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Why digital merchandising is the most important product on your ecommerce store

Jessica Farelly
By Jessica Farrelly

If you’re an online retailer, your digital merchandising is your product. Shoppers are no longer drawn to your ecommerce store based on the items you sell, or how much you sell them for. The fact is, your competitors likely have very similar products and prices, and there isn’t much you can do about it. 

What you can control, however, is the shopping experience. This is where you can differentiate. This is why your merchandising warrants the same strategic planning as your product lines and pricing models.  

We invited Mikal Lewis, The Product Coach and Founder of Nordstrom Looks to join Searchspring’s Product Manager, Ashley Hilton for a webinar on ‘How the Experts do Ecommerce Merchandising’ to explore how retailers can stand out in this increasingly competitive online landscape. Download the full recording, or read on for a summary of their top insights and tips. 

Merchandising for power

As Mikal outlined in the webinar, “when your ecommerce experience creates a pull and value ecosystem, it naturally attracts more customers over time.” One example of a brand that does this well is Nordstrom, where Mikal founded the ‘Looks’ approach to merchandising. Nordstrom has a well-established reputation and a core value of excellent customer service that shoppers gravitate towards. Amazon, Sephora, and Nike are other brands Mikal highlighted as having very distinct value propositions that they deliver on consistently. 

The problem that most brands face is: how do you generate this pull when your merchandise is often non-exclusive and your successful features are often copied? In reality, the only way to differentiate your brand is to build a story around the products that you offer and the services you provide. 

One of the tactics for building this story through your merchandising is to bundle and re-bundle products. By combining this approach with an authentic editorial voice, you can merchandise the same products for different contexts, and transform a collection of products into a perspective. Do you and your closest competitor sound the same? If so, you’re under-utilizing the power of voice. 

Nordstrom digital merchandising

Patagonia is just one great example of a brand that carries its environmental and social mission and voice throughout every page of its site. Whatever your unique story is, it should frame the shopping experience from homepage to checkout.

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Digital merchandising best practices  

Ashley further emphasized the need to look beyond your product and price when it comes to differentiation. Understanding who your customers are and why they choose you is the first step in determining your merchandising strategy. Are they price-sensitive? If so, you should avoid boosting your most expensive products to the top of results, for example.

Next, analyze your data and reporting. Look at how your shoppers are interacting with your store: what are they searching for, how do they filter results, and which sorting options do they use? These reports can provide valuable insights into your customers and what they expect to see on your site. Your exit rates, conversion rates, and page depth reports can also help paint a picture of how a search result or category page is performing. Use these metrics to create benchmarks and identify opportunities for improvement.

digital merchandising and filters

Lastly, equip yourself with the tools to leverage rule-based merchandising. This will minimize the manual intervention involved in optimizing your site, and allow you to implement sweeping changes in just a few clicks. As new digital merchandising trends and market shifts arise, you’ll also be in a position to respond quickly. Just don’t fall into the trap of taking a ‘set it and forget it approach’ – each small change to your merchandising strategy can generate a wealth of new insights and data on your shoppers.

Want to learn more?

Ecommerce merchandising means something different to everyone, and rightfully so. Your individual strategy and tactics should be influenced by your products and your customers. Broadly speaking though, it’s about getting the right product, in front of the right person, at the right time.

The trick is to organically entice your customers with an exceptional shopping experience while making the most efficient use of your time. Download the webinar to learn more of Ashley and Mikal’s tips on how the experts do ecommerce merchandising, or request a demo to learn how your store could benefit from Searchspring’s solutions.

How the experts do digital merchandising