How the Experts do Ecommerce Merchandising

In this webinar, you’ll learn how the experts merchandise industry-leading online stores, and how you can start implementing their best practices on your ecommerce site today.

Merchandising is key to differentiating your brand from the competition and delivering exceptional ecommerce experiences.

In this webinar, Ashley Hilton, Product Manager at Searchspring; and Mikal Lewis, The Product Coach, outline actionable tips on how to:

  • Translate your business value proposition into a story that creates customer pull
  • Leverage your site data and audience insights to drive conversions
  • Bundle and unbundle products to solve customer problems across multiple touchpoints
  • Analyze and iterate your approach to continually identify further opportunities for optimization



What you’ll learn in this webinar

You wouldn’t dream of opening a brick-and-mortar store without a merchandising strategy. Why should your ecommerce site be any different?

Effective merchandising can generate faster conversions, increased average order value, and happier customers who come back for more. In this webinar, you’ll learn how the experts merchandise industry-leading online stores, and how you can start implementing their best practices on your ecommerce site today.

Alright everyone good morning we’re gonna go ahead and get started today uh a very exciting topic how the experts do e-commerce merchandising uh really happy to be here with you guys today and appreciate everyone kind of taking time out of their busy day to join us


just a few kind of housekeeping roles everyone’s muted so if you do have any questions please utilize the zoom q a console to submit your questions during the webinar we will have a qa session at the end so please feel free to submit all of your questions and if we don’t get to all your questions we will answer them directly after the webinar and lastly the webinar is being recorded and will be sent out to all participants to share and kind of distribute through your teams my name is ashley hilton i’ve been with search spring for about five years i’ve worked extensively in the customer success and kind of consulting side of the business as well as the product development side and so i’ve had a really unique opportunity to kind of marry those two together and hopefully giving our customers you know the best experience possible and on the line we also have cal joining us hi i’m mikhail i’m the product coach i work with e-commerce businesses like yours to help deliver high growth returns after a career at microsoft and designing ecommerce experiences at nordstrom and leading the product team at retailmenot glad to be here thanks again i’m really lucky to have you on today


all right so the agenda for today um i’d like to start by saying that we realize there are a lot of shifts in the world right now uh but today we’re going to be talking about a topic that we recognize as relevant now just as much as it was before and will continue to be so let’s jump in together get inspired about how we can take merchandising to the next level the main topics we’re going to cover is what is e-commerce merchandising why does it matter merchandising for power growth search brings merchandising best practices and then key takeaways for your merchandising strategy and what is e-commerce merchandising to be honest this means something a little bit different for everyone and rightfully so your ecommerce strategy should be influenced by your business and your customers but broadly speaking it’s about optimizing the ordering of your product results creating targeted landing pages and campaigns and getting the right product in front of the right person at the right time sounds easy enough right


why does it matter by the end of 2020 customer experience will really overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator the online retail landscape is becoming increasingly competitive and creating a unique immersive online shopping experience is crucial for brands that are struggling to differentiate themselves from other competition merchandising plays a key part in creating and fostering this experience


what impact does it have along u.s among u.s customers a 65 of them find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising


69 percent of consumers say it’s important or very important to see new merchandise each time they visit a store or shopping site online retailers can afford to spend time manually analyzing shopper behavior and then updating their product results things change quickly in e-commerce and automating your product results and promotional rules allows you to deliver the shopping experiences that your customers expect in real time within the top five percent of best selling products on e-commerce sites majority of them 59 change monthly this reinforces the fact that customers expect to see new stock and fresh results all of the time and highlights the importance of automating as much of your merchandising as possible this is the easiest way to save time while also delivering the experience your shoppers expect


and now i’m going to pass this on to mikael um to discuss the merchandising for power hi thank you ashley so building on that we’re going to discuss or begin discussing some of the higher level themes about how you can utilize merchandising to really drive that high growth returns for your ecommerce business especially in a environment like we are in right now um so generally speaking i cover three e-commerce and tech topics uh we’re going to cover a bit of the trifecta of the three today the first is increasing returns this is the organic customer pull for your product that gets stronger over time and i’ll step through that a little bit more the second is power which is the sources that drive those increasing returns and thus the kind of topic that i’m talking about which is merchandising for power and then the third is those tactics of power generation how do you operationalize your organization to create that power so in the sense of increasing returns this occurs when your e-commerce experience has created a poll and a value ecosystem that naturally attracts more and more customers over time so an example of this is nordstrom it’s a 100 plus year old company but has really built a reputation over time as regarding customer service so customer service isn’t just a key initiative that sprung up this quarter or last quarter it’s something that they’ve invested time and time again and so they now have an ecosystem of customers and uh this strong brand value as it relates to customer service so when you want great customer service when you want style assistance nordstrom now has this core value that pull customer pulls customers in that they’ll have hassle-free returns and that great shopping experience similarly amazon has built this increasing returns around their inventory confidence when you’re shopping something you know there’s a really high probability that it’s going to be sold on amazon and that you’re going to get it uh in a reasonable period of time and so uh when you think about these experiences like sephora with their reputation around honest and real beauty uh reviews and perspectives and nike and their really great shoe exclusives their drops exclusive color waves these components really pull more and more customers in where it’s not a one day thing but it’s a consistent uh value prop that continues to deliver value over time and when you think about that in the context of merchandising the problem is when what you’re merchandising the products that you carry they’re often non-exclusive um they’re often a competitor is selling out there’s something simpler i’m sorry something similar or a complimentary product and the second piece is that successful features are often copied so you invest in you build out great experiences you find something that works and then a few months later you see that your competitors are doing something very simple similar so in reality the true differentiators for e-commerce are the products that you choose to offer the stories that you build around those products and then the services in support of storytelling and those product offers offerings and lastly the brand that’s created as a part of one through four one through three so those products that you choose to offer the stories that you build around them and then the services in support of those stories and product offerings and how that translates into a brand is the true differentiator that’s the true product that customers are hiring your ecommerce experience to solve


and so in short as an e-commerce retailer merchandising is the product it’s your unique product that you’re offering your customers


and we want to translate that into a power into that source that generates that increasing returns that unique pull and so there’s a few power generation tactics that we’ll discuss today um the first is rebundling and here i think the most clear example actually doesn’t come from retail but it comes for us old people who remember the days of itunes and how much of a disruption that was so with itunes they disrupted the concept of the album they unbundled the album and said instead of having to buy the full album you could actually just buy a single song great now spotify and the streaming services have come along and they’ve introduced this concept of rebundling so you have this one song that you used to be able to merchandise to a single fan of jazz enthusiasts or someone who’s a fan of christian scott and you can now rebundle this same song to multiple audiences you can bundle it to jazz fans to fans of hip-hop who like cover songs to kanye west fans to people who are working in an office or just relaxing so you’ve taken this one product and you’ve now been able to merchandise it to distinct audiences and uniquely in a voice that’s their own and that ties into the second power generation tactic which is to introduce an authentic editorial and merchandising voice so on the left is nordstrom looks it’s a product that i led during my time at nordstrom and it continues to be led by a really great engineering and product development team there at nordstrom but you can see here that these aren’t just outfit one outfit two it’s intentionally introducing and speaking with a merchandising voice to that customer about why these individual looks are relevant to them so things like date night um and kind of statements around why this uniquely is is interesting to you so date night in red a night out uh three-day weekend and the key thing about these editorial voices are that they transform a collection of products they transform stuff into a unique perspective it sells the same merchandise effectively for free um two different audiences in different contexts it adds trust signals um so it’s signals that you can trust by saying that this is curated by nordstrom or by this stylus or that by this influencer and i think that this is one of the areas as i look at e-commerce experiences that a lot of businesses really under utilize so that often the voice really stops at the banners and promotions um but some things to really think about is you know do you and your closest competitor do they sound the same are you talking about the products in the same voice so you’re probably under utilizing the power of that uh voice the this power generation tactic and secondly uh do you have a merchandising point of view are you speaking about trends is it a customer segment that you uniquely speak to value practicality or edginess you’ve really gotta find what your point of view is and make sure that that frames the whole shopping experience from home page to check out so as an example of this patagonia they sell their products they they merchandise them just like everywhere else but this voice around environmental and social impact really cares through the entire shopping experience you can trust it on every page i think everlane does a great job at this as well


and so some actionable steps to kind of take away here um and uh this will be carried through even further in ashley’s section um but the first is merchandise the products so you can take a product that you have and um look for opportunities to merchandise them multiple times to the same audience and to different audiences through bundling so an example of this kind of the same audience if you think about your netflix homepage or maybe even your spotify playlist the same songs or the same shows might be in different rows or multiple rows on your home screen or or recommended to you but the different contexts might actually encourage you to watch it uh in one context where you might have passed over it over another so maybe you weren’t into um comedies right now but maybe you were interested in movies starring mark wahlberg so you’re going to watch the other guys when it’s presented to you from that angle versus another so rebundling is a really um cost-effective tactic to kind of use that recommendation second have a perspective that’s uniquely yours your category pages are great opportunity for this um they’re not just for bots we love seo but make sure that you’re speaking with a voice for your customers as well uh look for ways instead of just saying hey um everyday clothes maybe it’s family time or lounging on the weekend and then third align the why behind the products that you carry is it value is it trend is it local i think a great example of this is trader joe’s they really highlight why they’re carrying this product or why they’re recommending this product as you go through the store as well as the apple store you know that the unifying piece is that they’re going to work great with your apple products for everything that you carry in that store and so with that




thank you so much mikael um those are all really great points thank you uh thank you so much uh moving next we’re going to cover search brings merchandising best practices


what makes your store stand out there are hundreds of thousands of online stores to choose from and what drives your customers to choose you is really important to know it’s kind of the first step in determining what your merchandising strategy is you know in the past it used to be as simple as offering the most products or the in-stock products or having the best price on products and it just that’s not true today shoppers want their experience to be intuitive they want something along the lines of a customized shopping experience from the comfort of their living room and here’s a perfect example of you know offering a product but offering what we would call kind of product recommendations to go along with that that really takes some of that uh guesswork out of the user’s hands um and i’d like to kind of touch on appointment call mentioned earlier is you know you might implement something like this on your website and your your customer or your competitor copies that um and while they might offer that same feature um if they don’t know really what makes them stand out as opposed to you or their competition they might get some success from features like this but they won’t really have the user story like you would


know your audience and know what’s important to them and this kind of touches on that first point but imagine two ecommerce stores selling the exact same products at the exact same prices i can tell you that their merchandising strategies are likely very very different and your strategy should align with the demographic and needs of your shoppers for example new customers might want to see more of your proven and best-selling products while returning users really want to see more of what’s hot and what’s new and think about reviews if reviews are an important part of the buying process consider boosting products that have good ratings with a high number of reviews as we talked about sephora you know think about how influential ratings are in retail verticals such as health and beauty or even power tools and if your shoppers are price sensitive don’t push the most expensive products to the top of the results and these are just kind of a few of the basics this doesn’t even cover you know a small portion but just a few of kind of the most common ones that we see across the board but making it easier on your customer will result in a higher conversion and less friction throughout the buying process and it will also help your key customers continue to come back and choose you


analyze and leverage your data i can’t stress this enough review your data and listen to it the proof is in the pudding or as i always say the proof is in the data look at how your shoppers are engaging with your store look at what they’re searching for what categories they frequent how they interact with your filters what sorting options are they selecting and if you’re unsure of exactly where to start with the merchandising strategy sorting reports can uncover some of those basics as to what’s important to your shopper you know if they’re changing these sort by options to newest or to best selling or to price that’s a really good indication that what they’re initially seeing on that page isn’t what they want to see so it’s great to give them the options to change it but an even better scenario is to get that right the first time so that the user doesn’t have to make clicks or change sorting options to get to the products that are important to them


also leveraging metrics such as exit rate and conversion rate click rate page depth all help paint the picture of how a search result or a category page is performing use these metrics to create benchmarks to help find opportunity opportunities and low-hanging fruit just because a product has high clicks doesn’t mean that it’s a high performer i see this oftentimes that people are wanting to promote products based on number of clicks well guess what if the inventory is low on that product or certain sizes are available or um you know that product is ultimately not what they want the clicks don’t really matter and wasting important real estate above the fold for overexposed products is a no-no understanding why a page or a product is performing well is honestly the key to understanding why a page or a product isn’t performing well so i always say kind of take the good that you’ve learned from what is doing well figure out what that is and then apply that to other areas or pages or products that aren’t performing well


lastly rinse and repeat while automated roles and enhanced merchandising tools really make this process easier it’s not a one-time thing or set it and forget it as we’ve seen in recent weeks things can really change in an instant and it’s important to constantly review the data and trends to make sure your merchandising strategy alongs with these changes and we want to use these learnings to improve the shopping experience and set the standard and continue to tell that user story that’s so important don’t make this harder than it has to be and equip yourself with the tools needed to make it easy leveraging things like rule-based merchandising and ensuring merchandising updates is key data components update is so so important this will allow for big sweeping changes in a strategy with just a few clicks


and with that we have a few key takeaways


the first one is to ensure your product offering and prices are know that those are no longer the key to differentiating your brand from the competition again one point in time years ago that really was kind of the staple of an online store it’s changed so much today two your editorial voice and message are key to creating a powerful customer poll and transforming a collection of products into a perspective again that’s that user story three your site data and reports are a gold mine when it comes to identifying merchandising opportunities i would say that as i’ve worked with all of our retailers over the past five years there is always something to be learned from the data every single day i look at it something changes and there’s a new opportunity or something to learn and take away from that and then number four your merchandising strategy should never be a set it and forget it endeavor but you can minimize the manual intervention involved involved with a rule-based approach


and that’s all we’ll go ahead and move on to questions here


the first question is will the video of this seminar be available after the call it absolutely will we’ll be recording this and then you can plan to distribute that through your team




another question what are the main merchandising rules i should implement if i don’t have a lot of time to spend analyzing the data um i i definitely say there are a few and again this depends on your business it just just depends on your demographic this depends on you know your data and the products that you carry but i’d say a few of the basics are first and foremost incorporating stock status so even if we’re highlighting new products or best selling if those are out of stock were wasting valuable real estate so i’d start kind of with stock status of course sales data plays a huge role as we mentioned earlier new products and newness that plays a huge role and then a few other things kind of just based on your particular retail vertical are things like reviews sometimes price seasonality can also be a big component as well um next question what software do you recommend for setting up rule-based automated merchandising that’s a great question um and it just so happens that search print offers a very great uh merchandising suite that we call it that allows to really take any key components within the data um to uh create rules and this as i mentioned can incorporate multiple roles like stock status newness sales data et cetera and to be honest um we’ve we’ve invested uh a huge amount into search springs merchandise and we’ve really kind of years ago recognized the importance of merchandising and kind of the evolution of what merchandising should be and um well you know search is in our name and search was kind of our initial core product we’ve really invested and put kind of a ton of our eggs into the basket of merchandising so search spring is a great tool there’s a ton of tools out there but i’d really kind of recommend taking a peek at those and if you’re interested you can always reach out to myself and i can put you in touch with someone that kind of can understand and analyze the business and see if it would be a great fit for you


all right next question any tips for how to merchandise when you have a very limited specialist product range i.e not a regular flow of new products to talk about um that’s a great question and i’d say there would be probably a few things to look at one as we call i mentioned kind of that bundling strategy so without knowing a lot of details about the actual products bundling those products and maybe look at possibly different ways that they could be used together would be a great start also incorporating other elements such as reviews again not knowing the products makes this a little bit hard to say but i’d say reviews would be a huge component and with reviews well the products might not be changing the feedback and maybe the uses of particular products might change as those reviews update i know as a shopper that through i am always kind of dead set in reviews i really don’t buy anything without reviews but i’ll always read those through those reviews and see how other consumers are leveraging those products and i’ve come up with some real really creative ways to do things but i would definitely start with kind of things like bundling and reviews and just adding different ways to leverage products and view products um if you have a really limited set where there’s not newness and there are a ton of indus retail verticals that where newness does not play a huge role um but sorry maybe i’ll go ahead yeah and and to build on that i think um there’s a shoe company that recently launched where adams or adams is the name of the shoe they have a very limited selection but i think that what they do is a really great job of speaking about it with a consistent voice about what uniquely makes their shoes uh valuable i think um all birds does a great job as this as well limited inventory so what they’ve done is actually introduce kind of seasonal trends colorways as a way of kind of having something fresh to talk about their staple or essential products so if you have kind of a tweak or an exclusive that you can do for your product lines always go with that if that’s beneficial another different take of the review concept that ashley was mentioning is the idea of a case study so your case study can always be fresh so you can have a different case study that you’re highlighting still reinforcing that same voice the same value over and over but it’s a fresh story about the same


here we product um next question uh does this differ for b2b business or do you have any rules of thumb in terms of merchandising for b2b i wouldn’t say um that this particularly changes totally from b to b or b to c again i would say it really changes based on your audience and your demographic and what’s important to them um with b2b you know you have other considerations like how many units are available right typically those types of things are ordered more in bulk so that is something to consider um when when selling b2b um but outside of that i’d they’re still really important metrics right if it’s b2b we care about them being in stock um also we care about like maybe kind of like quick ordering and allowing those users to reorder in really easy ways also just having a great search is important to them because if they are reordering those those products making that easy to find is really important those are going to be the users that are more motivated and targeted and know what they they’re looking for they just need to find it um but it’s also still important having those rules applied to to search as well the merchandising doesn’t really stop at at categories it it kind of carries on throughout the entire website um but kind of depending on more of the retail vertical is where i’d say um those rules might change so a few different things maybe um quantity available prices stuff like that unit price those would be a few things that i might incorporate that i might not say are as common in b2c um but there definitely is a lot of overlap between the two


next question are there best practices and how often an index page changes i.e the home page or top sellers what’s new and for promo banners here are sub-hero and best practice so you’re not relying on customers to click through sliders


i’m guessing we’re talking about sliding banners


i’m not i to be honest i don’t totally have a great answer to that question mikhail do you have anything to um i think that to your earlier points going back to the data um it’s about your user frequency so how often you want things to change it’s kind of going to look at what i would look at kind of your cohort of your highest engaged customers what’s their revisit frequency and whatever that is you’ll want them to have a fresh and new experience every time so it can be a little bit dangerous to look at the averages here what you really want to do is look at kind of your more higher engage experiences because your refresh is going to be focused on that as the customer and not kind of the mean and that’s same for promo banners if you’re looking at the click-throughs and looking at the engagements and you’re seeing that people aren’t getting to the third or the fourth or the fifth one then you should while it’s comforting to use you should pretty much use uh treat that as if customers aren’t seeing that and if those are really critical messages making sure that they’re carrying through elsewhere in the journey


perfect all great points thank you here’s a question um we just came in uh so what tips do you have for non-fashion brands when it comes to bundling and rebr bundling products this i actually think is a great opportunity for merchandisers to really shine um a good way to find out what the best approaches are for bundling and rebundling or what makes sense for your product is to look at your product from a couple different dimensions so one is the kind of pre-shopping moment so before a customer is shopping before your customer shopping what are the related concerns that they have at that time and is there a way to bundle those together as you’re carrying through the shopping journey so an example luggage so if someone’s shopping for luggage or thinking about a trip they’re thinking about the comfort on the plane so we had collections of products that really dealt around hey here’s your luggage and here’s everything else that you need for that flight or for that travel experience to be really great and then other is to think about the context of its actual use so when you’re when your product or your service is used what are the related sets of services or products that are going to be needed in order to be um successful uh so thinking about those kind of different dimensions or how different audiences might use this product um this is a really good time to kind of go back to the basics and do research interview your customers and thematically you’ll see some interesting things emerge and try and create bundles around those


perfect looks like those are all the questions we

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