In retail, we’re probably all aware of the importance of visual merchandising. The difference between beautifully displayed products in a well-designed space – and haphazardly thrown-together items in lousy lighting – speaks for itself. But it’s important to remember that the same dynamics are at work online and equally relevant.
WHAT IS VISUAL MERCHANDISING?
Visual merchandising in general, and sometimes Category Merchandising specifically, refers to how products are presented and displayed for sale. When done well, visual merchandising will help spark shoppers’ interest and help trigger them to make a purchase.
Great visual merchandising means different things in different contexts. Whether it’s the pleasant scent as you walk into an Anthropologie store or the tempting window displays of the former GODIVA Chocolates, these presentations are strategically made to drive sales and conversions. The store’s layout, the way the merchandise is displayed, the color schemes, and even the music playing in the background – none of it is there by accident. These elements are all carefully crafted to enhance the shopping experience and help increase sales.
So, how does this all translate to the ecommerce world? And why is it so often deprioritized or overlooked? These are essential questions for ecommerce, and it’s a mistake to think that visual merchandising isn’t as relevant in digital commerce as it is in the physical world.
In this post, we will take a closer look at the benefits of strategic visual and category merchandising in ecommerce. We’ll also list a few important things to keep in mind when implementing a few tactics in ecommerce.
5 BENEFITS OF VISUAL MERCHANDISING IN ECOMMERCE
While the importance of visual merchandising in physical stores is something most merchants understand intuitively, many ecommerce merchants would benefit from paying more attention to this.There are many benefits of visual merchandising in ecommerce, including increased click-through rates (CTR), increased average order value (AOV), increased customer lifetime value (CLV), not to mention an overall better customer experience.
1. INCREASED ENGAGEMENT AND TIME SPENT ON SITE
An appealing presentation of your products will immediately affect how people interact with them. Engagement is essentially how people interact with the content on your site, and the more attractive your products appear, the more people will want to click on them, learn more about them, and in the end, purchase them. Don’t make the common mistake of focusing all your energy on getting people to your site but forgetting to create a pleasant experience once they’re there. If you’re paying to drive traffic, it’s essential to make the most of that traffic when it lands on your site. The right visual merchandising will make people stay longer on your site and buy more. The fact that they stay longer is also a signal to Google that your content is of high quality, which will boost your organic rankings and help you drive even more traffic.
2. IMPROVED NAVIGATION AND A MORE USER-FRIENDLY SITE
There are many components to consider when it comes to visual merchandising in ecommerce. Your website’s design, layout, and structure affect both the overall impression of your website and brand and how visitors interact with your content. And an appealing website is not just a “nice-to-have”; it directly impacts your bottom line. Almost 50% of online consumers decide about the credibility of a website based on the websites’ visual appeal and aesthetics. Everything from colors and fonts to product photos and design elements are all critical factors that will impact the customer experience – and your online sales.
3. INCREASED AVERAGE ORDER VALUE (AOV)
AOV is short for Average Order Value, which describes the average total price your customers are paying when they check out their orders. AOV is a crucial ecommerce metric that can, and should, be measured over time. This will allow you to refine every part of the buyer journey so that you can continually increase your AOV. It’s always easier to sell more to someone already buying than to convince a whole new customer to start filling their cart. This is why AOV is so powerful; increasing it is often one of the easiest and most cost-efficient tweaks you can do to improve your overall ROI in ecommerce. Strategic visual merchandising, specifically category merchandising, is a highly efficient tool in boosting AOV.
Related reading: Ecommerce Strategy 101: Choosing a Platform & Real KPI Metrics
4. IMPROVED CONVERSION RATES (CR)
Conversion Rate is another vital KPI in ecommerce for obvious reasons. Conversion rate is the total number of sales divided by the total number of visitor sessions in your store. This number is extremely important to keep an eye on, as it is directly connected to your ROI on the money you spend to drive traffic to your site. The larger the percentage of your visitors that end up as customers are, the better your ROI will be. We have discussed this KPI in previous blog posts, and Visual Merchandising is an essential tool in your toolbox to increase conversion rates.
Related reading: Google Shopping Title Optimization: Tactics To Boost Your Conversion
5. IMPROVED CROSS-SELLING AND UPSELLING
Anyone who has ever worked in a retail store knows how much easier it is to sell a pair of socks or a tie to someone who’s already buying a suit than selling the same socks to a random customer. As soon as we make that first purchase decision, we drop our guard, significantly reducing the friction. This is basic sales psychology, and it’s also why cross-selling and upselling are so important in ecommerce. For example, fashion retailers use visual merchandising to “bundle” products that work together as a set. This can be done by presenting complete outfits rather than single items or by recommending related products. When consumers see how pieces fit together, they’re inspired to buy more than one item. A great example of this is the “shop the look” that some stores offer, where the shopper can order the whole outfit with just one click. Brands can also use “frequently bought together” recommendations on product pages and within the cart to further inspire consumers.
VISUAL MERCHANDISING IN ECOMMERCE: THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
MOST PRODUCT DISCOVERY HAPPENS ON CATEGORY PAGES
But at the same time, most visitors never go beyond the first page. Companies like our partner Nosto can help create a much more personalized category page experience that aligns with your merchandising goals and business objectives. With Nosto’s Category Merchandising, you can ensure that the right products are shown in the right places, at the right time – so that shoppers actually see them. Because no matter how smooth and streamlined the checkout flow is, the buyer journey always starts with research and discovery. And if that stage is not optimized, your visitors will not proceed down the sales funnel, and they will never reach checkout. So if category and subcategory products are not displayed strategically early in the browsing experience, shoppers simply won’t find them – nor add them to their cart.
YOUR HOMEPAGE IS THE FIRST MERCHANDISING TOUCHPOINT
You know what they say, first impressions last. So what is the first impression when visitors land on your site? It usually takes between 2 and 3 seconds for a visitor’s eyes to find the area that will influence their first impression. This is why clarity is of the utmost importance, to ensure your visitors focus on the right things when they come to your homepage. It needs to be designed so that there is no confusion and in a way that immediately shows the visitor the quickest path to what they came for. It’s a balance to strike between being informative, inspiring, and intriguing. What your brand is all about, what kind of products you offer, and what value you bring must be quick and easy to understand within seconds. Shopping behavior expert Paco Underhill puts it well in his book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping: “If you tell too much too soon, you’ll overload them, and they’ll give up. If you confuse them, they’ll ignore the message altogether.”
FACETED SEARCH IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER
Faceted search, also referred to as faceted navigation or faceted browsing, is often used by ecommerce brands to help visitors filter and search within large product inventories. It can be based on filters like size, price, and brand. And yes, faceted search is a great technique for very extensive product catalogs. However, a faceted search is not always the answer. For first-time customers, it is essential that you merchandise strategically to move them down a purchasing funnel and drive increased brand engagement and understanding. Faceted search can sometimes make new visitors bypass essential steps, which is an aspect that is good to have in mind as you plan out the customer journey.
PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS CAN BE ENHANCED BY VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Whether you’re “bundling” matching products or recommending things that are “often bought together,” product recommendations are a powerful tool in ecommerce. The shopper sees how products fit together and is inspired to buy more than one item. Bundling is a visual merchandising tactic frequently used in physical retail, and it works exceptionally well in ecommerce. If deployed correctly, recommended and visualized products through great merchandising can significantly increase the AOV. And when done well, it provides a better customer experience, giving the customer a more personalized shopping experience.
HOW VAIMO CAN HELP
Visual merchandising is no longer all about beautiful window displays or placing milk in the back of the store to make sure shoppers pass other items. In other words, it’s no longer a tactic only for brick-and-mortar stores – ecommerce brands can benefit immensely from strong visual merchandising. The place to start, as always, is with an ecommerce strategy that aligns your goals to your capabilities, ensuring that you are spending resources on the right tactics.
At Vaimo, we have more than 14 years of experience helping ecommerce businesses excel and create outstanding customer experiences. We’d be happy to talk to you about visual merchandising in ecommerce and support you in building a more immersive and engaging customer experience.