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Merchandising: Creating the right image

The websites of leading brands encourage shoppers to linger with extensive search and imagery options.

For bricks-and-mortar retailers, merchandising is all about presenting the right assortment of goods in such a way that they will attract and tempt potential customers. It’s about image, appeal, and promotion; about encouraging shoppers to linger in the store and explore what is on offer – encouraged, no doubt, by helpful and persuasive sales staff.

Online it’s much the same and when it comes to projecting the desired image and appeal then leading brands know just what their customers want to see. Land on Elite brands Nike or Adidas, for example and there are images, not just of the latest merchandise, but of assorted sports, keep fit and healthy lifestyle messages.

And once on the site, it’s all about stickiness. RetailX’s researchers, with additional data from Hitwise and SimilarWeb, found that shoppers spent, on average, 290 seconds on a Top250 brand website and looked at 8.3 pages. For Top100 sites, the average visit was 21 seconds longer and the total number of pages viewed increased to 9.4.

Privacy concerns to the fore?

While brands are successful at encouraging visitors to linger on their sites, they seem
less concerned about identifying precisely who these shoppers are. Comparing those brands that were also included in last year’s Top250, there has been a 10 percentage point (pp) fall in the numbers requiring shoppers to register before checkout – from 72% to 62%, while the average for the whole of the Top250 was down to 59%. Thus, two out of five brands are happy for visitors to checkout as guests without leaving any personal trail for future reference.

By their very nature, leading brands attract loyal customers and presumably want to improve their customer relationships and targeted marketing – hence the need for shoppers to register before checkout. Obviously, it is impossible to calculate what proportion of shoppers prefer to remain largely anonymous, but the decline in this requirement may suggest that brands have changed approach in response to carts abandoned by shoppers unwilling to register, which may in turn reflect growing consumer concerns over data privacy.

Ensuring that search is quick, easy and accurate is important for any site and most of the Top250 brands allow shoppers to filter their searches by product type (78%), while rather fewer allow filtering by price (57%). Filtering search results by price is, however, significantly more common among Top100 brands where more than three-quarters (76%) provide this facility. The option is also most likely to be offered by sports and leisure footwear (78%) and sports and outdoor equipment (67%) brands, while consumer electronic brands are the least likely with
only 14% offering a search by price filter.

Navigating to sub-brands

Searching by brand is clearly only relevant where the company operates a number of sub-brands and comparing this year’s results with those for brands included in the Top250 last year shows a 7pp increase in this type of search – up from 21% to 28%, which may imply an increasing tendency for leading brands to introduce alternative labels.

Those brands localised – that is, both delivering to and with a website in the appropriate language for the region – in Denmark and Ireland are most likely to allow search by brand (46% and 40% respectively) while those with the lowest incidence of search by brand are localised in Spain (18%) and Italy (19%).

Almost three quarters (71%) of the Top250 will also recommend similar products when shoppers search for or order an item, while rather more than half (53%) enable product ratings and a similar proportion make their promotions highly visible.

Bestseller ribbons – never hugely popular – are falling even further from favour with a 6pp year on year decline from 15% to 9% among brands measured in both periods. This method of promotion is most popular in Poland where it is used by 17% of localised brands compared with fewer than 5% in Switzerland.

Among Top100 brands the average using bestseller ribbons is marginally above the Top250 figure at one in 10. While 92% of Top100 brands include banner adverts on their websites, the figure falls to 50% among this cohort when looking at mobile websites.

There were some significant improvements for mobile websites, however, with a 13pp year-on-year increase in making product imagery on these sites zoomable among the brands that were included in both the 2018 and 2019 Top250 lists: up from 49% to 62%. As with “search by price”, this feature is most likely to be found among sports and leisure footwear brands (79%), as well as those selling leisure clothing (75%) or jewellery (72%), while it is least likely among consumer electronics (47%), cosmetics (58%), and homeware (59%) brands.

Around half (51%) of Top100 brands send push notifications to mobiles while just a quarter (25%) include bar code scanning functionality. Given that many brands have a very limited footprint in the real world and thus are unlikely to interact with customers while they are in stores or shopping centres, low figures for these metrics are hardly surprising.

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