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Four ways IRUK Top500 retailers do 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. Here are four practical approaches that leading retailers are taking in this area. 

1. Give advice that customers can rely on  

Advice from a style assistant can help make the sale. When advice on what suits and doesn’t suit a customer and their shape helps them to look better, they’ll more likely to buy with confidence and come back to buy again. Retailers including John Lewis and Debenhams are offering the service in store, building them into the customer’s experience. Online retailer MatchesFashion has a team of private shoppers that build one-to-one relationships with their customers. Now Amazon is adding artificial intelligence to the mix, harnessing the power of machine learning to offer style advice on the outfit you have on, using its new Echo Look, now available to customers in the US. The device has a camera that can take an image or video and then upload it to its Style Check system. At launch, Linda Ranz, director of Echo product management at Amazon, said: “Alexa helps you nail your look every time – with Echo Look she can give advice on which of two outfits looks best, offer personalised recommendations on items that pair well with clothes you already own, create your personal lookbook, keep your closet organised, and much more.” 

2. Make the most of user-generated content 

Many customers are more than happy to let others know how purchases worked out for them. They post reviews, images and videos the the purchases that worked from them on retail websites as well as social media sites. has a community of satisfied buyers happy to share their images of how a piece of furniture looks in their home on Made Unboxed, while Dune London has brought content shared by customers on social media onto its own website enabling customers to shop the look. Dune added customer and blogger content from Instagram to its product detail pages, using technology from Curalate, and found that sales rose by 82% after shoppers interacted with the content. An email campaign featuring Dune’s Your Style gallery received 55% more click throughs than previous emails that didn’t feature UGC. The gallery also drove a six-fold increase in revenue.

“Our customers respond very well to UGC – being able to see others wearing our products gives them the extra confidence to purchase,” said Mark Blenkinsop, digital marketing manager at Dune London. “This is the latest step in a wider strategy to leverage these images as well as our own beautiful lifestyle content across the web and make the products contained within photos and videos fully shoppable. Rather than asking customers to search for what they’ve seen, we’re taking them directly to it.”

3. Take the interruptions out of browsing…

Shoppers who are ‘just looking’ for an item from their mobile phone or tablet computer may move on faster when they need to click to view the next page. A quarter (25.1%) of IRUK Top500 retailers use infinite scrolling on their mobile websites, preventing interruptions to the browsing experience. This feature seems to work particularly well for fashion retailers, selling to customers who may be likely to be in a browse mode rather than aiming to finish a job quickly. RetailX research shows that it’s used by New Look, Next, Oasis and Simply Be, while in home-related categories, Wickes and Dunelm also use this feature. 

4. …and make it easier for shoppers to get straight to the item they want 

Navigational filters, whether on desktop or mobile, make it easier for shoppers to find the item they’re looking for and to browse items within a specific category. They’re particularly important for retailers with large ranges, whose customers like to search from mobile devices with small screens. Amazon stands out for its range of filters that customers can use to pinpoint the right item from a range of million. 

RetailX 2018 research analysed the use of different navigational filters and found that ‘by product’ was the most common, used by 91% of Top500 retailers – up by 32 percentage points from 59% a year earlier. That’s followed by price (81%) and by brand (46%). 

Three quarters of Top500 retailers also offer drop-down suggestions that pop up as a shopper types in the search box, another way to get directly to the exact item that’s required, while 27% of IRUK Top500 retailers that have a mobile app offer predictive search, and 57% of Top500 retailers have websites that when viewed from a mobile device offer autocomplete dropdown suggestions for search.

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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