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12 approaches to merchandising from leading multichannel retailers

Retailers are bringing increasingly sophisticated tools to bear in the task of explaining and showing products to potential buyers. Alongside the latest digital and store-based technology, the basics of clear information and top-quality imagery remain a constant. Chloe Rigby outlines 12 approaches that IRUK and IREU Top500 retailers, leaders in related industries and smaller, innovative players are using in merchandising.

1. Show how products might look in place…

Smart retailers put the product in context. By enabling shoppers to visualise the final effect, it’s likely not only that initial sales will be higher, but also that returns will be lower.

Topps Tiles , for example, has a web-based tile visualiser that enables browsers to lay virtual tiles in a variety of room settings to get a good idea of the final effect. Topps’ shop assistants can also use the visualiser on an in-store iPad to demonstrate different tile options to customers. It’s important to operate across channels, says the company, because both its website and its stores are heavily used by shoppers who are deciding what to buy. More than 70% of its customers, said Topps in its latest full-year results, use its website to research their purchases – while they also visit the store on “numerous” occasions.

“We believe the pureplay online market for tiles remains very small and our ability to combine our website offering with the skilled advice and convenience available through a physical store presence gives us a significant competitive advantage over any pureplay online retailer of tiles,” the retailer said.

2. …and what fashion might look like on

The changing room has long been key to fashion retailers’ success. Understanding whether clothes fit and look good when worn is at the heart of making a buying decision. No doubt that’s why the fashion industry has taken a clear lead in using technology to explain what items seen only via a screen will look like on.

Hawes & Curtis has deployed the ‘virtual’ fitting room, which uses buyers’ measurements to show what an item will look like on, while Hobbs uses Virtusize to enable customers to measure the item they’re considering buying against one they already own. More recently, Shop Direct websites, including and, have introduced Tangiblee technology that enables browsers to size up potential accessories from purses to handbags and luggage.

Tests in the Shop Direct user experience lab saw a 10% uplift in revenue among visitors who saw the sizing comparison feature from their mobile device, compared to those who did not. Shop Direct group ecommerce director Jonathan Wall has said the technology gives “our customer confidence in the actual size of items before she buys”.

3. Think smart when using images

Clear images show consumers what to expect of the products they’re buying. That can, in turn, reduce returns. In addition, images can inspire shoppers: by using strong photographs in marketing emails and enabling sharing on social media platforms such as Pinterest and Facebook, retailers can merchandise products against a pre-selected background. This enables retailers to reach beyond a home website.

Designer kitchenware brand Joseph Joseph says that images are important to its communications. “As a design-led business, our customers value the aesthetics of our household products as much as their function,” says Sophie Turnbull, digital marketing manager at Joseph Joseph, which uses Bronto Software for its email campaigns. “To effectively communicate how our latest product innovation solves an everyday problem and to keep customers coming back, sleek and attractive imagery in our emails is crucial. Nothing showcases our product’s design and benefit, and allows our customers to picture how the item will look in their homes, like a well-shot photograph. We know that consumers only spend a couple of seconds scanning an email to find out if the content is relevant to them, and the amount of information we can share through an image is much greater than just using text.” Click-to-open rates come in as high as 15%.

This report is from the latest IRUK Top500 report, on Merchandising. To read the rest of the 12 things, click here. To read the rest of the report, click here.

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