The Ultimate Ecommerce Merchandising Guide: Mastering the Basics

Kait Spong
Kait Spong
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Merchandising is all about opportunities — it always has been. It’s all about placing the right products in a way that influences your customers’ purchasing behavior, increases their satisfaction, and boosts your bottom line. 

In recent years, it’s become just as important to implement an effective merchandising strategy on your ecommerce site as it is in any of your brick-and-mortar stores. To attract customers, drive sales, and foster customer loyalty, your brand must continually innovate your online shopping experience — and ecommerce merchandising is a very important piece of this approach. 

However, ecommerce merchandising is constantly evolving. Your customers will no longer forgive a bunch of hastily uploaded products to your ecommerce store. If you want to keep up with your most innovative, dynamic competitors, then you’ll need to brush up on your ecommerce merchandising knowledge to create a strategy centered around the best practices and the right tools.

 

Key Takeaways
See how you can take advantage of AI-powered ecommerce merchandising solutions that streamline the product discovery experience.
  1. Ecommerce merchandising refers to strategically displaying products on a website (using techniques like cross-selling and upselling) to increase sales and customer satisfaction. through techniques like cross-selling and upselling. It’s now as important online as in stores.
  2. Merchandisers are increasingly turning to AI-powered ecommerce technology to automate 80% of their product discovery tasks associated with product discovery, so they can focus on the remaining 20% of tasks that require human expertise.
  3. An effective merchandising strategy involves understanding your brand’s goals and target audiences, optimizing and testing, and selecting the right technology, (such as Bloomreach Discovery, which helps brands, like SmartPak and Sur La Table, increase RPV and AOV).

What Is Ecommerce Merchandising?

Ecommerce merchandising refers to the strategic display and promotion of products or services on an online store or marketplace. Much like traditional merchandising in your brick-and-mortar store, ecommerce merchandising focuses on cross-selling and upselling techniques to maximize sales and enhance the overall shopping experience for customers.

Your ecommerce merchandisers are responsible for carefully selecting, organizing, and presenting your products or services in a way that attracts both prospective and returning customers and motivates them to make a purchase. This can be anything from optimizing product listings and crafting engaging product descriptions to utilizing customer reviews and ratings on category or product pages. 

Personalization is also an important component of online merchandising. By combining these two strategies, online retailers enhance their digital experience through tailored recommendations and visually appealing product displays. This makes it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for (and more) while increasing your revenue and return on investment (ROI). Not only that, but ecommerce merchandising will also boost customer satisfaction and improve brand perception, allowing your business to scale through data-driven decisions.

Query For Make Up Surfaces Recommended Products

Ecommerce Merchandising Best Practices

Ecommerce merchandising best practices set you up to provide your customers with a shopping journey that’s engaging, user-friendly, and personalized. Here are a few to keep in mind as you work toward a better ecommerce experience.

Use AI To Automate 80% of Your Workflow

Today’s merchandisers are expected to be a Swiss Army knife of sorts  — even when they’re working for larger companies. That’s why merchandisers are turning to AI automation to alleviate their workload, address their biggest roadblocks, and ensure their success during peak season. By adhering to the 80/20 principle, merchandisers can efficiently utilize search and merchandising technology for 80% of their tasks while dedicating the remaining 20% to activities that demand human expertise.

Merging insightful analytics with the invaluable human perspective enables merchandisers to conserve time, budget, and workforce resources. This approach not only leads to remarkable outcomes but also prepares the company for potential economic downturns. In essence, merchandisers can concentrate on tasks that require their unique attention and automate the rest with AI like natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to create a balanced and effective strategy.

Leverage Helpful Content Where and When You Can

Leveraging helpful content in your ecommerce merchandising strategy ultimately helps your customer’s decision-making process. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of customers feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices available to them (perhaps you’ve even been there yourself), so providing relevant, informative, and engaging content on your ecommerce website is essential. This empowers your prospects (and returning customers) to make a confident purchase decision.

Personalized Recipe and Video Content From Client Albertsons Website

The types of content you offer can take various forms, of course. Think of detailed product descriptions, how-to guides, or blog posts that address common questions and concerns. When customers feel supported and educated by the content provided, they’re more likely to return to your website for future purchases, recommend your brand to others, and engage with your company through social media and other channels. This trust in your brand and its credibility will go a long way when it comes to your business’ bottom line.

Create Curated Collections To Promote Cross-Selling and Upselling 

Curated collections play a vital role in promoting cross-selling and upselling opportunities in online merchandising by simplifying the shopping experience for customers. If you thoughtfully group related or complementary products together, your brand can effectively showcase a variety of items that cater to specific themes, like promotions, seasons, or customer preferences. In the same vein as traditional merchandising, this targeted approach uses product recommendations to encourage your customers to explore additional offerings and discover new products they might not have otherwise considered. 

With advanced AI algorithms and ML, your business can create tailored collections based on customer browsing history, past purchases, or demographic information to provide a more relevant and customized shopping experience. Not only can AI anticipate their wants and demands, but it can also make real-time adjustments, ensuring both relevancy and appeal within the current moment. As a result, brands and retailers can deliver more effective, personalized, and dynamic curated collections on their ecommerce stores that drive customer engagement and increase revenue.

Don’t Overlook Smart Site Search Functionality 

Smart site search functionality is crucial to any ecommerce merchandising strategy as it significantly improves the overall shopping experience and will encourage customers to buy with your brand. For those who come to your ecommerce site with a specific product in mind, an intelligent, AI-powered search bar allows them to quickly and easily locate their desired items. By delivering accurate, relevant, and personalized search results, retailers can streamline the shopping process, reduce frustration, and increase the likelihood of customers making a purchase.

Site Search for Sweatshirts

Like curated collections, site search can also help shoppers discover other products they might not have initially considered, fostering the idea of exploration and additional purchases. These shopping experiences are made possible through data-fueled insights into customer behavior and preferences, which ecommerce software like Bloomreach can provide through our customer data engine (CDE).

Customer data ingestion happens on your website and/or mobile app, point of sale (POS), in-store interactions, loyalty program, CRM, and more to create a single marketing view of your customer to personalize and optimize the search experience. This is crucial if ecommerce retailers hope to cultivate customer loyalty, encourage repeat purchases, and drive short- and long-term business growth.

Diagram of Bloomreach's Customer Data Engine

How To Build an Ecommerce Merchandising Strategy

Building a successful ecommerce merchandising strategy involves a combination of understanding your goals and target audience, optimizing product presentation, developing effective marketing campaigns and/or promotional strategies, A/B testing different scenarios, and leveraging merchandiser-focused technology powered by AI. 

Every step of this process should be infused with data to help your ecommerce merchandisers make informed decisions about everything from inventory to product placement. This will also set a framework to set goals, track performance, and optimize your approach over time. So, let’s break it down.

Define Your Goals

Start by outlining clear objectives for your ecommerce merchandising strategy. Some goals you might want to consider are: increasing sales, boosting average order value (AOV), or reducing cart abandonment rates. Defining your goals will help shape your strategic plan and better measure your success.

Understand Your Target Audience 

Conduct thorough research to gain insights into your customers’ demographics, preferences, needs, and purchasing behaviors. By understanding your online shoppers and their behavior, you can more easily tailor your ecommerce merchandising efforts to appeal to your target audience, increase revenue, and promote company growth.

Happy Customer Shopping on Their Tablet

Organize and Optimize Your Product Catalog

Ensure your product catalog is well-organized with clear categories and subcategories, complete product details and descriptions, and easily navigable filters. A well-structured product catalog simplifies the shopping experience and reduces the likelihood of customers becoming frustrated with product discovery, leading to more profit for your company.

Develop Marketing Campaigns or Promotional Strategies 

Once you set your goals, pinpoint your audience, and organize your product data, it’s time to start thinking about your marketing campaigns and promotional strategies. Use data to identify patterns in your customer’s behavior. Then, take advantage of this intel to offer discounts and limited-time offers, reward loyal customers, and create other marketing materials.

Monitor, Test, and Adjust When Necessary 

Like any experienced ecommerce professional, you’ll want to test the effectiveness of your site search and merchandising, or searchandising, strategy. Again, behavioral data from your customers can identify key areas for improvement and help you make the necessary adjustments to your approach. By regularly testing different product placements, merchandising tactics, and user interfaces in your ecommerce store, you can determine what resonates best with your audience and stay ahead of your competition.

Find the Right Technology Solution

Selecting the right technology for your ecommerce merchandising strategy is the most important step you can take in this process. The best ecommerce merchandising software on the market will streamline operations, increase efficiency for your time-strapped teams, and help maintain a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. It does all this by optimizing product presentation, allowing for personalization, and enhancing the overall digital experience.

How To Find the Right Ecommerce Merchandising Software 

The ideal ecommerce merchandising solution should offer a comprehensive suite of tools that cater to various aspects of merchandisers’ workflows, such as visual merchandising, product releases and promotions, and inventory management. When evaluating different options, consider factors such as ease of integration, scalability, and the ability to adapt to ever-changing market trends. 

Prioritize solutions that provide data-driven insights and mature AI — like Bloomreach’s Loomi — that enables you to make informed decisions, automate processes, and refine your strategies over time. By investing in a robust ecommerce merchandising solution tailored to your business needs, you can enhance customer experience, boost conversions, and ultimately achieve success in the extremely competitive digital landscape.

How Bloomreach’s Loomi Can Help Merchandisers

Bloomreach’s AI solution, Loomi, brings an unparalleled level of capabilities to the table, transforming search and merchandising into a smooth, intuitive experience that sets it apart from its competitors. One of the standout aspects of Bloomreach’s ecommerce AI is its “day zero learnings.” Thanks to Bloomreach’s vast dataset — accumulated over 14 years — Loomi’s advanced search engine can adapt to changing customer behaviors on ecommerce sites right from the get-go. This immediate impact means there’s no waiting for a pixel to learn your business or relying on your merchandising team to test rules. It ensures optimal efficiency and effectiveness for ecommerce businesses the second you get started with Bloomreach.

Bloomreach's Loomi Diagram

Loomi also boasts a comprehensive multilayered personalization strategy that goes beyond what most vendors offer. It provides query-level 1:1 personalization, allowing each search query to be individually tailored to match the user’s specific needs or preferences with zero-party data. Recognizing that this alone isn’t enough, Bloomreach also offers segment-based personalization to give businesses the option to import their own segments or create new ones using Bloomreach Engagement. Next, there’s recommendation-based personalization that tailors suggestions to segments of shoppers. This multipronged approach to personalization ensures every customer’s needs are met.

Last but not least, Loomi is a unified platform that integrates all your digital merchandising (and marketing) needs into one easy-to-use interface. It’s like having a command center at your fingertips, streamlining processes to boost productivity. You’re no longer juggling multiple software systems or wrestling with incompatible formats. Instead, you’re free to focus on what really matters — growing your business and connecting with your audience. 

SmartPak Trusts Loomi’s Merchandising Suggestions for a Big Revenue Lift

SmartPak, a company focused on equine vitamins, supplements, and equipment, found itself in a state of rapid expansion as it broadened its product range and target market to include barn owners. This growth brought along a unique challenge — maintaining the personalized and genuine feel of customer interaction that was the company’s hallmark. As the customer base diversified, the brand had to cater to varying needs without compromising on the quality of its ecommerce experiences. The small merchandising team, though well-versed in equine expertise, was venturing into uncharted territory. The goal: uphold SmartPak’s customer-first mindset at scale, no matter how extensive its audience, product line, or business ventures become.

The challenge faced by SmartPak presented an opportunity for innovation, however. The company was keen on leveraging its industry knowledge and tight-knit team dynamic to develop a scalable merchandising strategy with the help of ecommerce technology. The ecommerce department was confident in its ability to maintain SmartPak’s high standards by persistently building meaningful relationships with customers through intuitive digital experiences, but it first had to find the right tech partner.

SmartPak Case Study

Enter Bloomreach. SmartPak saw immediate value in Loomi, entrusting it with the task of handling all search and merchandising obstacles, from synonyms to misspellings. Over time, Loomi continued to grow smarter, learning from SmartPak’s real-time customer and product data and becoming more agile with specific equine search terms and phrases. Bloomreach’s merchandising tools also gave SmartPak the flexibility to manually tweak product grids where necessary and ensured a seamless blend of human intuition and artificial intelligence.

The results have been impressive. With Bloomreach, SmartPak has seen a 5.2% increase in search conversion rates and a 2.3% lift in category revenue per visitor (RPV) over eight months, impacting approximately $1.9 million of the company’s revenue — a significant 15% increase. Furthermore, Bloomreach Discovery has streamlined the shopping experience for both new and returning customers, making it easier for them to find exactly what they’re looking for. With Bloomreach’s help, SmartPak is setting a new industry standard for delivering top-notch personalized shopping experiences at scale, enabling its merchandising team to unlock limitless potential.

Sur La Table Addresses Its Search Bar Issues for a Better Customer Experience

Sur La Table, a renowned culinary retailer, faced the challenge of upgrading its product discovery solution. The brand desired a system that integrated seamlessly with Salesforce Commerce Cloud without being overwhelmed with point solutions. Noticing that customers often struggled to find exactly what they were looking for, Sur La Table identified an opportunity to enhance its online shopping experience with a more advanced site search bar. Furthermore, the brand aimed to provide relevant product recommendations, moving beyond the disconnected and expensive out-of-the-box recommendations from its previous solution. 

Sur La Table Case Study Results

The solution came in the form of Bloomreach Discovery. With Loomi, Sur La Table began to address these issues by improving search for customers who shopped with clear intent. Thanks to Bloomreach’s vast dataset built over the last decade, the search engine could adapt to customer behavior with an immediate positive impact on search relevance and revenue. Moreover, the switch to Bloomreach allowed the team to improve merchandising processes, freeing them from unnecessary manual work. Sur La Table leveraged Loomi for seasonal promotions, sale-related searches, implementing global facets, and tracking specific product collections — all contributing to a more meaningful merchandising strategy

Bloomreach Discovery took Sur La Table’s ecommerce experience a step further by incorporating recommendations and pathways. This helped build more tailored experiences for both purposeful shoppers and casual browsers. Sur La Table could now offer recommendations to increase basket sizes and provide a streamlined browsing experience. The introduction of Bloomreach Discovery empowered Sur La Table to enhance its ecommerce website, streamline operations, and ultimately drive an increase in AOV, RPV, and return on investment.

In fact, the artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities of Loomi led to a significant boost in both search AOV (up by 7.6%) and the add-to-cart rate (up by 6.6%). Following the implementation of recommendations and pathways, the brand saw 1.4 million visits to its “Similar Items” widget and another 1.6 million visits to its “You May Also Like” widget. This traffic resulted in substantial revenue for the brand, solidifying Bloomreach as an indispensable tool in Sur La Table’s ecommerce strategy.

For Better Ecommerce Merchandising, Choose Bloomreach

If you’re tired of being limited by your current ecommerce merchandising tools, don’t miss out on the chance to revolutionize your business with the right solution. By investing in Bloomreach Discovery’s AI-forward, merchandiser-friendly capabilities, you’ll see nothing but serious momentum in your approach to ecommerce product discovery. 

Looking to learn more about Bloomreach’s AI for ecommerce? Check out our use case page that showcases the many ways you can use Loomi to create magical and measurable experiences. 

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Kait Spong

Senior Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach

Kait is a Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach and is passionate about delving into the technology solutions that improve a business’ end goals. Once earning their BA and MA in English, the seasoned writer delved into the world of content marketing, branding, search engine optimization, and social media marketing and has helped numerous companies across all industries with their content and thought leadership strategies. Read more from Kait here.

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