Merchandising is all about encouraging the sale of products. In the real world, it can include visual displays, product assortment and availability, and promotional activity – anything that will encourage shoppers to buy. Online the same rules apply, to which we can also add such factors as ease of checkout, product reviews, effective search and social media.
1. Highlight bestsellers
Only 7% of IREU Top500 sites use bestseller ribbons (flash strips across the corner of product photographs declaring the item to be a top seller), and the practice is most widespread among Austrian, German and Lithuanian websites. Even here, however, many prefer to highlight top sellers either in pulldown menus, as with German furnishings specialist XXXL.
(xxxlshop.de), or signal the most popular (Beliebteste) when ordering search options as with Austrian cosmetics company, MeinDM. Another Austrian site, Weitbild, offering books, music and household goods, runs a stream of bestsellers on its website that changes each day.
Many of the IREU Top100 retailers, similarly put bestsellers on home pages: American Golf singles out bestselling golf balls and bags, while Polish site Empik has a home page column giving the top 10 “bestsellery” for each of the product categories that it sells. Click through and you reach listings of the top 100 sellers.
In an age when shoppers are often more concerned with keeping up to date with their peer group’s purchases than choosing something different for themselves, highlighting bestsellers is clearly an easy way to engage customers. Providing a top 100 seems a little excessive – especially if it involves searching through 10 pages of 10 items each. At peak times of the year, as in the run-up to Christmas, providing a daily list of “Unsere aktuellen Bestseller” (current bestsellers) may help sales.
2. Filter search
Allowing shoppers to filter search by brand, product type, size, price or other relevant parameters can help make the process quick, easy and accurate as possible. Around two-thirds of the IREU Top500 offer some sort of filtering, most usually by product type. Clothing and sportswear retailers tend to be the most specific. Dutch retailer Aktiesports.nl offers filter choices by brand, style detail (fit, neck finish, leg length, etc, depending on garment), material, colour and price; French fashion retailer Camaïeu, like many other clothing sites, offers a broad-brush selection of lines in pulldown menus, with further filtration by size, colour, price and style sub-category; while German clothing site, Zalando , adds filters by occasion, pattern, discounts available, newness of product (“last month”, “last week”, “this week”) and season. Its approach may be a trifle excessive: selecting “business” for underwear, for example, produces some formidable navy blue items.
Consumer electronics companies also provide plenty of options. Search by brand on the Meletronics site, part of Switzerland’s Migros co-operative group, and users are given a choice of product categories for that label as well as direct links to the most popular lines currently being sold. Italy’s Media World – like Media Markt a subsidiary of the German Metro group – adds “availability” (“now”, “in three days”, “in six days”, “not available”) as well as the ability to specify particular relevant technical characteristics – such as memory size.
Striking the right balance between too many filtration factors and too few can be tricky. That’s especially true when clicking more than two or three options results in an extremely limited selection of products.
3. Consider a wishlist
Wishlists are popular with some customers – especially in the run-up to Christmas, and particularly if they can be accessed by those likely to take note and purchase a relevant gift. Making it obvious that saving items to a wishlist is possible also helps. Sites such as La Redoute , Littlewoods and Decathlon all feature the ubiquitous heart with “wishlist” label among the top right-hand icons on their web pages.
Most wishlists require an account ID to log in and access, but French fashion site Morgan de toi allows access to the wishlist from Facebook, which suggests that “friends” may be enabled to access an individual’s “wants” when hunting for suitable presents.
4. Product reviews and ratings
More than half the UK retailers in the IREU Top500 study use product reviews, although they are far less common in parts of southern Europe. Amazon is, perhaps, the greatest exponent of reviews with items generating hundreds or even thousands of them. A quick scan through a few items on the site reveals that one particular type of tablet computer has more than 21,000 reviews – one wonders how many are likely ever to be read (or how many are generated by the company offering the device…). Significantly, it is quite difficult to find products with persistently bad reviews, which may suggest (a) that disliked products are rapidly delisted, (b) bad reviews are edited from the site or (c) most consumers only want to say good things about their purchases.
Product ratings are also popular, with around 40% of IREU Top500 retailers providing them. Some just give an average star rating based on a variable numbers of reviews but most, including Amazon and Bol.com, provide a breakdown so that it is possible to see the precise number of stars awarded by reviewers. At Amazon , star rating is also a search parameter.
Many shoppers admit to being guided by reviews and product ratings when it comes to selecting items, but retaining a reasonable number of balanced opinions rather than presenting a customer with several thousand eulogies may be best.
Click here to read the rest of the 12 approaches to merchandising. Click here to explore the full IREU Top500 Performance Dimension Report on Merchandising.