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Four highly practical approaches to merchandising

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Explaining to the customer just how products are relevant to them and will meet their needs helps them to buy with confidence. That’s key to merchandising in a digital world. Chloe Rigby has four practical approaches that Top500 retailers are taking in this area.

1. Give them the tools to find out more

Customers can find out more about a retailer’s products using a barcode scanner in their mobile app. The uses can be varied: John Lewis shoppers can scan a product they’ve previously bought and add it to their basket, Tesco shoppers can find out if the item meets their dietary requirements, while House of Fraser shoppers can scan in-store beacons and QR symbols in catalogues and find out more about products from clothing to homewares. In all, 25% of IRUK Top500 retailers with an iOS app have this feature. 

2. Let browsers know what buyers thought 

Sharing reviews, and star ratings, gives customers another way to understand whether the product is right for them. They can see what other customers thought about its different features – and give useful feedback on what didn’t work that can help retailers to rethink their products for the future. On its website, DIY retailer Wickes gives a useful summary of ratings, showing how many reviews an item has and how the star ratings were distributed.

RetailX research suggests that most leading UK retailers see the need too. In 2018, 62% of IRUK Top500 retailers enabled shoppers to leave their product ratings and 61% product reviews on their desktop ecommerce websites. There’s room to differentiate by offering reviews and ratings on mobile apps: just 15% Top500 retailers offered this, while 26% had written product reviews.

But it’s important that reviews show the full picture: the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has acted against at least one online retailer that did not share their unfavourable reviews. Nisha Arora, CMA senior director, says: “Shoppers worldwide are increasingly relying on online reviews and endorsements before they make a decision to buy a product or service. People need to know they can trust the information they find online, and make informed choices as a result.”

3. Make relevant recommendations

Sending reminders that are relevant to the consumer can play a large part in making a sale. When relevant reminders arrive at the right time and place, they’re still more relevant. More than half of IRUK Top50 retailers (52%) with a mobile app use push messaging, ensuring that messages about summer sales or local store events arrive at their destination fast. Post-GDPR, retailers must ensure that customers actively consent to receiving their messages: those that do sign up are likely to be more actively engaged.

4. Make checkout easier

Many retailers have gone to work over the last year to simplify their checkout, removing friction that could prove a barrier to buying. RetailX research found that in 2018, fewer Top500 retailers than last year now require customers to register before they buy. The figure has fallen to 36% in 2018 from 44% in 2018. In 2018 retailers asked shoppers to complete a median of two pages in order to complete their checkout. But leaders such as Amazon enable fast payment in one or two clicks. 

This is a sneak peak of the IRUK Top500 Merchandising report, due to be published in September 2018, when it will be available on IRUK Top500 research page. Click here for more. 

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