Search, discovery and navigation are fundamental to modern merchandising, which is why they feature heavily in RetailX research in this Dimension.
While the art of merchandising continues to evolve in the digital age, the basics remain consistent. Retailers need to go beyond simply offering items to customers. These days, that means employing a combination of search-based techniques, enabling customers to leave reviews, and using opportunities for upselling, such as at the checkout. It means doing all of this on websites, apps and third-party platforms such as marketplaces and social networks. The retailers that do this best perform most strongly in the Merchandising Dimension.
This is now key to merchandising because so many purchases start with a product in mind. Whether they end in a store or with an online purchase is in many respects irrelevant because in most cases, it’s the search part of this process that’s key to securing the sale rather than what happens at the checkout.
Product type is the most basic filter that retailers offer in the search results on their websites and apps. It helps their customers quickly find the product or something similar to what first brought them to the website. Its importance is reflected in a high take-up among AU250 retailers, with 87% of them enabling filtering of search results by product type. Retailers in books (100%), home and industrial appliances (100%), sports footwear (97%) and sports clothing (96%) perform especially strongly.
Filter by price is less widely used, with 68% of the AU250 offering this facility to help their customers refine their searches. Retailers in the sports and leisure clothing, (84%), books (82%) and sports and leisure footwear (79%) sectors are the leaders here, while the automotive goods sector is a comparative laggard (32%).
Filter by brand is less common still, offered by 59% of the AU250. However, it’s worth noting this figures is skewed by brands (28%) rarely employing this technique, presumably because they don’t sell other brands, so competitive pricing is irrelevant. In contrast, 92% of appliances retailers enable brand filtering of searches.
Turning to the use of an autocomplete/suggestions feature in the search box, this is offered by 78% of AU250 retailers, with the children’s toys and accessories sector (94%) leading the way here. While this may be especially helpful to young customers looking for toys, it is a significant usability improvement for any shopper.
Within the AU250, 62% of retailers enable customers to leave reviews. Stationary and craft retailers (100%) lead the way here, which may in part reflect the way crafters like to share hints and tips. Conversely, brands (48%) don’t employ this technique, perhaps because of worries that negative reviews will impact too heavily on the label.
The current thinking around best practice at checkout is to reduce friction. It’s perhaps surprising then that only 52% of AU250 retailers offer a guest checkout facility, with the figure as low as 27% in the appliances sector.
We were also surprised at how few retailers try to upsell customers at the checkout – a technique employed by only 35% of AU250 retailers and one which can be done with an inoffensive side panel. The best retailers add to the customer experience with relevant offers or basket fillers. However, some sectors – stationary and craft (68%), books (55%), sports and outdoor equipment (52%) – do employ this technique more widely.
Turning to mobile user experience, (59%) of the AU250 have infinite scrolling on their mobile websites.
Cotton On stood out for its product imagery and site navigation on mobile. Supercheap Auto does search particularly well, providing relevant results and ensuring that a search with no results doesn’t return a blank page. Its product images are zoomable on mobile. Millers, Dan Murphy’s and EB Games also outperformed competitors in this Dimension.