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Sharing relevant product information

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Enabling shoppers to find and research the goods they want makes them more likely to make a purchase

IN THE MERCHANDISING Performance Dimension, InternetRetailing researchers set out to find how retailers across the European Economic Area (EEA) presented products to shoppers. Researchers rated use of imagery, product information, ratings and reviews alongside search relevance and navigation, checkout speed and the use of social media, both to assess the leaders in the Top500 and to find out which merchandising approaches were most common in different markets.

What the Top500 do

Leaders in this field enable shoppers to find items quickly and accurately. Those at the cutting edge offer auto-suggest search, navigational filters, product images and detailed information. Social sharing is common and checkout often just one click. Across the Top500, 62% offer dropdown search suggestions, while 95% have at least one navigational filter. The ‘filter by product type’ option was offered by 69% of retailer websites, making it the most popular filter. Top500 retailers show an average of three product images, and checkout in an average of four (3.7) pages, with social sharing offered by 51% of retailers on the product page. It’s notable that some features seem more popular in certain countries. Dropdown search suggestions, for example, are most widely used in Austria, Hungary, Germany and Belgium.

The most easy-to-navigate sites were those localised to the UK, followed by Spain and Germany, while product information was most comprehensive on websites in Denmark, followed by Ireland, Sweden and Finland. Retailers selling in Latvia, Finland, Slovakia, Austria and Denmark led the way for relevant search results. Filtering search by brand is common in Hungary, Ireland and Austria, with more than 50% of retailers offering it. When a search yielded no results, 37% of UK retailers measured in the IREU Top500 made alternative product suggestions, with the remainder returning a blank page. In Norway, 43% of traders had an alternative to the ‘no results’ page, with the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland and Sweden all above 40%.

Retailers selling in Finland were most likely to use banner advertising. Some 70% of the 27 retailers selling in this market did so, while a relatively modest 46% of the 265 retailers with a UK website took this approach. The use of a ‘bestseller’ ribbon was most widespread in Austria, where 44 retailers sell, and Germany, where a little more than 100 sell. Product reviews are most common in the UK, where 53% of retailers show them, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Hungary (48%). Less than 30% of traders in Portugal and Greece show reviews.

Social media sharing is most widely offered by retailers in Ireland (67%), Italy (60%) and Spain (57%). At the other end of the scale, around 40% of retailers selling in Norway, Switzerland and the Czech Republic offer the function. Wishlists are most widely offered in Greece (64%), Austria (56%) and Germany (55%). Some 47% of UK retailers offer the function, as do, at the bottom end, around a third of retailers in Finland, Denmark and Norway.

Leading the field

British retailer Sally, which operates local currency websites both in the UK and in the Republic of Ireland, led the way with a product search that suggested products even as shoppers typed, while a ‘no results’ search triggered alternative recommendations. Navigational filters enabled customers to drill down by price, brand and product type, while website users were able to share products through social media, including Twitter and Google Plus. Ratings and reviews were clearly visible from the product page. Bol.com, which trades in Belgium and the Netherlands, was highly rated for a top-quality product search that enabled customers to filter by price and product. An extra navigational filter in the electronics range meant customers could also search by model, while reviews encouraged user interaction.

German pureplay Baby-Markt has 12 EEA websites but sees most of its traffic from the German and Austrian markets. It scored consistently across all metrics, including its use of promotions, detailed product information and for the use of cross-selling and upselling recommendations.

German fashion retailer Zalando  had a consistent approach to merchandising across all of its 15 EEA-localised websites, and on its iOS and Android apps. All let shoppers find items quickly through relevant searches as well as brand, price and bestseller filters. There was an average of six product images, with ratings clearly visible. Its apps let shoppers log in using TouchID and also to share style images.

German-based health and beauty retailer MeinDM trades through stores in nine EEA countries, with ecommerce websites in Germany and Austria. Searches produce highly-relevant results, while five navigational filters make it easy to zero in on a particular item. Home page products show promotions, including extra loyalty points, alongside product ratings. Facebook and Twitter Likes provide social validation.”

Other standout retailers include Amazon , which trades via five EEA websites, offers dropdown search suggestions as the customer types, brand and customer rating filters, an average of four product images and fingerprint login to its mobile app. Littlewoods allows customers to rate a product, write a review and share a product on social media. Shoppers can see how many other people are looking at an item – and how many have already bought it. Swiss retailer M-Electronics Migros, which sells online in three languages, offers a particularly easy three-step checkout, while shoppers can compare products based on their price, specification and size.

The UK-based Body Shop sells to 10 EEA countries through six online stores and stands out for an advanced iOS and Android app, while furniture specialist XXXL, which has stores in Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic, gives a high level of product information and enables shoppers to reserve products in local stores. American Golf sells online in the UK and Republic of Ireland, and through 106 stores. Navigational filters include daily offers, while a sophisticated use of social media means shoppers can share products with their friends as well as use their Facebook sign-ins to enable one-click checkout.
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