, and landing pages based on their location. Geo-merchandising presents a treasure trove of customization opportunities that makes shoppers feel like you’re reading their minds. 

An online garden shop could use this tactic to display plants that will thrive in a customer’s growing zone, while a sports merchandise store could leverage geo-merchandising to feature apparel from a customer’s local team. 

Webinar: Personalizing the Shopper Experience

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3. Highlight and hide products 

Boost and demote products to show the right items at the right time. Highlight bestsellers, highly-rated items, and highly-profitable products – like your house brand – by pinning them to the top of category and search results pages. Hide products that don’t sell as well, have lower profit margins, or are out of stock to keep them from detracting from other items.

Need inspiration? Inmod can show you how it’s done. In the example below, the furniture and home decor company has placed its house brand, Inmod Signature Collection, and sale items at the top of search results and category pages.

online merchandising definition

4. Highlight promotions

Did you know that discounts can actually lead shoppers to spend more? A study found that one in four people who used a coupon to purchase soup ended up spending 30% more than those who didn’t use a coupon. Call attention to discounted items on your website to boost sales. 

Hartville Hardware implements this technique masterfully by promoting a sale on outdoor lighting in three ways: by curating a landing page, displaying a banner that reinforces the promotion, and highlighting sale prices in red and comparing them to the regular prices.

highlight promotions

5. Create an omnichannel merchandising experience

Since you now have an answer to the question, “what is online merchandising”, why not take it one step further with a more advanced approach: omnichannel merchandising. Omnichannel merchandising means creating a consistent shopping experience across every customer touchpoint, whether on your site, in a brick-and-mortar store, or across your social media and third party marketplaces. 

One way to do this is by unifying marketing and merchandising efforts. Build landing pages that align with marketing campaigns and feature collections or trends displayed in marketing content like emails or social media posts.

Australia-based online costume retailer CostumeBox creates landing pages specific to holidays like Star Wars Day and Cinco de Mayo, which they also promote through their marketing efforts. 

ominchannel merchandising for costumebox

CostumeBox elevates its online merchandising efforts even further by optimizing the display order of categories to match customer demographics. The shop displays women’s costumes first, followed by costumes for men, kids, and then pets.

online merchandising definition

What is online merchandising? Getting the right products in front of the right customers at the right time

Congratulations, you’ve successfully completed your intro to online merchandising! Now that you understand the definition of online merchandising, why it’s important, and how you can take advantage of it, it’s time to apply what you learned to your business. 

Searchspring provides the online merchandising tools your website needs to stand out from the competition and show the right products to the right customers at the right time. Request a demo for your store, or check out our more in-depth guide to how the experts do ecommerce merchandising.