- Entaice Braintrust
Finding the best merchandising apps on Shopify
If you're looking for merchandising apps on Shopify, it's likely because Shopify's built in sorting options aren't cutting it. Sort by best selling and date added only get you so far when you need to rapidly update your collections to respond to changes in inventory levels, new product launches, or seasonal marketing campaigns.
But the variety of apps on the app store can be overwhelming. Both in terms of functionality and quality. Some apps literally just push out of stock products to the bottom of your collections while others do site search, collection merchandising, and product recommendations - but only if you rearchitect the way your entire store works.
So we put together this guide to help you figure out which app is right for your needs.
Ultimately, we're biased (you're reading this article on our website after all). But, at the end of the day, we want you to find the right tool for your store - even if it's not ours. After all, we're not the perfect fit for everyone. Hopefully you'll walk away at least understanding why we've made certain decisions.
In the breakdown below, we're going to go through:
- What you should be looking for in a Merchandising App
- Why you should trust us
- How the top Merchandising Apps on Shopify Rank across those categories
- Our picks for the best app overall, the most fully featured, and the best budget pick
But, if you don't have time to read the whole thing right now, here's the gist:
The Best Overall Merchandising App: Entaice - AI Collection Sort. Has everything you need to do great merchandising and you can be set up and running in as little as 15 minutes.
The Best Budget Pick: ST: Product & Collection Sort. A good budget option that does the basics of pushing down out of stock products and allowing you to promote new products.
Does the most: Searchspring. An enterprise-level solution for stores that want a single partner for Search, Recommendations, and Merchandising and are ready to roll up their sleeves to integrate with APIs and product feed customizations.
What you should look for in a Merchandising App
There are a few important questions to ask yourself when you're looking for a new merchandising app:
- Can I use the app to meet all of my merchandising needs, or just some of them?
- How often will the app update my collections?
- Will the app do the work for me? Or will it create more work for me to do?
- Will the app integrate seamlessly with my store and the rest of my apps? Or will things break?
- Am I getting my money's worth?
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Can I use the app to meet all of my merchandising needs
If you're merchandising a store with a mid size or large product assortment, at some point you're going to want to:
Identify and promote star products - for most stores, a small percentage of products drive the majority of sales. So making sure star products show up at or near the top of a collection can determine whether or not a quarter is successful from a revenue perspective. You need your app to be able to identify these products and to push them up the page.
Create great looking pages - part of creating a great experience for your customers is makings sure that your collection pages are a pleasure to browse visually. Can your app group products by color or product type? Can it adjust the group size to match the number of items you have in a row on your desktop and mobile experiences? Can it place multiple items that are part of single set, like bathing suits, next to one another?
Continuously update to respond to trends - fun fact: ecommerce sales are extremely seasonal. Can your app identify what's trending last week? Or is it still identifying best sellers from two years ago? This is one of the big challenges with just using Shopify's default "Best Selling" sort: you can't adjust the date range it's looking at. If you're buying a merchandising app, you should make sure you can.
Adjust for marketing campaigns - successful email marketing campaigns require close collaboration between your marketing team and your merchandising efforts. Usually, the landing page for a marketing email is a collection page. And in that marketing email, your team highlighted a specific group of products for your email list. As a result, you want your collection page to display those products at the top. Often times in a specific order. Will the app allow you to pin products an in any order at the top of a collection? Will it allow you to do any number of products? Will those pins adjust in real time? Or will you need to wait to see updates go through?
Handle out of stock products - seeing out of stock products as the first thing when a customer starts shopping a collection is a disaster. Even if your customers wanted to, they literally cannot buy your out of stock products. That decreases the conversion rate for the current session. And also future sessions - because purchases are one of the best signals of customer retention. Can your app stay on top of inventory? Can it handle multiple fulfillment centers? What happens when only some variants are out of stock?
Give new products enough time to breathe - Determining where to put new products in your collection can be one of the most difficult tasks because you don't have any prior information to go on. Is the new product going to be a hero or dud? A lot of customers want to see new products, but only for a short period of time. So most merchandisers will put new products at the top of a collection for a preset period. The only problem? At some point, they have to come back and move the products down. And try to doing that when you have ten other meetings on your calendar. Can you app take care of this workflow for you?
How often will the app update my collections
Updates pushed multiple times per day - when we first started building Entaice, we thought updating product rankings once per day would be enough. It's not. Especially for high traffic stores during periods of high inventory turn. We've gotten to the point where we're issuing collection updates every two hours. During BFCM, Shopify sales peaked at $4.2 MM per minute, and the platform is only growing. Can you app keep up with that pace?
Will the app do the work for me? Or will it create more work for me to do?
Work directly within the Shopify UI - if you're running a store on Shopify, staying within the UI as much as possible makes you're existing workflow easier. You don't have to jump to a brand new application window with it's own layout and options. All else equal, look for an app that's embedded.
Easy to configure - this is a big one when you're looking at merchandising apps because they typically come in two flavors. The first set of apps have prebuilt rules that you can toggle on and off. The setup is simple and straightforward. Often you'll know exactly what each rule does, how those rules interact, and what the expected outcomes are. The other set of apps are rule-based. Rule-based apps often offer the appearance of greater flexibility - after all, you can create any rule you want. But, in reality, they often generate unexpected results. For example, say you used a rule-based app to sort all your products by color. How do you know which color is going to show up first? Also, what happens when your best selling products are a variety of different colors? Some of those products get pushed to the bottom of the collection never to be seen again. And then there's the need to constantly update, monitor, and evaluate new rules. How do you measure the success of a rule when Shopify makes it so difficult to grab collection view data? For almost all stores, we recommend staying away from rule-based apps unless you have an entire team of merchandisers focused on building out the best rule sets. It just takes too much time to do well.
Requires little ongoing maintenance - this is a big one for almost all Shopify stores because merchandisers often have very broad job descriptions. They're not just responsible for product sorting, or, if they are, they're merchandising 4-5 different stores that all have hundreds of collections with hundreds of products. As a result, you want a solution where you can set up the intial settings once and then come back to periodically, rather than trying to update everything everyday.
Shows you the data - You should have full faith in the product rankings that your merchandising app generates. And the best way to do that is to be able to see what data the app is using to sort your products. If an app doesn't - or isn't willing to - show you the actual information it's using to do the rankings, then you should avoid it.
Will the app integrate seamlessly with my store?
This is, undoubtedly, a question you'll get as you evaluate apps - but what does it actually mean? What compenents of the integration are most important? Here's how we think about it:
Doesn't break your other apps, especially navigation facets - the second thing we look for in great merchandising apps? The ability to play nicely with apps that power faceted navigation. It's extremely rare for a merchandising and product sorting app to also do faceted navigation, but almost every collection page uses it. As a result, you need your app to avoid conflicts with the app that's responsible for the facets. You don't want a product sorting app that's doing the sorting client side.
Doesn't touch the look and feel of your page - the visual design of your page should stay in your creative team's hands. Be wary of any apps that add buttons or layout elements to your store. Look for solutions that update the product rankings behind the scenes.
Doesn't crash the site if it goes down - At some point, all apps go down. It's a fact of life. But what happens to your store when your app crashes. Does the entire collection page fail to render? Or is the user experience left mainly intact, but just not updated with the most recent data for an hour or two? In the first scenario - you're screwed, especially if it happens during a high traffic period (when most outages tend to occur). Your customers can't shop. In the second, you might lose the incremental value of a fully optimzied sort for a few hours, but it would go largely unnoticed by anyone that's browsing your store. Look for solutions that are resilient even when the inevitable happens.
Am I getting my money's worth for sorting?
Priced to value - In any software purchasing conversation, price is going to come up. But for merchandising apps specifically, you want to understand how much bang you're getting for your buck. There's two ways to think about it: (1) how much incremental revenue will I generate by having fully optimized product rankings and (2) how much time will I save by not having to do this myself? If you're doing under a million dollars in sales a year, the second bucket is actually going to be much, much more valuable for you. Even a 5% incremental lift in sales would be worth less than $50k. For larger stores, the incremental revenue can be incredibly meaningful. We've seen increases in performance of more than 30% on some collections just by resorting products. But to figure that out, you need to test. Will your app's vendor work with you to do an experiment?
Why you should trust us on merchandising
For the past 5 years we've lived and breathed everything Shopify merchandising as we built Entaice from the ground up.
During that time we've talked to hundreds of Shopify store owners and site merchandisers about their merchandising needs.
We've had to make hard decisions as we've built each one of our app's features:
- should we embed directly in the Shopify UI even thought it constrains our UI design choices? (yes, it's better for our customers)
- when you group products, should you group all of the products at once or create smaller groups so you can better account for sales data in product rankings? (smaller groups)
- should we allow our customers to do do rule-based merchandising? (no, it leads to lots of unexpected results)
Not everyone came to the same conclusions we did for each decision. But we wrestled with each one to try to find the best answer.
So this guide is ultimately based on that experience.
It's not another listicle written by a content farm.
How the top merchandising apps on Shopify rank across categories
When you look at alll the different merchandising apps on Shopify, most of them fall into two buckets:
- Cheap, point solution apps that lack key features to make merchandisers successful
- Expensive, hard to implement, multi-faceted platform providers that include site search, recommendations, and other features you may not need at the expense of higher quality merchandising. Many of these tools use rule-based merchandising approaches that require you to bring your knowledge of best practices to the table rather than implementing solid logic for you.
Entaice - AI Collection Sort is the only app that falls somewhere in the middle. It's a fully-featured merchandising only solution. As a result, its cheaper than the platform providers while offering signficantly more capabilities than the point solutions.
Our picks for the top merchandising apps
The best overall merchandising solution - Entaice - AI Collection Sort is your best choice if you're looking for a full set of merchandising features that you can use directly within the Shopify UI. It does all it's work through Shopify's API, so it itegrates seamlessly with your other apps, and you can get started in minutes rather than needing an entire development team to implement it. You'll be able to do every merchandising flow you can think of while the point solution-style apps will leave you wanting more.
The best point solution - If you're just looking for a small, point solution that does a couple things well and doesn't break the bank, you'd be best off with SearchTaps ST: Product & Collection Sort. They get the basics right - allowing you to push down out of stock products and promote new products. But you won't get the same update cadence, convenient app experience, and advanced product grouping capabilities that you will with Entaice.
The best platform solution - If you're an enteprise-level ecommerce store that's ready to do a multi quarter ecommerce overhaul, we think Searchspring is the best solution to use. They'll allow you to set consistent merchandising campaigns across your search, recommendation, and collection experiences. But if reading API documentation isn't your thing, you're probably not ready for this one yet. :