Merchandising - can it be used in an online store?

Service Business

Merchandising is a term familiar to almost everyone who is even slightly interested in marketing strategies. It is very often associated with the arrangement of goods on shelves and their arrangement in the store space. So, is it possible to introduce merchandising techniques in an online store, where there are no shelves, and the space is a website? And is merchandising really just a way of presenting goods?

Merchandising or visual merchandising?

The Merriam-Webster American Dictionary lists two meanings of the word merchandising. One of them concerns the attractive presentation of goods, the other - an activity that uses recognizable objects or characters in order to increase sales. An example of merchandising in the second sense may be the placement of characters known from television series or comics on the packaging of goods and advertising campaigns. In this text, however, we will focus on merchandising in the first sense - also known as visual merchandising.

We will also take into account the unusual use of merchandising - not in a traditional or stationary store, but in an online store. The methods used will be slightly different, but the goals will remain largely the same. Merchandising specialists say that the most general purpose of merchandising activities can be included in the AIDA scheme.

A - Attention - the client pays attention to the offer,

I - Interest - the client becomes interested in the offer,

D - Desire - the customer begins to desire the goods,

A - Action - The customer purchases the goods.

Detailed Merchandising Goals

First, let's look at the goals of classic visual merchandising. They depend primarily on the marketing strategy chosen by a specific company. The detailed objectives include improving the company's image, increasing sales, avoiding empty shelves, interest in a product through display, attracting customers to a stationary store or extending the customer's stay in the store.

There are several steps to successful merchandising. The first is the interest of customers in the offer outside the store space, the second is the impact on the customer's feelings through functionality and ease of movement around the store, the third is the presentation of goods placed on shelves and in the so-called promotional zones.

Techniques and principles in traditional merchandising

The techniques used by merchandisers can often be read in various media in articles titled This is how hypermarkets manipulate us !. The most important thing in the distribution of goods is grouping them into logical categories and selecting the goods in terms of the target group. Below we present some of the methods of placing goods used in stores.

  • The right hand rule - the customer, when entering a shopping aisle, first looks at the goods on his right side. The middle of the aisle is the most attractive place to sell - goods placed at the beginning of the aisle do not attract enough attention yet, and placed at the end - they are no longer in the orbit of interest.

  • The rule of the left eye - the most attractive products are placed more on the left side of the shelf, and less attractive products - on the right.

  • The boomerang principle - the aisles must not be too long - otherwise the customer does not go through them completely, but only reaches a certain point and goes back.

  • Blocking - similar products are placed in homogeneous blocks on the shelves.

  • Line of sight alignment - adjust the product placement on the shelf to the line of sight of the target group. Sweets for children should be placed at the level of the child's eyes, and preparations for the elderly - rather not on the top shelves.

  • Complementarity of goods - placing related goods, such as beer and salty snacks, next to each other.

Merchandising in the online store

How to transfer the rules of a stationary store to an online store? It is relatively easy, but you should remember about the specificity of both situations and the fact that not everything can be perfectly matched to each other. Although it is difficult to talk about classic merchandising in an online store, some general principles that we will introduce in a few points apply.

  1. Take care of the positive image of your online store - it is obvious, but it is worth remembering. Emphasize how your store differs from the competition, what is unique it has to offer. Also try to have positive associations of visitors with your store - surprise with the original look of the site, simplify navigation and make it as intuitive as possible, present a clear offer and place positive opinions of users about your store on the home page.

  2. Pay attention to the way the goods are presented. First, take a look at the graphic elements of the website - is it legible and are the colors selected correctly? Is the font sufficiently visible and does not tire the readers' eyesight? If you have already answered these questions, go to the product presentation. Each of them consists of a photo and description. First of all, the photo must be clear and in high resolution - preferably when there are several photos and show, for example, the product in its entirety, details, product in use, etc. present the product in your own words, emphasizing the benefits that it will bring to the customer.

  3. Allow customers to express their opinions. Make sure that there is space for customer reviews and comments on the store's website. They will be useful both to other visitors and to you. Thanks to them, you will be able to constantly optimize your offer.

  4. Show visitors to your website recently purchased products and products related to those searched for by the user (so-called cross merchandising). If an Internet user is looking at a laptop in your store, show him, for example, on the side panel selected mice, laptop bags or liquid crystal screen maintenance products.

  5. Encourage the customer to visit different sections of your store - they may also be interested in another product. However, the client must relatively easily move between specific subpages. Navigation problems can effectively discourage him from browsing your site.

  6. Take care of a rich and varied offer. The mechanism known from classic merchandising works here - there is no customer who is encouraged by the sight of empty shelves. Try not to surprise visitors to your online store, which has literally a handful of goods. Of course, you should also take into account whether the store is specialized or has a wide range. In the first case, it is sometimes difficult to get too much goods, but it is worth ensuring that the customer has a certain choice.

  7. Organize promotions and sales. Customers like to buy some goods at a discounted price. They are aware of taking advantage of a good opportunity, and thanks to this, you can attract customers to less salable goods.

Does the same scheme always work?

Some general guidelines and guidelines apply to almost every store imaginable - be it brick-and-mortar for traditional merchandising or online for e-merchandising. However, it should not be assumed that the model that worked well in store A will also be effective in store B. You have to take into account the specificity of space, location, size or assortment. The merchandising plan should relate to a specific store and be prepared with it in mind.