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Why you need cross merchandising on your ecommerce store

Jessica Farelly
By Jessica Farrelly

Picture this: it’s a beautiful summer’s day, you walk into the grocery store, and you are greeted with a new section focused on barbecue season. Grill-friendly meats, hamburger and hot dog buns, condiments, and more – it’s all right there for you, everything you need for a barbecue in one perfect cross merchandising display.

During a different time of year, if you wanted to get all the same items, you’d have to go to different sections of the grocery store, but here it’s all put together for you. Not only is it convenient, it also might just inspire you to change your dinner plans and start purchasing.

But cross merchandising isn’t just for grocery stores and other brick-and-mortar retailers. It should form an important part of your ecommerce strategy, too.

So, why is cross merchandising important in ecommerce?

The basic principle of cross merchandising is to group complementary products together to help the customer easily access all the products they’ll need, and inspire them to purchase items they may not have thought about before.

Cross merchandising in retail stores is important, but one might argue that it’s even more critical in online stores because items aren’t always easily found. If you’re on the page for women’s tops, you might not think to visit the accessories category, even if you’re also in the market for a new pair of earrings. You may not even be aware that the store in question offers accessories.

Strategically placing complementary items on product pages using personalized recommendations can eliminate this problem, allowing you to promote new lines of products or items that customers typically don’t realize you have in stock.

Cross merchandising can also be helpful in showing customers products that they might have otherwise forgotten, or never considered in the first place. In the grocery store example, maybe you were inspired to cook a hamburger dinner but would have forgotten that you ran out of ketchup last week if it weren’t for the display reminding you to pick some up.

The secondary benefits of cross merchandising include customer loyalty. By taking all the guesswork (and “oh-sh&t-I-forgot-the-ketchup” moments) out of the shopping experience, customers end up feeling supported. And who doesn’t like to know their favorite stores have their proverbial backs?

How the experts do online merchandising

how the experts do ecommerce merchandising

How to use cross merchandising in ecommerce

There are many different combinations and permutations of cross merchandising that you can consider. 

Complementary items: similar to the BBQ example at the grocery store, think about what items your customer will need to “complete the set.” Is it jewelry to accessorize that outfit? Is it surround sound speakers to go with the new high-def TV? 

Events, holidays, special occasions: this can be any and all items that pertain to a particular theme, whether it’s Valentine’s Day (candy, flowers, teddy bears, wine, cards, romantic movies), or Halloween (candy, costumes, decorations, music, makeup). 

Substitute products: we’ve all been there, looking for that one particular item only to discover it’s sold out. Don’t let your customers give up, give them alternate options. Maybe that means the same or similar products in a different color, or from a different brand.

Impulse buys: big box stores do this well, putting lower-priced items near the checkout registers to entice you into buying them. Items like chocolate and gum, gift cards, magazines, etc. When it comes to ecommerce impulse buys, think about lower-priced items that are popular and could be an easy add-to-cart for the customer. 

Top sellers, frequently bought together: this merchandising strategy helps customers see what others have purchased with the items they’re shopping for. Similar to complementary items, these recommendations specifically show what past shoppers also put in their cart. Again, this promotes products that go together well but with the added benefit of social proof (aka, “other people did this and so should you”). 

 Underperforming products: this is a great opportunity to promote items that might not be selling well that you want to push. You can add them as part of any of the strategies above or as a special offer. 

Tips for ecommerce cross merchandising

A few things to keep in mind when preparing to cross merchandise your online store. 

  1. It’s all about the photos. The best photos will always win out. Make sure to include lifestyle photos with your items so that customers can see the benefits of using different products together. 
  2. Consider creating product bundles to promote other items. If someone is looking at a face wash, consider offering them a bundle of face wash, clay face mask, and nighttime moisturizing lotion from the same brand. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to cross-promote other items on your product pages. An intelligent product recommendations engine will take the manual work out of cross and upselling. 

Merchandising for success

The name of the game in ecommerce is always driving online revenue, and cross merchandising is just one of the tools in your belt for making it happen. Giving customers what they want (or what they don’t even know they want yet), and making their online shopping experience as easy as possible is a guaranteed path to ecommerce success. Check out more merchandising best practices in this guide