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What customers want – and what retailers give them – The Merchandising Report 2015

InternetRetailing researcher Polina Modenova considers what the research says customers want from online merchandising – and how IRUK Top500 retailers are serving them

Does the way that retailers present their goods meet customer expectations? Here are some of the key points we found when we took a look at secondary research into shopper preferences and compared it to our own findings of what the largest 150 traders actually do.

How websites look

Website users prefer to get their product information from images rather than written information, according to Nielsen Norman Group (NN Group) Ecommerce User Experience research. It found that users like to look at larger product images in order to gather extra information about the products they are considering buying. This chimed with IRUK Top500 findings that the visual appeal of the largest 150 retailers’ websites increased by 38% in 2015, compared to 2014. Our research found this group of retailers showed an average of 3.8 images on the product page.

At the same time, Top500 research found, while retailers may be using images to strong effect, they are tending to cut down or hide the product information that they provide. The NN Group study suggests customers want to see a product description as well as any extra information as soon as the product page loads, so that they can read it quickly and effortlessly. We think retailers’ attempts to optimise the product page by minimising the product description may be counter productive since it may discourage customers from visiting the site in the future.

What other customers say

What other customers thought about an item really matters to online shoppers as they decide whether to buy. iPerceptions research found that customers are 63% more likely to buy if they buy from a site that has customer reviews. Figures from customer review specialist Reevoo suggest that product reviews add around 18% sales uplift. Top500 research, carried out this year, finds that 68% of the largest 150 retailers enable customers to leave reviews on their website. This suggests that retailers are trying to engage customers and promote their future conversion rate.

Bazaarvoice went further by calculated the effect of customer reviews on conversion for its client It tested same-product conversion in session comparisons and found the same product was 35% more likely to sell than when it had product reviews than when it did not. It appears reviews are crucial and that retailers should encourage shoppers to leave as many as possible.

Social interaction

Does social sharing have any real impact on sales or conversions? The research suggests that it does, especially when selling to millennial shoppers, the generation born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.

The ShareThis Millennials study, carried out by tracking the online behaviour of more than 58m American members of this age group, found a generation of active sharers who are 3.6 times more likely to share content on social networks – and 2.3 times more likely to click on content shared by a friend. The study found they were twice as likely to buy a product that they had shared on social media. They also found that when shoppers were able to share their purchases after they’d bought them, they felt happier with their purchase. We say that not only does enabling social sharing from a retail website promote customer satisfaction but it also taps into additional market exposure for those products.

The Top500 2015 research found that 68% of the largest 150 retailers offer social sharing, making them well-placed to offer this important group of customers the services they want.


Wishlists can work as a merchandising tool by converting visitors into customers. It seems likely that enabling browsers to save their potential purchases on a wishlist has an effect in reducing shopping cart abandonment, and that it could also lead to customer retention.

Top500 research found that in 2015 nearly 34% of retailers provided a wishlist for their customer. That’s 13 percentage points up from last year.

Where the wishlist is located is likely to make a difference: adding one to a mobile app should help to generate customer excitement. It also makes sense that offering a wishlist will help to personalise a website and make it more relevant to the customer.

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